Traditionally the newspapers would preview the prime minister’s big speech, but many of the column inches have been dedicated to her rival, Boris Johnson.
Johnson, the former foreign secretary, packed a 1,500-seater hall on the fringe of the conference and delivered a speech in which he said May’s Brexit blueprint was not ‘taking back control’ but ‘forfeiting control’.
The Daily Mail said Johnson staged a ‘public audition’ for May’s job, saying the pair were at ‘daggers drawn’.
Inside, the paper spoke of how Mr Johnson ‘plunged the knife in’, and a leader column said that while the speech ‘pressed all the right buttons’, its content was ‘deeply disloyal to the prime minister and profoundly unrealistic’.
‘The very timing of his speech, on the eve of the prime minister’s keynote address, was calculated to upstage her and cause her maximum embarrassment,’ the paper said.
In the Times, Patrick Kidd wrote that ‘Borismania is back’, contrasting the excitement about Mr Johnson’s ovation compared to the vibe elsewhere in Birmingham.
On the speech, Mr Kidd said: ‘It was a muted challenge but perhaps a more effective one.
‘He had not parked his tank on her lawn but on a nearby street so that she can see it whenever she goes to the shops.’
The Daily Mirror, perhaps unsurprisingly, was less kind towards the member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip.
The opening line of Kevin Maguire’s piece referred to Johnson as a ‘deceitful charlatan’ and a ‘deflating Tory windbag’.
It continued: ‘By publicly pretending to back Theresa May after verbally chucking her under the bus, he showed himself as a yellow-bellied coward.
‘In Birmingham, he robbed me and hundreds others of more than half an hour of our lives with a dishonest, tedious ramble.’
The Daily Telegraph, which counts Johnson among its contributors, said he brought ‘much-needed vigour to what has been a somewhat lacklustre party occasion’.
Its leader column said that he should be praised for having an appeal which stretches beyond typical Tory heartlands.
‘Leaving aside whether Mr Johnson is preparing a leadership bid or has passed his political sell-by date, as some of his erstwhile colleagues suggest, his speech showed why his party needs him in a front-line role,’ it said.