Parties in opposition usually spend a long time navel gazing, a period of ideological soul searching as they lick their wounds and plot a way back into government. Labour has spent much of the last decade arguing with itself about what kind of party it wants to be, and if polls are correct, 2024 will see the Conservatives forced into a similar existential reckoning.
They appear to have started early as last week’s National Conservatism Conference provided a glimpse into the future of the Tories’ hard-right, as we were treated to a week of speeches which showed just how loud and frankly insane the fringes of the party have become.
20 years ago, the rhetoric of the Nat-C conference was confined to what David Cameron once called the ‘fruitcakes and loonies’ of UKIP. Now, they sit around the cabinet table. Home Secretary Suella Braverman delivered a speech that would have scored highly in an Enoch Powell impersonation competition, ‘academic’ Matthew Goodwin plugged his new book with a speech railing against the ominously named ‘New Elite’ (middle class university graduates, apparently) and noted racist Douglas Murray drew applause for his spirited defence of nationalism, roaring “I see no reason why every other country should be prevented from feeling pride just because the Germans mucked up twice in a century”.
Backbench MP Danny Kruger turned the clock back to the 1940s with his bemoaning of the decline of the nuclear family, which was met with a swift and public rebuke from the Prime Minister’s spokesperson.
Speakers played the hits with an endless cavalcade of all the online right’s talking points, many of them ‘culture war’ imports from the American Republican Party. If your bingo card contained ‘the liberal elite’, ‘transgenderism’, ‘cultural marxism’, ‘wokeism’, ‘Big tech’ and ‘globalists’, then congratulations, we have a winner.
Keynote speaker ‘30p’ Lee Anderson took to the stage and began his otherwise surprisingly restrained address with a broadside at the ‘left wing media’ that apparently misquote him all the time. He namechecked The Mirror, The Guardian and erm… The Telegraph.
Michael Gove has described the Nat-C conference as the sign of “healthy debate” in the party. We’ll leave you to be the judge of that, but if the last week is anything to go by, we can look forward to a long and interesting period of opposition for the Conservatives after next year’s general election.