Conference season is upon us, what can we expect from the coming month in the world of politics?
Summer is drawing to a close, we are halfway through a compelling Ashes series, and the new football season is now in full swing which must mean one thing, Westminster will be a hive of activity once again with Parliament sitting again, albeit for a brief period. It is not uncommon for this time of year to get particularly interesting with conference season on the horizon. But this year is looking set to be even more exciting than usual.
With Boris Johnson heading into his third month as Prime Minster, he has wasted no time in getting stuck in, and making some contentious choices. The most recent controversial decision Boris has deployed, is the prorogation of Parliament, which will see the current Parliamentary term come to an end and new one start with a Queen’s Speech in October. So, what does this mean, and what are the knock-on effects?
Well, there are numerous potential outcomes from this including (but not limited to):
- No-deal Brexit
- The re-opening of the Withdrawal Agreement and a new deal from the EU
- The same deal presented by Theresa May being brought back to the House of Commons
- A no-confidence motion
What does this mean for conference season?
Unlike last week, rebel MPs will no longer have the opportunity to cancel the autumn recess due to yesterday’s announcement. However, there is still talk of Labour and the Liberal Democrats cancelling their conferences to prepare for a looming general election and to step up opposition to a no-deal Brexit. If a vote of no confidence is brought to the House and this pass, then parties will be preparing for a General Election – probably for the start of November meaning conferences will surely get cancelled?
If conference season goes ahead, what will happen?
Should conference season go ahead it will certainly be interesting to see what happens. All of the parties have their own issues and the leaders have got challenges they need to face. With disenfranchised MPs across both sides of the House, the Prime Minster and the Leader of the Opposition will need to reach out and appeal to their members.
Boris’s big win over Jeremy Hunt would suggest he will get a welcome reception in Manchester, but with Conservative MPs torn and divided over Brexit, senior figures like Ruth Davidson stepping down and the general public eager to watch how he performs it is difficult to predict how he will go down outside of the Manchester Central Convention Complex. With the prorogation of Parliament, Boris Johnson will have the opportunity to outline a new agenda for the government, and after a leadership contest that saw many pledges and promises, it will be interesting to see where the government’s spending priorities lie. With spending commitments to Brexit, the NHS, education, and policing there will be a need for some creative budgeting from Sajid Javid. I expect Boris’s speech to be an optimistic precursor to the government’s announcements only a couple of weeks later in the Queen’s Speech.
As for Jeremy Corbyn, he heads to conference with his own problems. With a party currently divided and plagued by controversy, and questions surrounding his leadership from his colleagues and the Labour membership, he will need to be decisive on his position against Boris Johnson and on stopping a no deal Brexit. It will be difficult for Jeremy Corbyn to prepare his speech with the Queen’s Speech coming so soon after conference, so I would expect him to largely focus on Boris Johnson and highlighting his weaknesses as Prime Minister.
So, what’s my prediction for conference? Well, it’s currently difficult enough to predict what will happen tomorrow in British politics, but if you’ve booked to go to Brighton, Bournemouth or Manchester next month I hope your hotels and transport are refundable!