If you watched Theresa May’s speech yesterday, you may be fooled into believing her party are united around her, bound together like a May superglue ready for what comes next.
But you would be wrong.
I attended the entirety of Conservative Party Conference, in and out of the ‘secure zone’ (where you need a pass to enter) I experienced the chaos that the modern Tory Party are in.
As you can imagine the Conference was dominated by Brexit, and the members are not happy.
Around 80% of the people I spoke to hated the PM’s Chequers plan and wanted either a No Deal Brexit or a ‘Super Canada’ deal. A minority supported May’s proposals. An even smaller minority wanted a second referendum to reverse the result, and I cannot be sure how many of them were even Tory members.
Before you accuse me of only going to the pro-Brexit fringes, that is far from the case. I visited both the ‘Conservatives for a People’s Vote’ and Tory Reform Group meetings, the latter being filled with ‘moderate’ Tories including James Cleverly who said “I don’t give a shit about Brexit” and the former dominated by Remaoner-in-Chief Anna Soubry.
Both events seemed to be packed with activists, however, when you dig a little deeper this is misleading.
The second referendum event was in a tiny venue outside of the secure zone, meaning anyone off the street could have turned up (and it seemed they did). Soubry admitted in her speech to the pro-EU fanatics they may not all be Tories, and speaking to many of them they weren’t. The TRG meeting was in the secure zone, so you had to be a member to turn up, but most of the people I spoke to were there for the free booze not to support the PM.
In sharp contrast Leave Means Leave filled 2 massive halls, with their second event featuring Mogg being so full those who were turned away staged a protest until organisers allowed them in.
Wherever Mogg went, crowds followed. For example at the Brexit Central rally queues extended over three floors, the same with a speech by Boris Johnson.
Those activists were not just there to see Mogg speak, they were there because they were seeming with anger over Theresa May’s Brexit betrayal.
Not one person I spoke to wanted May to lead the Tories into the next election.
On the final day, May attempted to unite her members with her keynote speech, using clever PR stunts (such as dancing onto stage), and by attacking Jeremy Corbyn which is something all Conservatives can agree on. But despite the clapping in the hall, Tory members have had enough of this PM.
When Theresa May inevitably capitulates further on Brexit, she shouldn’t count on the plaster she put over the chasm of her Party.
The clock is still ticking for this PM.