Tory conference: Five things to look out for in Manchester


The Conservatives are gathering for the party's annual conference in Manchester.

With Brexit still unresolved and a new(ish) prime minister in place, what are likely to be the big talking points of the week?

1) Boris Johnson's speech

He's always been one of the biggest draws of the Conservative conference, members roaring with laughter at his wordplay and jokes. But now it's Boris Johnson's turn for the big one - the leader's speech.

Will the prime minister drop some policy announcements ahead of the general election that could take place this autumn? Or will the tone be one of less specific optimism? There's likely to be more focus than usual on his language, following recent disputes about his comments in Parliament.

Another big question hangs over the speech, specifically when it will take place. It's scheduled to be the closing event on Wednesday - the final day. But, with the Supreme Court decision overruling the prorogation - suspension - of Parliament, Parliament will be sitting throughout the conference.

Wednesday is also when prime minister's questions takes place. It's been reported that Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab will fill in for the PM in the Commons.

Whatever happens, Mr Johnson will hope things go more smoothly than Theresa May's mishap-ridden speech of 2017.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionTheresa May was handed a P45 by a comedian during her conference speech

2) What about 'the 21'?

image copyrightEPA
image captionWill Rory Stewart turn up?

With disagreements about Brexit overwhelming politics, 21 MPs recently had he Conservative Party whip removed.

But they still sit on the same Commons benches as their erstwhile colleagues and, mostly, would still call themselves Tories.

So will the likes of Philip Hammond, Ken Clarke, Justine Greening and Rory Stewart (a contender in the summer's leadership race, lest we forget) turn up in Manchester? And, if they do, what kind of reception will they get?

3) Protests

While events inside the hall at Conservative conferences are often managed, polite affairs, the opposite can be true outside the building.

In recent years protesters have gathered in large numbers to address attendees in often ripe language.

4) Brexit...but what about other policies?

image copyrightReuters
image captionPriti Patel is expected to talk tough on crime

Brexit is impossible to get away from, really. But there will be focus on other issues.

Home Secretary Priti Patel will attempt to galvanise the government's tough-on-crime message when she addresses the conference on Tuesday.

Monday, meanwhile, will be more business-focused, with Chancellor Sajid Javid speaking and a discussion on the economy and the environment.

Animal welfare policies, environmental plans including a proposed £1bn fund to boost the electric motor industry and a pledge to plant one million new trees are on the agenda. Look out for more non-Brexit policies day by day as conference continues.

5) Joggers - and posing

Politicians these days are far fitter than they used to be - or at least they like to show they are. Security permitting, will Mr Johnson go for a run around Manchester?

Will Michael Gove don his shorts and T-shirt and do the same?

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionA little bit of this?

Even if they're not in lycra, ministers - at least those not forced to stay in London for Commons business - will be out and about doing photo opportunities.

image copyrightReuters
image captionAnd a little bit of that?

Schools, factories, farms and retirement homes: watch out.