IN his first speech as party leader, Rishi Sunak has a tough job. He has to make sure it is not his last.

Since becoming leader in the aftermath of the Liz Truss meltdown, Mr Sunak has steadied the ship through being competent and sensible. In negotiating the Windsor Framework, which begins to tidy up some of the mess that Brexit has left Northern Ireland in, he worked out details that his predecessor Boris Johnson could never have grasped.

But just being managerial has not been enough. The Tories rotted so badly under Mr Johnson and then faced so much ridicule over Ms Truss, that Labour’s lead in the polls is still large – even though there is not immense enthusiasm for Keir Starmer.

So in recent weeks, Mr Sunak has gone on the front foot, trying to put clear blue water between himself and Labour. But so far he has just said what he is not: he is not net zero, he is not immigration, he is not tax cuts, he is not HS2, he is not 20mph zones...

Today he has to explain what he is for, and what would be the point of the country giving him five more years on top of the 13 the Tories have had in which even our schools have started crumbling.

There are pros and cons for HS2 but at least it offered a vision of a shiny, modern railway rushing up the spine of Britain, linking the nation’s great cities, leaving Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds all levelled up with prosperous London. Does he have a vision to replace it?

That’s what the Tories themselves are seeking as they listen to Ms Truss and flirt once more with Nigel Farage.

It is an immense task, and Mr Sunak’s speech will go a long way to determining whether the Tories have a chance of clawing back the Labour lead.