Death in Brum: Has Liz Truss’ Premiership ended before it’s really begun?
Conservative Party members in Birmingham now believe they are heading for opposition. But are they right?
Spending this week at the Conservative party’s conference in Birmingham has been a more than normally bizarre experience.
The sheer volume coming from the waiting protesters as I headed into the secure zone at the ICC was unlike anything I have experienced at a party conference before.
Some of the reports of MPs being pushed over by protesters (they weren’t) were overblown, but there was a definite tinderbox feel on the streets during that first day of conference. When the security advised me to take off my pass before leaving the secure zone, I didn’t hesitate.
Inside, the atmosphere can best be described as bleak. I’ve attended pretty much every Conservative conference since the Cameron era and the mood has normally veered somewhere between tension and jubilation. None has ever felt like this.
Conservative MPs were few and far between, with the same small handful of faces popping up at almost every fringe meeting. Those who did make it to Brum took full advantage of their presence, however, by engaging in some of the most brutal public infighting I’ve ever seen. It’s not often that you get several members of the Cabinet publicly disagreeing with each other within the space of just 24 hours, but that’s exactly what we saw this week.
Among the members themselves, the overwhelming sense I got was of them accepting defeat. In the bars and fringe events (many of which were soundtracked by the Benny Hill theme) activists spent their time talking about the need for the party to “refresh” itself in opposition - normally a sure sign that the game is up.
So are Conservative members right to assume that they are now heading for opposition, or could the series of massive poll leads we’re seeing for Labour at the moment, evaporate long before voters finally go back to the polls?
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