Party conferences are traditionally a forum for the ordinary members to have their say. But the Conservative grassroots have already done so, plumping for a leader most of their MPs did not want. As our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, buyers’ remorse at their Birmingham bash must surely be measured in megatons.
First, a disclaimer. This article is not a left-wing whinge about ‘Tory scum’, to coin the phrase. It simply lays out the facts, as they so grievously are.
Of course Liz Truss’s elevation was eclipsed by the demise of Queen Elizabeth. But the mini-budget that swiftly followed could yet seal her own fate.
Few now dispute that as whoops-a-daisy moments go this was a humdinger.
It’s not just that money markets melted down, putting pensions, mortgages and the pound in your pocket into question.
There’s also the small matter of what the voters made of the ensuing chaos.
Not much, judging by the slew of polls that add up to, albeit perhaps predictable, astonishing reading.
The most eye-catching was a YouGov survey that gave the opposition an historic thirty-three point lead.
On being told the news, one Tory MP reacted pithily, if pathetically. ‘You’re bloody joking, that’s annihilation.’
Too right. It’s been calculated the Labour party would have a commons majority of something over three hundred.
Little surprise then there’s mutiny in the air on the Conservative back benches, with some even darkly predicting Truss will be out by Christmas.
Worth keeping a sense of proportion, however. Twitter has had a somewhat infantilising effect, makes us all a bit over-excitable.
Besides, now that she’s getting on for a month into her premiership, Liz Truss has beaten Lady Jane Grey’s impressively short nine days at the helm by miles.
But, joking aside, she could not have got off to a worse start if she’d tried.
Her tax-cutting agenda appealed to the generally rather better off tiny sliver of society, that’s to say the Tory membership, that got her the job.
But trying to translate that into fiscal policy without even preparing the ground in The City? Or letting the official number crunchers check her homework?
It suggests she’s broken the first law of politics. That you should never believe your own propaganda.
The level of turmoil greeting Truss’s attempt to shake things up a bit calls to mind Michael Caine’s unforgettable line from the movie The Italian Job.
‘You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off.’
Realistically, things will calm down. A bit. Probably.
For a start, the pound later recovered most of the losses incurred after the mini-budget. And the economy overall is in slightly better shape than feared.
Also, that homework will now be provisionally marked in a few days – though that report could provide yet another flashpoint.
Meantime, at every level in society unforgiving eyes are focussed on Truss.
The Labour conference, often in the past straddled with jeering dissidents bearing badges and banners, featured instead this time loads of corporate folk.
In contrast, notably not at the Tories’ gathering is Truss’s leadership rival, Rishi Sunak.
Once dubbed ‘Dishy Rishi’, he could well be rebranded as ‘Rishi Schadenfreude’.
The exasperation he felt during the leadership campaign, when his constant calls for caution fell on deaf ears, must now strike him as eminently well-founded.
And the political cause and effect has laid in Labour’s lap the mother of all golden eggs.
The stigma from the Jeremy Corbyn era – of a bunch of crazy reds bent on frittering away our money – has now taken root in the blue roost.
Sir Keir Starmer has battled from the outset a perception that he’s boring. Just too safe. And, as the saying goes, safe is boring.
But now these turbulent times are working to his advantage. All of sudden, and so appealingly, boring is safe.
Talk about turning things on their heads.
Not that he’s one for letting anything get to his own head. Normally. But, asked last week on telly if he believed he’d be the next PM, he simply said: ‘Yes.’
This whole saga is a cautionary tale to politicians of every stripe. Bold, decisive action is good. Overplaying one’s hand is not.
Something Vladimir Putin is fast discovering, to his considerable cost.
He doubtless saw overrunning the Ukrainian capital and hence its government as bold and decisive. Only to discover he really had gone too far.
And as battlefield setbacks pile up on him he’s had to bolster his laughingly titled ‘special military operation’ with partial mobilisation.
But that too has rather blown up (excuse the pun) in his face, as Russians flee the country in their droves to dodge the draft.
The aim was to get some three-hundred-thousand more pairs of boots on the ground. In the event it’s thought at least that number has now taken to its heels.
Seems whoops-a-daisy moments aren’t only made in Britain.
Kremlin propaganda is pervasive. But so too is the mood on the ground. And Sunak’s schadenfreude is nothing to what Ukrainians are enjoying.
Your correspondent has a friend living in a village just outside Kiev, and here’s what he writes:
‘The whole world can see how Russians supporting the war .. jump off their couches and scatter like cockroaches in different directions.’
He also mentions the clever new word on the street used to define mobilisation. Mohylization. The point being ‘mohyla’ in Ukrainian means ‘grave’.
It’s no secret that the conscripts are being made to buy much of their own equipment. Even including women’s sanitary products to staunch wounds.
Food there for more thought, and graveyard (sic) humour, from this column’s Ukrainian correspondent.
‘A very smart thing to do. Why should Putin spend money on those whose life expectancy on the battlefield will vary from several hours to several days?’
Of course the defenders are up against formidable and ruthless odds. But all military experts agree morale is key.
And while stories abound of Russian troops abandoning equipment, fleeing their barracks and disobeying orders, Ukrainians are focussed and defiant.
Back now to our own shores, where Truss too is maintaining a similar air. On Thursday touring local radio stations to make her ‘steady as she goes’ case.
Only problem being she did such a comprehensive job of ducking the questions that it probably did her more harm than good.
Or, rather, as the Times put it, this was: ‘The worst provincial campaign since autumn 1216.
‘King John, marching about .. caught dysentery in Norfolk, lost the Crown Jewels in the Wash, and died in Nottinghamshire.’
Hmmm. Too much to expect Liz Truss to come over all Catherine Tate, but you can almost hear her saying ‘am I bovvered?’
It would at least be one way of masking the disquiet that she must surely be feeling, though help, from an unlikely source, could be at hand.
Boffins at Queen’s Uni in Belfast have established that dogs’ noses are so finely tuned that they can smell stress in human breath and sweat.
Obviously, being a lady, Liz would merely glow, but that’d be enough.
So the growing numbers of Tories who say bring back Boris might suggest he bring his best friend as well.
Three-word slogan anyone? Dilyn Dilyn Dilyn.
Watch Peter’s report HERE
Peter Spencer has 40 years experience as a Political Correspondent in Westminster, working with London Broadcasting and Sky News. For more of his fascinating musings on the turbulent political landscape, follow him on Facebook & Twitter.