UK Politics: What we learned from conference season

Corbyn told conference: "We're ready for power."
Corbyn told conference: "We're ready for power."
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Political conference season was a triumph for Jeremy Corbyn but ended in more ignominy for Theresa May. Max Liu discusses how the events of the past few weeks have affected the betting odds...

"At the end of conference season, Labour are [1.95] to win most seats at the next general election, with the Tories [2.12]..."

Theresa May could be gone before Christmas

Leaders are finished when they lose control of the narrative. That was what was said of Gordon Brown during the tortured final two years of his premiership and the same now appears to be true of Theresa May.

The Prime Minister went to the Conservative Party conference in Manchester hoping to revive her premiership with a barn-storming speech full of fresh policies. In the event, the policies paid lip-service to important issues such as housing while the speech as a whole was worse than anyone could have imagined - or worse than May's opponents could have hoped.

By now, you'll know all about the comedian handing her the P45, the coughing fit and the letters falling off the wall. None of these things are strictly speaking May's fault but she will still go down as having given one of the worst conference leaders' speeches in Tory history. She is now [3.8] to leave Downing Street in the next three months.

There is no obvious Tory successor to May

One reason May hasn't been ousted yet - and why Grant Shapps' attempted coup on Friday failed to gather momentum on Friday - is that there's no obvious person waiting in the wings to succeed the PM. Yes, Boris Johnson [6.0] still has his eyes on the prize, and is the favourite, but plenty of Tories don't want him and, as one Conservative commentator, recently put it: "He is yesterday's novelty."

David Davis [6.8] was a novelty around about 2003 Jacob Rees-Mogg [9.6] is today's novelty but could he be more than that? Perhaps somebody from the new generation will step forward in the way David Cameron did in 2005 when he beat Davis to the leadership. The MPs discussed here are possibilities, as are Tom Tugendhat [40.0] and Johnny Mercer [70.0]. But at the moment, there's a long way to go before anyone looks like the natural successor.

Some Tories are resigned to defeat at the next election

According to Spectator editor Fraser Nelson, growing numbers of Conservative politicians are resigned to losing the next general election. Labour are [1.95] to win most seats, with the Tories [2.12], so all should still be to play for.

But Nelson, who has excellent contacts among Tory MPs, says they now regard a Corbyn government as "something the country has to go through." Presumably, said Tory MPs think that once people face the reality of living under a left-wing government, they will quickly be disappointed and return to voting Tory at the following general election.

But who says voters won't like a Corbyn government? Who says Corbyn would make a poor PM? By assuming that Corbyn will fail as PM, are the Tories underestimating their opponents again?

The Corbyn juggernaut continues to gather momentum

Like the PM, Jeremy Corbyn's fortunes have changed in the last year. His 2016 conference speech wasn't as bad as some people remember, but it was nowhere near as convincing as the speech he made in Brighton at the end of September.

One of the most impressive things about Corbyn, and his party and their activists, in recent months has been how they haven't taken their foot off the gas since the election (guess that's why the movement behind Corbyn is called Momentum). Labour are not taking victory at the next election for granted and have been touring the country, with Corbyn making speeches and targeting marginal speeches that could swing the vote whenever it takes place.

In Brighton for the conference, Corbyn was relaxed, funny and delivered stirring lines, as he unveiled important policies on housing and education and promised that Labour are the only party capable of healing the divisions of Brexit Britain.

You can get [28.0] on a general election this year and, while that seems unlikely now, the [3.95] on one next is appealing. Whenever it is, Labour will be ready. As Corbyn told his party in Brighton and the public watching on TV: "We're ready for power."

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