Chris Grayling opened his conference speech by talking about a 50 year delay. Initially he could have been mistaken for describing a standard train journey in the north of England, but he was actually congratulating the government on reaching a decision on aviation capacity.
Given the number of delays, cancellations and mistakes in his portfolio, the Transport Secretary had a pretty tough gig today. He did apologise for the disastrous changes to the timetable and promised that the same thing wouldn’t happen again. But while he claimed that the rail network did need ‘revolution’ rather than ‘evolution’, he then failed to announce anything that matched up to the noisy promises from the Labour Party. Of course, the Transport Secretary wasn’t going to say he’d changed his mind and that re-nationalisation of the railways was a good idea. But neither did he suggest that the government was doing much, beyond holding a review, to improve the situation now.
His upgrades to the major road network will go down very well in seats that the Tories either hold by a small margin or are very close to the incumbent, but the reception in the Hall was rather less excited. Indeed, the Hall was not full, or full of beans. The atmosphere in there was as dead as it might have been if the room were empty and the Tories were merely piping applause in. Grayling isn’t an inspiring speaker and so perhaps Theresa May will find it a little easier to energise her party. But if you compare the lack of energy in the Hall with the queues for certain fringe events, it’s easy to see where the excitement at this conference lies. And it’s not with those in charge.