On Friday, I reported the views of several sources who had listened in on the Prime Minister’s conference call with Conservative Association chairmen, in which she answered questions about her draft Brexit deal.
Today I can go one better, as I am able to exclusively publish a recording of the call itself, so ConservativeHome readers can hear and consider the issues and arguments raised for themselves on both sides. This site has always taken the view that grassroots Conservatives have a right to be informed about the inner workings of the politics practiced in their name, and that better decisions are taken when they are in the loop, and this audio is published in that spirit.
The recording begins some minutes into the call. We know this firstly because it opens with Theresa May answering a question about financial obligations to the EU and the risk of being “trapped” in the backstop, and also because the recording ends with Brandon Lewis, the host, making reference to the Prime Minister having answered “17 questions” (as I reported on Friday), but the tape only features 13 being asked.
Nonetheless, it makes for interesting listening, and bears out the thrust of my earlier report. Several callers thank the Prime Minister for her hard work, and/or for taking the time to speak to them, before going on to ask questions which are founded on serious concerns about the nature and detail of her draft deal – and there are recurrent themes of concern about a failure to regain powers and trepidation about the UK being “locked into something deeply unpalatable” by the backstop.
My source from the other day who said “I got the impression that people want to support her, but are struggling” seems to have been on the button. Some callers who open with warm comments about the Prime Minister personally still sound concerned by the political situation – one reports “solid support for you personally” from local members and officers, before going on to report their “extreme concerns” about the deal and to ask about the chances of such concerns being listened to; another mentions fond views of May on the doorstep, but asks about the next steps if the deal is voted down in Parliament. There are other callers who are neutral and ask simply about practicalities, but only one is explicitly positive about the deal itself, referring to it as “giving people what they want” and criticising sceptics as not having read the document.
Anyway, enough from me. Here it is.