Rishi Sunak says he ‘won’t stop trying’ during conference speech
The Conservatives are set to head to Manchester for their annual gathering of activists, MPs, ministers, lobbyists and journalists, a year on from their infamous gathering that saw Liz Truss’s government clinging on for dear life.
It will be Rishi Sunak’s first appearance before the wider Tory membership since he lost the leadership contest last summer.
While he goes into the conference in a perilous position, disliked by many members and miles behind Labour in the polls, the recent net zero announcement and a closing of the gap between Labour and Tories give Mr Sunak a glimmer of hope for a positive Manchester gathering.
The Express takes a look at when it’s happening, what’s on the agenda, when the Prime Minister will speak and what onlookers should expect…
When is the Conservative Party conference?
This year’s Conservative Party conference will take place from Sunday, October 1 to Wednesday, October 4. While this is similar to previous years, it is notable as for the first time in living memory it is happening before Labour’s annual gathering.
Labour will head to Liverpool the week after from Sunday 8 to Wednesday 11, preventing Rishi Sunak from having the final say about the state of the country.
One Tory source told the Spectator that they believe the move is “revenge for 2019”, a reference to when the Labour conference was upended halfway through due to the Supreme Court ruling that Boris Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament had been unlawful.
Where is it being held?
Tory MPs, ministers, members, journalists and lobbyists will head to Manchester this year, and gather at the Manchester Central Convention Complex.
As usual, an enormous security ring will wreak enormous disruption on those working and living in the city, with a large police presence to reduce disruptive and violent protests.
The security barrier includes the posh Midland hotel next to the convention centre, which forms a central hub for meetings and socialising at the expensive bar towards the end of each day.
The Conservatives always alternate the location of their conferences between Manchester and Birmingham, given the size of the annual gathering limits the number of suitable venues.
What’s on the agenda?
The conference day is jam-packed with fringe events, speeches and receptions from early morning until late at night.
Compared to Labour and the Lib Dems, the Tories tend to underplay the importance of the main conference hall, where Secretaries of State deliver their keynote speeches, often announcing new policies.
Tory members, unlike Labour and Lib Dems, don’t get a say over party policy at their annual conference, so the main action is found in the fringe events.
Hundreds of debates will be had among panels of experts, policy wonks, ministers, MPs and journalists in packed rooms.
This year will also stand out as two former Prime Ministers will be taking to Manchester – Liz Truss, who is set to speak alongside Priti Patel and Simon Clarke at a Great British Growth Rally, and Theresa May.
When is Rishi Sunak speaking?
Rishi Sunak will speak on Wednesday lunchtime, the final event of the conference which invariably attracts the most media coverage.
The PM’s speech is expected to kick off around noon, when he will be introduced by Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer.
His speech comes just a little more than a week after he threw five net zero pledges in the bin, in a major Conservative Party policy u-turn.
Mr Sunak insisted the UK was already ahead in reducing emissions and his Government would not impose “unacceptable costs” on British families.
What can we expect
The Tory Party has spent most of the last seven conferences focusing on infighting, backstabbings, plotting and cock-ups.
Last year’s was the most dramatic in living memory, with the forced u-turn by Kwasi Kwarteng over the 45p rate tax abolition, Liz Truss and the pound in free-fall and senior cabinet ministers going completely off-script.
This year’s may not be much calmer. The Tory party remains uneasy with itself, riven by factional infighting and bedevilled by the continuing support for Boris Johnson and Liz Truss by party members.
It will be Rishi Sunak’s first outing since resigning as Chancellor, toppling Boris Johnson and losing the leadership election to Ms Truss.
His predecessors’ presence will loom large this year, with Priti Patel and Nadine Dorries likely to cause headaches for Mr Sunak.
However, his recent announcement on Net Zero and an improved Tory poll rating may help Mr Sunak.
Will there be any protests?
As usual, the police are planning for large protests in Manchester. A particularly violent and aggressive set of protests in 2014, which saw conferencegoers egged by left-wingers, resulted in a ban on protestors immediately outside the secure zone, and will instead be confined to larger streets further away from the venue.
The “People’s Assembly” has announced a protest for October 1, meeting on Oxford Road at noon, which is being supported by most mainstream unions, along with Just Stop Oil and other left-wing groups like CND.
The National Education Union also threatened a “huge Manchester protest” in April, saying the Government were “rattled” over teachers voting to strike.
Rail unions have already dealt a blow to the Tory conference for a second year in a row, striking on the first and last day.
When are the Labour and LibDem conferences this year?
The Lib Dem conference has been taking place on the coast in Bournemouth this week, with Sir Ed Davey delivering his closing speech today (Tuesday).
Labour’s will take place after the Conservatives’, for the first time in living memory, once again taking to Liverpool.
Labour typically alternates between Liverpool and Brighton, however Brighton’s convention centre is currently being disrupted by repairs.
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