All Eyes on Manchester as Leadership Challenges loom

Manchester will be massive as Theresa May is expected to face serious leadership challenges at the Tory Party Conference

Speculation that Boris Johnson is launching a leadership challenge against Theresa May brings even greater importance to the upcoming national #StopBrexit march in Manchester on 1st October.

The announcement of Boris Johnson’s 10 point Plan for A Successful Brexit in The Daily Telegraph  yesterday has fuelled rumours that he will be  launching a leadership challenge for the Conservative Party soon.

The publication of the plan is widely seen as a challenge because it covers issues that usually the Foreign Secretary has no responsibility over, and because it diverges strongly from the government’s official position on Brexit. Controversially it revises the claim of a promise of £350 million for the NHS, and downplays the importance of Single Market access for the UK.

Whilst Johnson has since denied the speculation, many political analysts agree that this move is an indication that Johnson is testing the waters and sending a signal to Eurosceptic MPs that they should fear a U-turn by Theresa May, and to therefore rally around him.

Commenting on the plan in The Evening Standard, Vince Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said that “Britain desperately needs political grown-ups who will put the country first, not a Poundland Donald Trump like Boris Johnson.”

The Significance of the Conference

Whether Johnson is serious or not, the party conference is the obvious choice for such a challenge, be it by Johnson or anyone else. The conference brings together thousands of party members from all over the country to debate party policy and also offers politicians the opportunity to break old alliances and make new ones.

As such, it also offers Pro-EU MPs the chance to strengthen their faction, and make a possible push for leadership, but many activists, including those planning the huge national Stop Brexit protest and march against the conference, are less hopeful.

“We know that many Tories are supportive of remaining in the EU, but almost no one dares to say anything” says Laura, one of the organisers of the #stopbrexitmarch, “They are not seeing that the climate of fear which prevailed after the referendum died with the Queen’s speech, that the mood has changed and continues to change, and they should feel emboldened by this.”

Patrick Lohlein, one of her colleagues, agrees; “We haven’t seen any serious voices of dissent from the pro-EU faction since the referendum, and we don’t have that much hope for a new pro-EU leader to emerge from it. But, if we can kick some of the most rabid Brexit bulldogs out of the Cabinet and back to the backbenches that alone would make a big difference. It would be an important step towards getting Britain off this self-destructive path and has the potential to stop Brexit in its tracks”.

The Conservative Party Conference and the #StopBrexit National March will take place in Central Manchester on Oct 1st.