Scary Tory clown squad play government in alternate dimensions | John Crace

While Radon Liz and Kamikwasi Kwarteng set quantum dates for fiscal steadiness, Suella Braverman was talking up a coup

Small steps and all that. The Tory party conference may be on life support in the ICU – most delegates have written thank you letters to Mick Lynch for Wednesday’s rail strikes that have given them a gold-plated excuse for leaving early – but things aren’t quite as bad as they could be. It was probably more luck than judgment, but Liz Truss finally got through an interview relatively unscathed. Put it like this. It wasn’t a total car crash. More a minor scrape.

There are caveats, of course. For one thing, the interview with Nick Robinson for the Today programme had been prerecorded the day before. So we might just have got a moment in time when a version of Radon Liz existed that was not quite so catatonically hapless. There was no way of knowing whether another iteration of Truss that was live at 8.10am on a Tuesday morning would have given the same interview. Things have turned unusually existential in Birmingham.

Some things don’t change though. Librium Liz still didn’t manage to say anything that would reassure doubters – ie everyone – that she knew what she was doing. She was still clueless about whether to cut benefits to pay for the tax cuts. The very concept made no syntactic sense to her software. The whole point of announcing unfunded tax cuts was that they should be unfunded. There were also still long silences as various neurons clunked into life. It can take an age for one thought to emerge from barely connecting synapses.

Right at the start, Robinson had begged Truss to confirm that there would be no U-turns between this interview being recorded and it being broadcast. She had form, after all. “Of course,” Radon Liz insisted. Come the end, Robinson was forced to add a line that another U-turn was on the cards. That the chancellor was planning to bring forward the date for his medium-term fiscal event from 23 November in order to reassure the markets that he did have a plan after all. Or at least a plan to have a plan. Which would be better than where we were now.

It couldn’t last, of course. Not in the ongoing Tory psychodrama that presents itself first as farce and then as tragedy. So it wasn’t long before the government was backpedalling. Making a U-turn to a U-turn. Both Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng were adamant that the next fiscal event was again back on for November. Because what the markets needed was increased uncertainty.

Now the star-crossed lovers had the country where they wanted it. Scratching its head and wondering what the hell was going on. This was the Tory party we had come to know and endure. Because the mere announcement of a U-turn to a U-turn was a definite signal that in a different space-time continuum – one that would surely come, if it wasn’t here already – we would soon be presented with a U-turn to a U-turn to a U-turn. Reality was only a figment of the imagination. A lie, a truth waiting to happen. Time present and time past. Both present in time future.

Which isn’t to say there will be no room for slapstick. With two clowns in charge, how could it be otherwise? First Librium Liz twice refused to say whether she trusted her chancer chancellor. Only to later say that she did trust him. So which is it? Both positions are equally absurd. Why would she trust him? Yet why wouldn’t she? So you can take your pick. Choose a Truss and write your own story.

Meanwhile Kamikwasi was also set on self-destruct. He declared that the only thing wrong with his mini-budget was that the Queen had been selfish enough to die at the wrong time. So he’d had to do it in a rush. It hadn’t occurred to him to wait a bit longer to nail down the missing billions. It had been what the Queen would have wanted. Tanking the economy had been a mark of respect.

While our two idiots unsavant were causing havoc, it was left to other members of the cabinet to fill the void. So take a bow, Jacob Rees-Mogg, for almost single-handedly keeping the show on the road by appearing at almost every fringe event.

In the optimistically titled Think Tent, Jakey was unusually shapeshifting as the sanest person in the room. Then again, he was being interviewed by Mark Littlewood, the batshit-crazy director general of the Institute for Economic Affairs. Littlewood sounded appalled when Rees-Mogg suggested that regulations banning child chimney sweeps were a good thing.

Which left us with Suella Braverman. The home secretary started the day by declaring that all those who didn’t want unfunded tax breaks for the richest had effectively led a coup against Truss. Stop talking Britain down, Suella. We’re not a failed state, yet. Though we’re getting there. She then launched a counter coup of her own by deciding that Librium Liz had not been nearly tough enough to resist the coup. If she had been leader, Michael Gove and Grant Shapps would have been summarily executed. As would Truss just for good measure.

This was just the sort of no-nonsense insanity that would go down a storm in the main hall later in the afternoon. After a stellar array of charisma-free speakers – it’s sheer organisational brilliance to gather every minister who can’t read a teleprompter in the same place – the half-full auditorium came alive for Braverman. She told them that the police were too busy being nice to trans people to investigate proper crimes. She told them Labour wanted to disband the police. She told them she had a dream of deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda. The first flight out would be the best day of her life.

Towards the end, Braverman became almost emotional as she spoke of her desire to do anything that woke people disliked. Who cared about the government falling apart when there were culture wars to be fought? It was almost as if she were on a loop. Returning to her and the members’ comfort zone. A place where almost no one else existed. In return half the audience gave her a standing ovation. Largely because they thought she had finished. We were in yet another universe. Untold wonders. Just push open the doors and step on through.


John Crace

The GuardianTramp

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