The real power behind the throne at this year’s Conservative Conference, was the presence of the DUP.
If Boris Johnson thought that the Birmingham conference would be the beginning of his leadership campaign then his team must be sorely disappointed.
Not only was the conference show stolen by Geoffrey Cox the Attorney General, but Theresa May’s strong and humorous performance struck a chord with the party faithful.
There have been many reviews of the conference. Most based on dipping into the views of the commentariat or vox pops of delegates. But if Barndoor’s network of grassroots contacts is anything to go by Boris has peaked too soon.
Despite a large queue, his speech was thought by many to be lacklusture. The new “serious” style doesn’t suit the Conservative party’s favourite clown. Worse still, the exceptional oratory of Geoffrey Cox MP and his staunch support of the Prime Minister and her Brexit will have cemented the impression that Johnson is a political lightweight making a noise on the side-lines while the grownups run the country.
As one hard Brexiteer (who will remain nameless) put it – what exactly did he achieve as Foreign Secretary and why should we believe that he’ll do better as PM? Moreover, Johnson’s suggestion that Brexit be postponed has also scared some of the horses.
Johnson true believers will doubtless be undeterred. But the party rank and file clearly have more time for May than the plotters and some in the media might think. Moreover, May’s attack that Johnson is failing to understand the Irish border aspect of Brexit appears to be hitting home.
It is early days yet as the UK hurtles towards the 29th March, but on present form Johnson will have to do a lot better if he is to upstage his potential leadership rivals, let alone topple the PM.
The real power behind the throne was Arlene Foster of the DUP. Speaking at the DUP fringe, a niche but well attended event, she and Rt. Hon Nigel Dodds MP made it absolutely clear that although there was some flexibility in their position there would be no way that they would ever see Northern Ireland treated differently from the rest of the UK.
The implication is clear. Cross the DUP and the UK will be heading headlong into a General Election. That’s much more likely to focus No 10’s minds than even the most offensive column that Johnson can produce.
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