It’s said that a week is a long time in politics; if that is the case then the last year has been a generation.
When the Conservative Party gathered in Manchester last year it did so in upbeat mood having won a majority in parliament for the first time since 1992. David Cameron was setting out a vision that would take him to the end of his Premiership and pave the way for George Osborne, his likely successor, to take the party into the 2020 election.
A year later one vote, the EU Referendum, changed that dramatically, yet one thing remains the same. The party is enjoying a strong poll lead whilst the opposition parties flounder and largely look irrelevant.
The shambolic state of the current Labour Party is tempting some Conservatives to conclude that Labour might be out of power for a generation. Yet most will recall that only 10 years separated the 1987 landslide from the 1997 catastrophe. Labour will mount an electoral challenge again in future, just not under their current Leadership.
We also cannot ignore the threat that our country may divide, as the SNP look to turn problems into grievances and grievances into division. Ruth Davidson has brought a fresh, modern, approach to the fight for the Union, but the latent threat remains. Scottish Labour’s collapse means votes in the Central Belt are going to stay with the SNP for some time, giving them a platform.
This year’s Conservative gathering in Birmingham must not be a reflection on a momentous year, but the start of a nine-year project delivering a positive vision for a post Brexit Britain. Key questions such as immigration, the single market, customs and free trade deals will need to be answered over the next two years.
It is tempting to just focus on the detail of answering each one. Yet the answers need to be based on delivering a coherent and communicable vision of what Britain will look like in 2025. This must in particular attempt to connect with those who voted 'Leave' not just out of frustration with the EU, but with a feeling of being left behind generally.
In Birmingham we need to set out the destination we are sailing towards so that when the winds of difficult choices hit and the opposition finally gets its act together we can still stay the course.
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