A gala drinks reception, dozens of business leaders and enough fringe events to rival Edinburgh. Why, it could only be the Conservative Party Conference. Back in action this Sunday in Birmingham, the gathering of the Tory faithful couldn’t come at a more akward moment for Liz Truss. A budget that fell apart in hours, beyond disastrous poll ratings and talk of needing to sack her brand new Chancellor to stand any chance of survival.
The Conservatives coming together to air their dirty linen in public couldn’t come at a worse time. But it will make for brilliant viewing. Despite Conservative members having no say on policy matters, it’s on the fringe where you hear the serious gossip and groaning.
And the fringe, from a gossip perspective, does not disappoint. The conference opens with an episode of Chopper’s Politics live, where Telegraph chief political correspondent Christopher Hope grills one Michael Gove and Jake Berry. Gove is always box office and placing him against Conservative party Chair Jake Berry could spark fires. Hope will later hold a podcast recording in conversation with Jacob Rees-Mogg. What could possibly go wrong?
Conservatives appear to be friends of everything, including the ocean (just don’t mention the sewage). That grouping kicks off with guest speaker Penny Mordaunt on Sunday afternoon. That same day, Mordaunt is appearing on the legendary ‘For the Many’ podcast, hosted by LBC’s Iain Dale (formerly of this parish) and former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, who has been cheekily listed as “retired”. It seems losing in the Tory contest has not put Mordaunt off, especially if she thinks another is on the horizon.
Ben Wallace was a man many predicted would stand for the Tory leadership. Instead, he remains Defence Secretary, where he will take part on an “Onward” in conversation session. Could his leadership campaigning also go onward? Indeed, Michael Gove is back again with a full Onward session to himself later that afternoon, and Tom Tugendhat has also ben given a slot.
An event guaranteed to attract crowds is The Spectator’s launch party. Their summer party is notorious for being a hotbed of gossip and rumour, so it would be unsurprising were that repeated here. Mayor Ben Houchen of Tees Valley is also someone speaking – a fantastic electoral performer and asset to the Conservatives.
Tony Blair was often accused of being a secret Conservative, and it appears his institute has no party line. Hosting an event on expanding higher education, Blair himself won’t be in attendance. Perhaps most amusingly, the Young Conservatives are hosting a panel on how to build a career in politics. Given the recent poll ratings, their time may be better catering their CVs to a different profession. Banking or finance? Oh wait…
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