What a few weeks it’s been in British politics. Whilst Jeremy Corbyn still doesn’t look comfortable doing a conference speech in front of his party, his effort this year was more polished than previous ones and contained some bolder propositions. He’s clearly buoyed by the popularity Labour gained during the election.
Meanwhile the Tory conference was a total shambles. It was always looking that it might be a conference where Theresa May would be trying to make her party look united, while ministers did speeches undermining her at every turn. Boris Johnson did his best with this and it backfired, but all that was overshadowed by the worst speech for a party leader ever in the history of leaders’ speeches (I might be underplaying it).
Never has the word “prankster” been used in the UK more in a 24-hour period than following her speech. First we had a comedian (said prankster) handing her a mocked up P45 and telling her it was from Boris and then a catalogue of mishaps – coughing fits and bits of scenery falling from the set.
It was totally shambolic. The coughing fit was put down to a cold, but I’ve noticed over the last few months that May tends to cough a little when she’s nervous. I think the P45 incident set her off, although the cold can’t have helped. She gained some sympathy which made me feel sick. What sympathy did she show when she destroyed lives at the Home Office? How many people has she had forcible removed from this country? How many lives as she devastated. Sympathy? She deserves nothing but hatred.
Now we have a Tory Party insisting that there isn’t going to be a leadership challenge, whilst behind the scenes talk is of a leadership contest. The rebels apparently have 30 MPs ready to move against her. To trigger an election they need 48. This just adds to the crisis; she can’t last and yet there isn’t the will to replace her. The political pundits are all focused on the arithmetic.
The one assumption they’re all making is that May will want to carry on. She may in fact decide her own fate and plan for a succession. Who would want the job anyway, apart from Boris of course? As things stand the next leader of the Tories would inherit a minority government, propped up with a bribe to religious fanatics in Northern Ireland. It would still be a government unlikely to last the full five-year term. Meanwhile Corbyn’s Labour Party is now seen as a huge electoral threat to the Tories.
So we’re in this in-between time of weak Prime Minister and weak government that definitely has entertainment value. This kind of government can also be terribly dangerous though. The upcoming budget is already being predicted as one in which the cupboard is bare. A weak government, a weak Prime minister and a weak economy could spell trouble in the way of cuts or dramatic policy announcements of other kinds just to keep the attention of the public on other matters. Those that remember John Major’s government might recall the “Back to Basics” campaign and a call for Victorian values. This came at a time of small majority government, economic issues and a deeply divided Tory party over Europe (their ever-constant division). The policy was a disaster for them when it emerged quite a few of them were screwing around, but not before they had used the idea to drive policies on welfare and allowed the idea to influence their entire agenda towards the public.
Anxious Tories seek solace in the moralistic. And right on cue, here comes former leader and vile pursuer of the disabled, Iain Duncan Smith with some bollocks about the ills of society being cause by unmarried men. He’s deeply worried that unmarried men, free of commitment, seek out “the alternative on the internet,” whatever that means. He’s even had his think tank do some research on it so his rubbish can be spouted with statistics. What a marvel of modern social science this man is. The moral panic was set on single mothers in the mid 1990s; now it’s single men that Tories are losing sleep over.
Over the next few months, whether May survives as leader or not, we can expect some oddities coming through as policy. May’s conference speech had very little to announce. She talked of an energy price cap, which wasn’t really news and a meagre level of house building. All of which suggests that Brexit is the only show in town. As those negotiations progress we are surely bound to hear of policies that will come to the fore once the issue is dealt with. The Tories can’t leave that ground open for Labour forever. The moment harks back to 1945 when Churchill was focused on winning the war and then was rejected at the ballot box because Labour were thinking about what might happen when soldiers returned home.
The next few months are going to be an extremely interesting and entertaining period in British politics. We have a Budget coming, the cupboard is bare and we have some very desperate politicians fighting for their political futures. Expect sickness.