Will May survive conference?

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Will this be remembered as the Year of the Swan for the Conservative Party - calm and majestic for the public view above the waterline, and furious paddling beneath it?

That is how I expect the Tory conference to proceed in Manchester as the week progresses.

Only a year ago, the Tories were laughing about the election of Jeremy Corbyn as the Labour Party leader, assuming they would wipe the floor with Labour under his leadership.

How wrong they were! Now, Corbyn is even more securely installed in his job than Theresa May is in hers.

At Manchester, the Conservatives are having, like the proverbial swan, to present a united front to the nation, while behind the scenes, and out of view, the political blood-shedding will be going on, possibly doing irreparable damage through self-inflicted wounds.

The row over the conduct of the Brexit negotiations is almost as savage within the Tory Party as is the criticism of it by Labour and the Liberal Democrats. And the very quality of May’s leadership is itself now open to very serious questioning, particularly her ill-conceived and reckless decision to hold a general election earlier this year.

Now, it is her plain, but tricky job to slap down those aspirants for her post without creating yet more waves of fury from the alarmingly growing number of malcontents in the Conservative ranks.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and the Chancellor Philip Hammond are clearly at daggers drawn - and that row shows no signs of ending.

And whatever we are told to the contrary, the Cabinet is plainly in a state of turmoil, which not only leads to problems in the Conservative Party, but, far more seriously, to bad Government.

Theresa May must use this conference to steady the dangerously rocking boat, and do it with as little arrogance as she can muster.

She should read, mark and learn Harold Wilson’s famous remark when he heard about a backbench plot to overthrow him. He said: “I know what is going on. I am going on.”

That must be her mantra if she is to survive.