theresa May's speech to the Conservative Party Conference could not have been worse. The problem was not the vague platitudes about the free market, or the hypocrisy over an energy price cap, or even the opt-out organ donor system. The problem was that these are the sort of things that former Labour leader Ed Miliband was proposing just two years ago in the 2015 General Election. Anyone who knows anything about politics, and can see that the old distinctions of left and right are meaningless today, knows why this is. The reason that "all politicians are the same" is because they come to us with the same Blairite policies, repackaged with a blue or red rosette.

The Heirs to Blair

David Cameron indulged himself by adopting the title of the "Heir to Blair", it is said that George Osborne, the MP-turned-editor who uses his position with gusto to attack Mrs. May, used to call Mr. Blair "the Master", and in times of strife they would both ask "what would the Master have done?". These rumours from Whitehall ring true when one considers what it was that they achieved in government, gay marriage, an unprecedented National Debt and not much else. They played to New Labour's tune, not reversing the damage done to the constitution by the Blair government, going on further adventures in the now failed state of Libya and supporting the "moderates" (by which, we have to assume that they are not Liberal Democrat-voting WI members) in Syria to bring bloodshed to that sorry country and signing up to the notion of a European Union over the nation state.

They played loose-and-fast with what conservative principles their party had to obtain power for, as far as I can see, its own sake.

Since 2015, fate, and a backfiring of the EU referendum of 2016, has determined that Mr. Cameron should no longer occupy 10 Downing Street, that the man he groomed to succeed him, Mr. Osborne, should not inherit the Tory throne and that, instead Mrs.

May will be in the unenviable state that we see her in.

The Shapps rebellion

Following the disastrous election campaign, a lacklustre start to the EU withdrawal negotiations, and it being made quite clear that Mrs. May has no chance of leading the Conservatives much further than 19th June 2019, we now see Grant Shapps, the former Tory chairman and MP for Welwyn Hatfield, leading something of a revolt against the Prime Minister, ostensibly to save the party from electoral oblivion.

Whether he will succeed remains to be seen, although it appears that he has been revealed by the party whips in order to foil his plan, but he is wrong to think that a replacement will make much difference. The electorate can see that this is a party that is trying to hitch itself to the Jeremy Corbyn bandwagon by adopting some of the things that were proposed by Labour just two years ago. It is no good now trying to play Mr. Corbyn as his own game, for he seems set to win such a contest, if only by looking sincere in what he proposes rather than as a means to win votes.

What next?

Who could replace Mrs. May? Boris Johnson, with the clown's make-up still plastered on his face? Jacob Rees-Mogg, with the conservative values that the media so despise?

Amber Rudd, with her wafer-thin majority? Or, maybe the grey man himself, Phillip Hammond? It really does not matter. None of them, if they are so inclined, will be able to stamp their authority on the party and enforce something like a set of guiding principles. None of them will be able to present a compelling case for conservatism to oppose Corbynism whilst carrying their party with them.

Mr. Rees-Mogg seems the most likely to be willing to do this, and perhaps he will, but I struggle with the notion that a party that has for twelve years bathed itself in Blairite dogma in order to win votes, can now readopt the clothes that it so shamelessly cast off as outdated and backwards. It is with good reason that the Conservative Party is the most successful electoral force in history, but to be so easy with alleged core principles is not something to be proud of.

Despite myself, I like Theresa May, maybe she would have been, as Alastair Campbell recently said of Gordon Brown, an able prime minister in the radio age, but now image is everything. Unfortunately, she needs to be able to engage in showmanship, as Mr. Corbyn is revelling in with the adoring crowds, but just as importantly she needs to be able to give voice to ideas that show the voters why conservatism is the best way forward for Britain. This is the thing she cannot do, no one around her can do it either, not Boris, not Damian Green, not Amber Rudd or any other of the host of po-faced Cabinet ministers.

The problem is that they do not believe in it, they may come up, as Mr. Cameron did, with some conservative-sounding lines about immigration or the budget deficit, but they have risen high under the idea that anything and everything is up for grabs if it is a vote winner.

They might have gotten away with it for a while under the flashy PR men, but they are gone now, and the age of authenticity demands that they have something resembling a principle. Not a line about the free market, for which most people see a deindustrialised north full of crime-riven council estates where the state casts those that it's dogma has deprived of work and dignity, but a vision for Britain. Not Thatcherism or Blairism, but serious conservatism that has a role for all.

The brand is tainted. Electoral oblivion awaits. Perhaps Rees-Mogg can bring conservatism back to the Conservative Party, or perhaps not. It is no longer enough to rely on tapping into a thirst for celebrity or to wing it with a catchy sound bite. Conservatives, you have been warned.