Inside Tory Party conference – where delegates feel ‘game is up’ after disastrous week for Liz Truss & Kwasi Kwarteng
GETTING Britain Moving may well be the official “theme” of the Tory conference.
But it’s felt more like Let’s Make The Most Of It While We Can.
Or given the amount of partying as the empire crumbles around then, perhaps the slogan should have been The Last Days of Rome.
There is a sense among many delegates that they think the game is up.
Looking at the massive opinion poll lead Labour has opened up in recent weeks, it may well be.
Unless, that is, there’s some remarkable change in fortunes to breathe life into an administration that’s conspired to discredit itself with huge swathes of the electorate, right from Day One.
But that elixir is nowhere to be seen.
Meanwhile, the Tories here seem hellbent on taking the desperate final drags on power after 12 years in government and four prime ministers – three of which entered office mid term, unelected by voters.
Liz Truss, of course, is the latest. And while Theresa May – just – and Boris Johnson – by a landslide – went on to secure their own electoral mandates, it looks highly improbable the new PM will manage similarly.
Events have conspired against her, some are boldly arguing. There are forces beyond her control, blah blah blah.
That may well be the case, but it’s the things entirely in her gift that have gone wrong.
There have been some laughable claims of “communications issues” being the problem with the policy of scrapping the top rate of tax.
As if this lead balloon would have floated if it were a different colour.
A whopping tax cut for the wealthiest at a time when people are struggling to heat and eat is a terrible idea, no matter how it’s polished.
And the only “communication” problem was that it was communicated in the first place.
Springing a mini-Budget on the country while refusing to release standard forecasts on its impact is a similarly hare-brained idea,
If there’s one way to spook the markets, it’s by suggesting to the world you’re trying to hide something awful.
Yesterday Kwasi Kwarteng scraped the barrel by blaming his judgement on the Queen’s death, Ms Truss too appeared determined to make things worse, going to war with her own MPs over benefits increases, and hinting the pension age could rise beyond 67.
By which time, if she continues at this rate, Liz will have been working in Asda for about 20 years.
It’s no wonder the Tory faithful are drinking to forget.
If the average person could see inside the rooms here where the endless, alcohol and canape-fuelled receptions are held, I’m not sure they’d be too impressed.
At Monday’s Scottish reception, sponsored by Scottish Power, Tory Scottish Secretary Alister Jack told delegates to “get stuck in” to the wine and beer laid on as a way of recouping their energy costs. How the audience laughed.
Ms Truss – on her usual tour of receptions – got a hero’s welcome by Scots members, despite the fact she’s leading them off an electoral cliff.
She took the obligatory pops at Nicola Sturgeon and went on, yet again, about how she went to school in Paisley.
There was lots of laughter – some of it genuine, some of it forced, some of it nervous, some of it bordering on manic.
On the wider conference circuit, there has been much head-in-hands chat about what on earth the PM is playing at, and a surprising amount of gossip about the sex lives of ministers in the new cabinet, with MPs gleefully exchanging salacious stories to anyone who’d listen.
As one Tory politician told me, “Never mind the last days of Rome – this makes Rome look like a gentle collapse.”
Conferences are always a holiday from reality.
But this one was different in that there was a concerted effort to distract themselves from the crushing reality they’ve brought on themselves.
Conservative members will be stepping back out into the real world today, past the anti-cuts protesters blaring the Benny Hill theme tune from loudspeakers.
And unfortunately, it’s looking every bit as grim as their prospects of clinging to power.
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