Political columnist Will Mapplebeck drops in on the Tory shindig in Birmingham.
Opportunity. The word was everywhere at The Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham this week.
The ‘O word’ was all over the main stage, flashed up on digital screens next to walkways and emblazoned on a huge banner attached to the front of Birmingham’s ICC. The word just looked a bit odd, deserving of a bit more context or explanation. Opportunity….. for what, exactly?
On Tuesday conference turned into an Opportunity. A career Opportunity for a former Mayor of London to re-establish his leadership credentials. Boris Johnson to be exact.
It has been said before, but a strange kind of madness grips this party at the moment. Hundreds queued to see the Blonde Bounder while excited journalists hovered excitedly with excited cameras and excited microphones conducting endless exciting vox pops.
And the queue they interviewed was pretty diverse. Legions of fresh-faced young men in blue suits and open-necked shirts, bored looking Sloane Rangers and a scattering of proudly politically incorrect retired colonels – some wheelchair bound – could all be found waiting to get into Hall One.
Poor David Gauke, talking about Law and Order to a rapidly emptying main hall nearby. Crime and punishment should be natural Tory domestic policy territory. But Brexit and Boris sucks up all the energy and most of the policy thought.As one delegate told me: “Labour’s ideas are bonkers, but at least they’ve got some.’
Around 1 pm I heard Boris arrive. Or to be more precise, I heard the sound of the stampeding pack of lobby hacks shouting the former Foreign Secretary’s name as he bundled his way into Hall One. The annual conference of the natural party of government turned to farce by one man and a fringe appearance. Boris had seized his opportunity. The psychodrama continues with Mrs May’s centrepiece speech today.