One of David Cameron’s finest qualities is his ability to bounce back from near oblivion, when the media, pollsters and membership have abandoned all hope. This was a point laboured by the newly installed Chief Whip Michael Gove in the warm-up speech, where he emphasised that leadership is about tough decisions, including telling your own party some uncomfortable home truths.
For the many thousands of delegates who arrived in Birmingham over the weekend, this will be remembered as the conference where problems were turned into solutions and gloom was transformed into optimism.
Across the halls in the ICC and the meeting rooms of the Hyatt Hotel, Cabinet Ministers were preaching to the membership that any defection was a betrayal not just to the party and our people, but to our country. Indeed, this was a conference that for so many obvious reasons seemed set to fail, yet the membership left with fire in their bellies and a clear reason to campaign for a full majority next year.
Up until now, many centre-right columnists had offered praise or support for the likes of Douglas Carswell, revering him as a maverick. Quite how betraying the very people who helped you get elected constitutes noble behaviour seems a mystery to true believers in the Conservative cause.
But then again UKIP is a magnet for political underachievers, who find themselves and their oddball personalities thrust in the limelight; perhaps compensation for their repeated failures in mainstream politics.
The defection of Mark Reckless changed the narrative. From the Prime Minister downwards, every senior Conservative sent a clear message to the membership – that ‘liars and traitors’ have taken them for granted and they should be punished heavily for it...
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