Boris throws down the gauntlet as attack on May lays bare the deep Tory wounds

Leadership challenger: Boris Johnson laid down his credentials at a packed conference meeting

They queued around the block for BoJo at the Tory party conference. 

He was the biggest show to roll into Birmingham where he grabbed the limelight in a side hall and left the main party speaker speaking to a main auditorium that was a third empty.

It was  Boris’s fringe event where he spoke to party members, supporters, and the media on his vision for the future. In a wide ranging speech he addressed the economy, house building, tax cuts, law enforcement and of course, Brexit.

In a move that was widely seen as a leadership bid, he told the auditorium that the Prime Minister should ditch her Chequers plan as the electorate would not forgive the Conservatives ‘for a half in half out approach’ to the final deal.

Delegates waited for over an hour and a half to see Mr Johnson and to hear what his proposals were for a future Government, led by him.

 

If we cheat the electorate — and Chequers is a cheat — we will escalate the sense of mistrust – Boris Johnson

 

However, speaking to MPs, party members and the grassroots, Mr Johnson will need to convince more than the converted in order to carry out any leadership challenge.

He is still unpopular with many MPs in his own party and he will need to convince them that they should support him.

There is no doubt that Mr Johnson is a drawcard and inspires many. However, he is still a marmite character and any leaderships ambitions will need to bridge the party divide in order for him to succeed.

After speeches by Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt MP, Brexit Secretary, Dominic Raab MP and today’s speech by Home Secretary, Sajid Javid MP, the leadership race has already unofficially started, with more and more MPs weighing up their options, the field for those interested in the top job becomes larger and larger.

 

Brexit

Jacob Rees-Mogg MP was also speaking at an ERG fringe event on the future of Brexit, in which he said that any new Government concession to the EU would lead to voters deserting the Conservative Party at the next election. 

Mr Rees-Mogg also believed that many Cabinet Minister’s might be amenable to the so-called ‘Super-Canada’ Brexit alternative currently being advocated by the ERG and by Boris Johnson.

This comes after reports that Theresa May might be willing to amend her Chequers proposal to make it more acceptable in Brussels. Reports suggest that the Government may be willing to compromise in striking trade deals with third countries and having some movement on the Irish border issues.

 

I’m in this for the long term, not just for the Brexit deal but actually for the domestic agenda – Theresa May

 

In a veiled threat, Mr Rees-Mogg also added that the further pursuit of the Prime Minister’s Chequers plan would leave the door open to Jeremy Corbyn with the potential for him to be swept into Government.

Adding to concerns for the Prime Minister today was DUP Leader, Arlene Foster MLA, who has endorsed the ‘belief’ and ‘spirit’ contained in the former Foreign Secretary’s blueprint for Brexit. 

As the Prime Minister needs the votes of the DUP on the floor of the House, especially to pass any Brexit deal, this intervention would be seen as unhelpful.

 

Immigration

The day began as the Prime Minister took to the airwaves to sell the Government’s new immigration policy post-Brexit. In a widely expected move, she announced that EU citizens after the transition in 2021 would need to abide by the same requirements as any other national entering the UK. Although not fully detailed, the Prime Minister also hinted that some low skilled labour sectors may see some exemptions in order to make up the shortfall in some industries.

 

Coming up

The Conference ends with the Prime Minister giving her crucial speech. Although she plans to lead the party into the 2022 election, whether this year’s speech is as eventful as last year’s is yet to be seen.