Tory disarray, division and conference disaster

Notes from the front of 9-10-2017

Tory disarray, division and conference disaster

Last week’s Tory Party Conference was not just a personal disaster for Theresa May’s premiership but further underlined the chaos at the heart of the Tory government.

Much of the Conference was dominated by rumours of Tory front-benchers, particularly Boris Johnson, plotting to remove Theresa May as party leader. Reports and photos indicated it was a downbeat, poorly attended conference – in stark contrast to the upbeat, vibrant, and packed-out Labour Party conference a week earlier.

Theresa May’s shambolic speech to the conference, instead of asserting her authority as Prime Minister, saw the Tory leader struggling to get across her ideas. And the new policies she sought to promote are themselves also weak and vacuous. The so called ‘big’ announcements on freezing tuition fees, capping energy bills and building affordable homes are at best small changes that will do next to nothing in solving the student debt crisis, the cost of living crisis and the housing crisis.

In the case of tuition fees, freezing these at £9,250 is hardly a serious step forward. Currently the average graduate will be left with over £50,000 worth of debt plus interest which they will struggle to repay over a 30 year period. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour’s promise to abolish tuition fees altogether is the progressive policy that is needed and similar to such funding arrangements across much of Europe. 
May’s proposal to solve the housing crisis is so small it could barely scratch the surface of the problem. Building 5,000 homes per year over five years will do little to assist the million people waiting for a council home; particularly as existing council homes are being sold off at a faster rate – 12,000 in the year 2014-15. In comparison Labour pledged at the June general election that 100,000 new homes would be built a year by the end of the parliament.

That May is even putting forward new policies in these areas reflects the success of Labour in setting the political agenda on education funding, austerity and housing. Corbyn’s focus on defending people’s living standards and Tory chaos are strengthening Labour’s electoral support. The most recent BMG opinion poll following Labour Conference records Labour on 42 per cent, 5 per cent ahead of the Tories and Jeremy Corbyn’s approval rating edging ahead of May’s by two percent.

In spite of May’s disastrous party conference, the Tory establishment is rallying behind her and against any coup plotters. An early departure or ousting of Theresa May cannot be ruled out, but a Tory leadership election at present would risk further chaos and division, so there is a pressure to rally behind May. The Tories will avoid an early general election if possible because of the risk that Labour would win and Jeremy Corbyn form the next government – an outcome the ruling class is determined to avoid at all costs.