We are, somewhat extraordinarily, about halfway through Boris Johnson’s first term in office.
Most Westminster watchers expect an election in 2023 to be at least likely, if not probable.
And yet we remain largely unclear about what the administration stands for, and what the PM is trying to achieve with the office that he has so openly coveted for so many years.
This week’s party conference is a chance, at least, to give us an idea of what the plan is for the next two years as Britain recovers from what we all hope is a once-in-a-generation shock. Nobody will be listening more keenly than British businesses.
Last week the Federation of Small Businesses warned that Johnson’s government was in danger of shearing the historic link between business and the Tory party. There is more to it than that. Businesses which are having to deal with a perfect storm of rising input costs, additional burdens thanks to Brexit, and a chronic labour shortage in almost every position simply feel rather unloved, and unimportant.
This conference presents an opportunity to change that perception. That will require something more concrete than the usual crowd-pleasing sloganeering we have come used to from the Prime Minister. A start would be a commitment not to further hike taxes.
One fears, however, there will be more heat than light. Already we are told that Lord Frost, the Brexit minister, will herald a “British renaissance.”
That’s all very well and good and cheering, but businesses would probably rather hear some progress on simplifying the lashings of extra paperwork now required in order to export goods, or what the government is doing to ensure clearing remains housed in the City of London, rather than Paris or Frankfurt.
This permanent campaign of a government is addicted to the soundbite. This week it should try something with a little more substance behind it.