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Tory Conference Diary, Day 1: A Party With No Plan And No Vision For The Country

02/10/2017 11:40
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The Tory Conference started yesterday after weeks of internal wrangling and backbiting. And for those Tory MPs and members who thought that they might have a gentler, more unified lead up to their conference, they were sadly disappointed.

Just a week earlier saw the explosive exposé in The Times, which reported on how a raft of senior Tory Cabinet ministers, including Philip Hammond, had earlier in the summer looked to depose Theresa May. And in an even bolder move, just one day before conference started, Boris decreed another set of "red lines" for the Prime Minister, daring her to sack him and trigger a leadership contest.

At the same time, on the other side of the fence, senior Tory figures like Nicky Morgan and Ruth Davidson called for Boris to be sacked for his self-interested meddling, while Anna Soubry said he must "grow up or go".

All this meant it must have come to no surprise to the Tory faithful when Theresa May's interview on The Marr Show went so disastrously that grabbed the headlines as events kicked off in Manchester.

So let's look at what the Tories offered yesterday. Theresa May and Justine Greening announced a meagre offer to freeze tuition fees hoping that this would reset the political narrative on the issue and win back young voters. Obviously with the Tories having already trebled them, they were badly wrong on that one. Promising not to raise them again means nothing.

We also had Sajid Javid, who was honest enough to call it a 'national outrage' that so few people can buy their own home; not forgetting that under the Tories home-ownership is at a 30-year low with almost 200,000 fewer home-owning households than in 2010. But after admitting the problem he then offered no real solutions, merely announcing an extension of a policy that will do nothing to tackle the underlying problems in the housing market.

And then we have Sir Eric Pickles' report on what went wrong for the Tories at the election. He has even suggested that the Prime Minister is banned from writing the Conservative manifesto herself. With their 2017 manifesto now in the shedder, this seems like a sensible suggestion.

But whereas Labour's conference last week was marked by an easy unity and spirit of optimism, on the rare occasions that Tory members have been allowed a say, they have been scathing in their criticism.

Tory members are furious that Pickles' report does nothing to give them a greater say on who represents their party at a local, and national, level. At a post-mortem on his report, one long-time activist predicted that membership would continue to drop until it was "the end". Extraordinarily, Edwina Curry stood up to slam "some blithering idiot drawing up lists in central office" during the campaign.

In the end Sir Eric reportedly had just one feeble suggestion to answer his critics: "don't wait for somebody at the top to tell you what to do". Strong and stable leadership this isn't.

If Sir Eric would like to know what went wrong at the election, I can tell him. They had no plan and no vision for our country. Voters could tell that they stand for the few and are failing the many. It will take more than a report to fix that.

Jon Trickett is the Labour MP for Hemsworth

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