The Tory Party has given the Prime Minister a stay of execution, but the final outcome will be just as bloody, warns Peter Bingle.

In terms of a Theresa May speech, today’s effort was as good as it gets. That said, things have come to a sorry state of affairs when the PM gets cheered simply because she is capable of getting through a speech without spluttering and the stage collapsing. The contents of the speech will be forgotten within days. Rather like a Chinese meal, it tastes fine at the time but you are hungry again within hours!

This has been the dullest Tory Party conference in living memory. This is a political party without passion or core beliefs. Cabinet Ministers made speeches to a half-empty hall. The only excitement was a packed speech on the fringe by Boris Johnson. Rather like a once great entertainer at the end of his career, there were some wonderful moments. The sad truth, however, is that this was probably his last hurrah. He is the political equivalent of a busted flush. Thanks to a toxic combination of bad judgment and hubris the political career of Boris Johnson has peaked if not expired.

The PM’s speech was well crafted. That said, whoever advised her to come on the platform gyrating to ABBA should be taken out and dismissed. Can you imagine Maggie doing the Hokey Kokey? Of course not, this was just too embarrassing.

The strategy was to make her party activists like her. As a tactic it worked and the speech has probably lengthened her political tenure at Number 10 but where was the grand political vision? A series of slogans does not equate into a compelling political narrative.

Austerity is now over. Hopefully, somebody has told the Chancellor because his forthcoming Budget will now be judged in that political context. It was always necessary to show the electorate that the years of austerity delivered a dividend. It is unlikely, however, that the next Budget will create a universal glow of enhanced happiness across the country. It is also a fact that spending vast of amounts of public money on public services does not win the Tories a single extra vote.

Lifting the cap on borrowing targets for councils sounds great but the track record of most local authorities building decent new homes on time and within budget is appalling. Again, it will not win the Tories a single extra vote.

Proclaiming the Tory Party to be the champions of everybody is a good soundbite but the real world is very different. Some people work hard. Others do not. The Tory Party should surely be the party of those people who want to better themselves rather than those who want to do bugger all? To quote the great WS Gilbert : ‘When everybody is somebody, then no one’s anybody.’

Announcements on freezing petrol duty and reforming immigration will have some electoral appeal but should a Tory government really be penalising foreign investors who want to buy homes in the UK? This sounds awfully similar to the politics of envy espoused for so long by the Labour Party.

This PM’s version of Conservatism must grate with supporters of a small state, low personal taxation and personal freedom. She likes telling businesses how they should behave. The Health Secretary wants to tell young people how many hours a day they should be allowed to use their iPhones. There are many who would say (with some justification) that this is not Conservatism.

On Brexit, the PM’s opponents have clearly decided to buy their time. Despite today’s speech, the Chequers’ deal is dead. This was a considered stay of execution. When it comes, however, the end will still be very bloody. I hope the PM has read Wolf Hall.

The overriding impression of this party conference is that the Tory Party no longer knows what, if anything, it believes in. It is stuck with a PM who is not loved but staggers on because there is (for the moment) no obvious successor. It is hard not to admire her personal conviction and strength of character. Delivering Brexit will ensure her place in the history books. The trouble is, however, that on the crucial issue of Brexit she may well be leading her party in a manner that is horribly reminiscent of The Charge of the Light Brigade …

For all the despondency there is still something very special about the Tory Party. It is comprised of so many committed people who spend their free time (whatever the weather) knocking on doors, selling the Tory message. Hopefully for them (to misquote Tony Blair) things can only get better! Next year’s Tory Party conference could be very different in just so many ways …

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