It’s been a fascinating week here in Birmingham, with the Conservatives veering between pride and confused despair.
First, the happy part: the Tories genuinely appear delighted and confident about their new-found power. This has manifested itself in a number of businesslike speeches in the Hall, as well as some well-refreshed partying in the bars. Indeed, many here seem to have conveniently forgotten the coalition, with many fringe speakers talking of their delight at a "Conservative Government". Don’t tell the Lib Dems.
But the week has been somewhat overshadowed by George Osborne’s benefits announcements. Intended to provide cover ahead of the spending review, and its inevitable impact on the poorest, the middle class benefit cut announced on Monday has provoked criticism in the right wing press, and among many delegates here. David Cameron’s briefing about the cut being offset by Lib Dem-baiting marriage tax breaks has only added to the confusion, raising more questions than answers about the need to cut the deficit. And then there was poor Tim Loughton, whose haughty End ofs will surely be a starting point for documentary makers charting the decline of the coalition Government.
But in a way this baptism of fire for the Tories may serve the party well ahead of the very difficult announcements ahead. Having negotiated themselves (albeit clumsily) through their first truly difficult policy backlash, they will find the next few rows that little bit easier to deal with. Which is lucky, as they will be plenty of them over the next few months. Next stop, Spending Review. Seconds out, round two…
This is a cross post from the Engine Group blog.