Tory conference roundup: taxing times and too much talk

“I think you should be called Alok Charmer,” said Stanley Johnson as he interviewed the Cop26 president. It was only downhill from there at one of the more bizarre events at conference, as Johnson kept returning to the idea of anal swabs to test for Covid.

Jonathan Black, a former president of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association.

For his only conference fringe event, Rishi Sunak submitted to an hour of questions from low-tax diehards the Institute for Economic Affairs and Taxpayers’ Alliance, and, in a sign of how the Tory party is very much under new management, he offered them very little in the way of assurances.

The chancellor did concede he would prefer the state to be closer to 20% of GDP rather than the 40% it is fast approaching, but added with almost an apologetic shrug that the 2019 Tory manifesto was “a pretty expansive agenda”.

Translation: we’re all Johnson-ists now, and as long as he’s popular, we have to accept it.

Carrie Johnson arrives in Manchester for her one special event – an appearance at the LGBT+ Conservatives reception.

Was it cold toast at the Midland hotel buffet or a late-night essay crisis on his speech? Whatever it was, Johnson had a tetchy start with the BBC’s Nick Robinson on the Today programme.

Robinson started with a reproach that Johnson hadn’t appeared in two years, which the prime minister seized on as an explanation every time he gave a long and rambling answer to a question – he was making up for lost time.

At one point, Robinson had to shout: “Prime minister stop talking.” A clearly miffed Johnson then jabbed back about being “allowed to speak” several more times during his answers.

There’s only one ticket in town – it’s Boris Johnson’s speech. It’s at 11.30am and comes in at a nippy 40 minutes – half the length of Keir Starmer’s. Expect lots of sunlit uplands and very little actual policy.

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