Who are the troublemakers at Conservative Conference?

So who are the troublemakers at this year’s Conservative Conference? It strikes me that with the Party in a confident mood over Labour's chances at the next General Election, the trouble may be coming from inside.

The two main culprits bored Senior Cabinet members and Brexit.

Starting with the first, the devil makes work for idle hands and this is particularly true for Liam Fox who has to wait two years before his job officially kicks off. Perennial trouble maker Liam Fox did not disappoint ahead of the Chancellor's speech. He warned against Hammond carrying out a fire sale on austerity.

Fox's comments are borne out of a fear of borrowing to invest in infrastructure. This is the only policy scrap we have been given by Hammond so far and Fox will be worried that borrowing could erode Conservative economic credibility.

He needn't worry. The Chancellor lived up to his boring accountant persona. Keeping his cards close to his chest, he revealed nothing of note ahead of the Autumn Statement. The point of Hammond's speech was to start sowing the seeds of a new economic narrative. It is no longer all about the deficit but rather, productivity. That is the framework that his economic policy of borrowing to invest in infrastructure will live within.

However, it was impossible for Hammond to not give a talk about what should not be mentioned - Brexit. Conference organisers have done their utmost to try and keep Brexit to just Sunday. For many it is just too tempting not to at fringe events. For instance, a Transport Minister linking Brexit to the devolution of buses.

There is definite sense that No.10 & 11 is keeping ministers on a leash with policy announcements kept to an absolute minimum ahead of the Autumn Statement. But with little policy meat on the table at fringe events, don't be surprised if Ministers or party faithful stray into the topic that is dominating all political thinking.

Douglas McIlroy

Hill & Knowlton Strategies Search