Party Conferences are traditionally an opportunity for each side to have their moment in the sun. The Party presents their new policy ideas and sets out their vision on how they can take the country forward and tackle the great challenges ahead. Measured against this, it was clear the Tories had another bad day.
Any hope of a return to sensible policy-based discussion was soon swept away as Tory MPs were lining up to weigh in on the question of whether to sack Boris Johnson. Quick off the mark was Philip Hammond, who when questioned about the Foreign Secretary's latest round of political posturing said 'everybody is sackable'. Ruth Davidson ominously mused that if one of her MSPs had behaved like Johnson it would be a case of "out on your ear, because nobody is unsackable". Even Michael Fallon weighed in repeating that 'nobody is unsackable', while John Howell, Johnson's successor as MP in Henley, reckoned Boris should "keep his bloody mouth shut".
While the debate over whether he is or isn't sackable rolls on, it's clear that what started as a family feud a few weeks ago, is now threatening to tear the Conference, if not the Party, apart.
Turning to the podium, it was Philip Hammond's turn to speak. His forty minute speech was, for the most part, a rambling history lecture interjected with a few misplaced and baseless smears aimed at Labour. But remarkably, from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, nowhere in his speech did he seek to address the economic challenges this country faces. He had no plan to tackle the living standards crisis; no plan to tackle the housing crisis; nothing on the NHS funding shortfall; and nothing that we didn't already know on transport investment in the north. Not a single new policy was announced.
This complete dearth of new ideas even left the business lobby cold, with the CBI calling his speech "strong on diagnosis, but weak on action". The Institute of Directors followed up saying "actions speak louder than words" and asking for more from the upcoming Budget.
And it was the same from the rest of yesterday's speakers who offered nothing more than a few lacklustre policies. Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke said the roll-out of Universal Credit would continue, despite the fact that one in four claims are currently not being paid in full within the Government's own six week period. Chris Grayling talked about a plan to replace paper tickets in the UK, without setting out a plan to tackle soaring rail fares or address his broken promise to electrify the Transpennine network. While Gove talked about a plastics bottle return scheme, without mentioning that under the Tories the country is now on course to miss targets set by the Climate Change Act. Yesterday was more evidence that the Tories have simply run out of ideas and are losing the debate.
With just two days left, it's clear the Tories need to stop asking how sackable Boris Johnson is, and start thinking about themselves. In June the British people issued them a final written warning; at the next election they'll be handing in their notice.Suggest a correction