Boris Johnson has said he is ready to take “big, bold decisions” to rebuild the country after Covid as the Tory Party conference opens in Manchester.

They are the kind of big and bold words we are used to hearing from the prime minister, throughout the pandemic, and well before.

As Mr Johnson descends on Manchester, he sits in somewhat of a quagmire.

On the one hand, he is in an untouchable position. He has a huge majority in parliament, no internal challengers within his own party, and is still ahead of Labour in the polls.

Likewise, to date, mishandling of the pandemic, from questionable contracts to a massive death toll, also do not seem to have dented his popularity and standing.

However, with UK society now largely reopened, he does face a rocky road ahead.

Behind the optimism, Conservative MPs heading to Manchester are aware of a number of storm clouds gathering.

While the fuel crisis appears to be easing in much of the country, petrol retailers have warned that the situation is getting worse in London and the south east.

With long queues at many filling stations, military drivers will take to the roads on Monday in an effort to support the delivery of supplies to forecourts.

There are fears that the shortage of HGV drivers which triggered the crisis could lead to empty shelves in shops in the run up to Christmas. Nobody likes having Christmas messed with, as last year proved.

His main political opponent, Sir Keir Starmer is also making a demonstrable effort to park his Labour tanks on Tory lawns.

Writing in The Sun, the Labour jabbed the finger of blame squarely at Mr Johnson for the “chaos”, accusing him of ignoring repeated warnings from the industry.

“Boris Johnson was warned about this crisis and he did nothing about it. Britain deserves better than this incompetence and total lack of leadership,” he said.

Some on the Tories’ own benches also fear the government is facing a “cost of living crisis” with many households struggling to make ends meet over the winter, threatening the Government’s all important “levelling up” agenda.

It follows the ending of the £20-a-week Universal Credit uplift and the furlough scheme and the raising of the energy price cap at a time when many prices in the shops are going up.

Household budgets will take a further hit from next April when national insurance contributions rise by 1.25 per cent to pay for the government’s investment in the NHS and social care.

Despite chancellor Rishi Sunak’s attempt to address some of the concerns with the announcement of a £500 million hardship fund for vulnerable families, there is still fear it may not go far enough.

Former cabinet minister David Davis told The Observer: “You don’t level up by increasing the tax and cost of living on the working class.

“We have to be absolutely clear what levelling up means.”

The party is expected to use the conference to present a united front as it heads toward the winter.

There’s likely to be plenty of talk of ‘levelling up’ and looking beyond Covid, despite a growing number of cases, hospitalisations and an NHS in England (and elsewhere) creaking under the strain.

In a statement released on Saturday, Johnson declared: “We didn’t go through Covid to go back to how things were before – to the status quo ante.

“Build back better means we want things to change and improve as we recover.

“That means taking the big, bold decisions on the priorities people care about – like on social care, on supporting jobs, on climate change, tackling crime and levelling up.”

Likewise, the party is also expected to punch back at a more aggressive Labour Party.

The party’s chairman Oliver Dowden is expected to use his opening address to the conference to refute Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner’s accusation that Tories are “scum”.

“I know that this is a fundamentally decent party,” Mr Dowden is expected to say. “You might not always hear it from our opponents, but I see it every day.”

The UK government is coming under greater pressure from the devolved nations also. While Mark Drakeford used last week’s Labour conference to attack the Tories with power, governments in Scotland and Northern Ireland joined him today to call on Johnson's government to scrap plans to cut the uplift to Universal Credit.

The UK government's Welsh secretary, Simon Hart, has said his government will 'deliver on the people's priorities', while the Welsh Government puts "politics and constitutional reform ahead of creating jobs for local people".

Some rhetoric never seems to change.

While the Tory party breezes into Manchester, it will be content that it is in a good place: in power. 

However, winds can and do change quickly in politics. There are a lot of people struggling across the UK right now and the hangover from Covid only now appears to be starting to bite.

*Additional reporting by Gavin Cordon, PA Whitehall Editor

If you value The National's political journalism, help grow our team of reporters by becoming a subscriber.