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Conservative Party Conference: Brexit Opportunities….but for whom?

Posted 03/10/2018

by Charlotte Hunter

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It is hard to imagine that for Theresa May this year’s conference speech could be as disastrous as last year’s quartet of failings – beginning with taking a majority government and turning it into a minority government; her uncontrollable coughing fit; accepting the P45 handed to her by a comedian, and ending with the unhelpful symbolism of the stage backdrop falling to the floor. So far however, this year’s Conference seems to be less dramatic.

This is not to say that May’s situation is vastly improved since then; although she does have a slight lead in the polls, she still faces a fractious party with those hoping to succeed her yet again using the Conference for self-promotion and seeking to undermine her at every turn. But, the delegates it seems are with her – for now at least.
Brexit is, of course, all encompassing to the exclusion of almost every other announcement at Conference. But, there have been some small policies trickling through.

The announcement of an increased stamp duty for international buyers will be welcomed by many who are seeking greater fairness in the property industry, although this only really helps London and does not go far enough in the eyes of many.
Proposals to stimulate the rejuvenation of the High Street through cutting business rates are another nod to acknowledging the difficulties facing the property industry, and the changing retail landscape. But as potentially welcoming as these policies are they are small-fry.

The Conservative Party is positioning itself as the party of ‘Opportunity’. The only party that can realise and deliver the opportunity Brexit presents. Brexit is also an opportunity for the likes of Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees Mogg. But whilst people are reportedly queuing to secure a seat to see Rees Mogg during Conference, and packing in to hear Johnson’s latest salvo at a fringe event on Tuesday, it seems the conference delegates have had enough of blatant power positioning, the inflammatory style, and bitter enmity. Their focus currently is to show unity and to support their leader – up until Brexit is secured at least.

For now, it seems, Theresa May is safe. Today we will hear from the leader herself, and whilst it is unlikely to be a speech to catch the eye of the public in the way that Jeremy Corbyn’s was, it will be delivered from a slightly more ‘strong and stable’ platform than last years; although that’s not saying much.