For once, it can be said without exaggeration that this is the most critical conference the Conservatives have held for decades.
Boris Johnson, former Foreign Secretary, can scarcely intensify the already savage language he has used about the Prime Minister’s Chequers proposals for Brexit, without actually challenging her leadership. Johnson and his supporters claim they are attacking the policies and not the person. But they are not that naive as not to know that such unrestrained language - like “deranged” and “preposterous” puts them at such odds with the Prime Minister herself that her authority is bound to be weakened and thus make her more vulnerable.
May, to her credit, has remained firm, denouncing her critics for playing with politics to the detriment of the UK.
Johnson has gone so far with intemperate language that it is impossible for him to back off. But will he have the courage to unsheathe his dagger and go for the jugular? I doubt whether this will happen this week, but Johnson certainly means business.
Meanwhile, Britain’s Brexit negotiators have stepped up their criticism of the Brussels team. Brexit Secretary, Dominic Raab, has said there are limits to how much compromising the UK will accept, while Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has warned the EU not to try to back the UK into a corner. Things are certainly hotting up in Brussels. But will the temperature go off the boil at Birmingham at the last agonising minute?
- The big and unreachable electoral advantage Jeremy Corbyn possesses over the Prime Minister is that he has achieved a pop-star-like adulation, while she has not and never will. The youthful enthusiasm for Corbyn, which so alarmed the Tories at last year’s unnecessary general election, has not waned at all. Young and old alike chanted, “Oooh! Jeremy Corbyn”, at regular intervals during last week’s Labour conference.
The Conservatives have good reason to be worried. They can produce the most attractive policies in the world and verbally destroy Labour’s policies, but none of that will defeat the pro-Corbyn hysteria, which has swept through the party and beyond.