THE CONSERVATIVES have become increasingly worried about their ability to cope with the threat posed by an emboldened Labour Party.

Jeremy Corbyn’s skill in connecting with young voters and his star turns in front of huge crowds - as evinced by his performance at this year’s Glastonbury Festival - have shaken confidence and fuelled doubts about Theresa May’s ability to galvanise her troops.

Does the Tory party need its own rock and roll turn to rival Corbyn? If it does then Boris Johnson proved in his showpiece party conference speech that as a crowd pleasing, rabble rouser he remains very much a headline act.

Loading article content

On the surface this was a speech which showed the Foreign Secretary falling into line as he heaped praise on the PM for having “won” the election, despite losing the Conservatives’ Commons majority. And he told the Tory faithful that he and the rest of the Cabinet agreed with "every syllable" of Ms May’s Brexit stance, despite setting out his own, different red lines last week.

Behind the apparent loyalty to his leader, trademark quips, tub-thumping and bad puns, two serious points emerged.

One is that Mr Johnson has realised that now is not the time to make his bid for No.10, but Mrs May would be very foolish to assume he is completely on her side.

The other is that the Tories are still shell-shocked by the election result and riven by doubts about their leader and future direction. Mr Johnson hit precisely the right note by declaring it was time to stop feeling sorry for themselves and remember they won nearly 60 more seats than Labour. 

They need to start acting like a party in government rather than an opposition in waiting.