The Conservative Party is Just About Managing | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

The Conservative Party is Just About Managing

Comment Writer Jamie Aspden argues that the Conservative Party Conference was the conclusive sign that the government needs to change

Theresa May’s initial ambition as the leader of the Conservatives was to become the Prime Minister that represents those ‘just about managing.’ If the Conservative Party Conference has proved anything, it is that she has achieved her goal… but not quite in the way she would have liked.

Speaking on the steps of Downing Street in her first statement as Prime Minister in July 2016, she spoke of this ambition, stating: ‘If you’re one of those families, if you’re just managing, I want to address you directly… the government I lead will be driven not by the interests of the privileged few, but by yours.’ This was to be the defining theme of her premiership, and one which would lead the Conservatives to an historic electoral victory, until it didn't.

The Prime Minister, instead, just about managed to win the election, just about managed to form a government and just about managed to survive as leader.

The issue wasn't just the speech

This has been the real theme of her leadership ever since. With a lost majority and questionable DUP deal, a Cabinet at war with themselves and little good news along the way. Theresa May has just about managed to get through it, whilst being tripped up by countless political debacles.

Nothing is perhaps a better allegory of this than the Prime Minister’s conference speech itself. The Prime Minister just about managed to get through her speech, battling a terrible cough through a myriad of disasters. The comedian Simon Brodkin interrupted the Prime Minister to hand her a P45, which he said Boris Johnson asked him to give her. The set behind her began to collapse, as letters started falling off the conference slogan being her and to cap it all of the speech was clearly plagiarised from ‘The West Wing’ at one point.

However, the issue wasn't just the speech.

The whole conference could easily have been re-titled the ‘2017 “just about managing” party conference.’ All it achieved was putting an even greater spotlight on a government and leader who are ‘just about managing’ to get by. They seem far too content with their blatant mediocrity; with Brexit negotiations stalling again, Boris Johnson overshadowing the first three days with gaffes, and cabinet ministers jostling for position.

The conference ‘just about managed’ to not be a complete disaster, although it came pretty close.

We need a change and we need a change now

The biggest question that the conference threw up into the air once again was: ‘how long can this all last?’ With reports of both party unity but also conversations about leaving after the speech, is the Prime Minister going to be able to once again hold it all together?

At the end of the conference the answer to this question is perhaps even less clear than it was at the start. It’s equally as conceivable that May will be gone by the end of the week, than it is to imagine she could hang on until after Brexit.

However, the one thing this conference has made clear is that we need a change and we need a change now. Either the party must change the way it follows its leader or they need to change the leader it follows. For the good of the party and the country the ‘just about managing’ model of governance must end.

The electorate will never forgive it for falling apart right at the moment it needed to come together

The Conservative Party itself can no longer endure the damage it is causing itself. If it wishes to keep its reputation as one of the oldest, greatest and most successful political parties in the free world, it is going to need to get its act together and fast. The cost of indecision is too high.

For the first time in decades Britain faces the possibility of a truly socialist government, under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. A party which is ‘just about managing’ to hold itself together is of little use in the fight against such an opposition. Instead the party must unite and move forward as one. If not, the electorate will never forgive it for falling apart right at the moment it needed to come together.

The United Kingdom can no longer afford this brand of governance. As at this time, when it faces some of the greatest challenges since the Second World War: an ageing population, a changing climate and the departure from the EU, we need a, dare I say it, ’strong and stable’ government. One with innovative and inspired ideas, and with the unity and discipline needed to enact them.

‘Just about managing’ will no longer cut it.

The country deserves and needs a government that succeeds, and it needs it now.

Third Year Political Science student at the University of Birmingham. (@jamie_aspden1)


12th October 2017 at 9:00 am

Images from

Tom Evans