Conservative Party Conference 2022: A look ahead

The Conservative Party head to Birmingham this weekend (2nd-5th October 2022) for the Conservative Party Conference with hopes that an economic crisis doesn’t become a political crisis.

For a party with a 71-seat majority, its popularity is plummeting in the polls, and it now faces a renewed Labour Party full of optimism following its own Conference in Liverpool this week.

It’s challenging to remember a more tumultuous first month for a new Prime Minister. As an inexperienced leader taking charge of a country in crisis, Liz Truss knew she needed to hit the ground running.

But three weeks into her nascent premiership, the new PM and Conservative Party Leader finds herself racing to stay ahead of events. Though Truss was relatively open about what she intended to do during the lengthy Conservative leadership contest to replace Boris Johnson, the dash-for-growth Budget took many by surprise.

Last Friday’s significant tax-cutting event startled financial markets, sending Britain’s borrowing costs soaring and the pound tumbling to an all-time low. The move drew comparisons with 1992’s Black Wednesday when the UK was ingloriously ejected from the European exchange rate mechanism.

Truss will hope she can weather the current financial storm as her Government doubles down on growth with no U-turn in sight. How she reacts to the growing political pressure, however, may prove just as important, with some of her own MPs beginning to question her leadership abilities and economic foresight.

This year’s Conservative Party Conference could be totemic for this new administration. Senior Conservative MPs, including Rishi Sunak, have said they won’t travel to Birmingham – whilst others have openly criticised the new PM in recent days.

The party needs to clearly articulate why, after 12 years in power, they still have the vision and ability to drive the country forward.

FleishmanHillard will be in Birmingham throughout Conservative Party Conference. We look forward to seeing you there and reporting back to those who can’t make it.


  1. Truss’s make-or-break sales pitch.

The majority of Conservative MPs (and the public at large) still need to be brought around to the PM’s tax-cutting and growth-at-all-costs agenda.

Unrest in the Tory ranks isn’t confined to Truss’ sworn opponents, meaning it’s absolutely vital her conference speech on Wednesday demonstrates credibility and control.

Meanwhile, Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng is addressing the conference hall on Monday morning and he’ll be keen to add more detail to his vision to appease the jittery financial markets.

  1. Message control.

How many MPs will be prepared to support this government’s policy direction in light of the reaction to the ongoing fiscal turmoil? Party management will be crucial in maintaining discipline, particularly of message, to maintain unity. Look out for outspoken Sunak supporters during the fringe programme.

  1. New Ministers in action.

Given the pace of politics in the UK, it’s worth remembering that this is a fresh-faced administration.

For many Ministers, this will be the first real opportunity to speak directly to their party, and the business community, to set out their plans for their departments. Several in the Cabinet are still relatively unknown quantities.

Headline speeches from key Secretaries of State will take place throughout the Conference in the main hall.

  1. Who will stay and who will go?

The combined strikes by the Aslef and RMT unions over the coming days mean that no trains are likely to run on the opening day of the Conference. Kwarteng has pledged to crack down on future strike action – which has enraged senior union leaders who argue this serves only to elongate disputes and generate greater anger among union members.

  1. Reacting to the Labour vision.

By many accounts, Labour under Keir Starmer delivered their most compelling and electable political vision in Liverpool this week since Tony Blair’s premiership. They now have a remarkable 33-point lead according to YouGov. Yet a 2024 election is still a long time away in political terms, meaning there’s still a window for the Conservatives to turn the polls around. To do that, they need to reconnect with supporters who are largely disenchanted – particularly those in the Red Wall.

Charley Sambridge, account director, Public Affairs

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