It almost seems like two different types of Conservative Conference are simultaneously taking place in Birmingham. There’s the conference of the ICC Symphony Hall where stage managed policy announcements on housing, crime and immigration are revealed in Cabinet member speeches versus the buzz and electricity of the activists on the conference fringe. The two could be not more different.
Clearly Government is in control of one part and not the other; and it really shows. A concerted effort by No.10 is seeking to portray itself as in control and calmly delivering the business of Government. An administration seeking to frame a post-Brexit agenda which delivers on the commitments of the EU referendum results (the red lines) while trying to get back to the manifesto commitments of the 2017 General Election.
Meanwhile on the fringes ideas and energy are flying off the shelf. Finally the Conservative party has woken up to the very real threat of a Corbyn Government. Ideas for good capitalism, attracting back millennial voters, boosting the BME vote are to the fore. Fundamentally the party is trying to figure out whether it can try out Corbyn the Labour Party or do they wish to revitalise the defence of free market economics which delivered the supply side reforms of the 1980s and 1990s? All these and more are in contention at Conservative Conference 2018.
But is it too little too late for the Conservatives? So much time has been dedicated to Brexit that precious little bandwidth in Government is left for debating the big ideas. Plus have the Conservatives forgot how to win these battles after so many years of status quo with the great British public. Time will tell.