Wednesday, 4 October 2017


I can feel sympathy for the prime minister, I have had far less important speeches interrupted by a frog in the throat. She may well have been affected by fatigue (26 interviews yesterday) and we have to remember that she is diabetic. However, pity or sympathy is not necessarily what she needs.

The difficulty is that I (and I think others) started to focus on whether she would get to the end of the speech rather than its substantive content. Her opponents were able to start tweeting remarks about 'weak and wobbly'. It didn't help her to get across her theme about reviving 'the British dream', arguing that the left does not have a monopoly on compassion.

The interruption by a prankster/protester (I have seen two names on social media) with a P45 signed by 'Boris Johnson' actually helped her after a rather flat period in her speech with little applause, she was able to turn it to her advantage. She suggested that Jeremy Corbyn should get a P45. The fact that the comedian was able to get so close for so long does raise issues about security.

She also made good use of the provision of a throat pastille by the Chancellor, saying that you do get something for free from him. Amber Rudd (who interviewed well on Radio 5 earlier) had to encourage Boris Johnson to get up for a standing ovation.

What is more significant is a contradiction in the heart of the speech: defending free markets, but then (correctly) identifying so many markets that are broken. Putting a cap on energy prices is a policy that Ed Miliband advocated.

In terms of the broken housing market, one has to ask how it was broken in the first place. Perhaps Mrs Thatcher should have not have sold off so much social housing, although admittedly it was a popular policy.

She said that house builders should 'do their duty' and build the houses, but presumably they are responding to market signals in a market economy.

She started well by getting her apology for the election campaign early, admitting that it was too scripted and too presidential and saying 'I hold my hands up.'

On Brexit, she said that the Government would prepare for every eventuality, suggesting that the 'no deal' option is still on the table.

The fact that the 'f' fell off the slogan behind the platform reinforced the impression of disarray. The activists rallied round her, but they looked rather grim faced. This conference has not revived spirits in the party.

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