The Conservative Party conference 2023 was like a Mel Brooks film; The Producers comes to mind. It must surely go down as one the most overt examples of political desperation in history. But nothing is impossible, and if a week is a long time in politics, that means the Conservatives have an eternity in which to convince an exhausted nation to give them a fourth term at the next election.
This lot in opposition will be out of control, but if they win, based on what we saw last week, the country is doomed.
More like the GOP than the Conservative Party
Some of the contenders defeated by Sunak in last year’s leadership race, were clearly setting out their stalls in impatient anticipation of another chance at the prize. It was unedifying and depressing, and ironically given the constant nationalist undertones, highly unBritish.
Opting for the Trumpian and utterly uncatchy MBGA (Make Britain Grow Again) as her political slogan, Liz Truss dared to show her face and spoke at the ‘Great British Growth Rally’. Sounding more like a competition for who can cook up the most unpleasant medical condition, it was in fact an effort to replicate the US-style political gatherings at which Trump feels most at home.
Once more advocating Reagan-style tax cuts, the beneficiaries of her policies will still be big business and the very wealthy. The rest of us must become accustomed to long hours, low pay and no welfare state.
Someone had obviously applied enough WD40 to deliquesce her delivery but the content hasn’t changed since she crashed the economy last year and drastically reduced our, erm…growth, causing a fiscal hole in the economy worth a staggering £30bn in just a few days.
Penny Mordaunt bounced onto the stage pumping the air, pointing and winking at unsuspecting members of the audience. She clapped back at the crowd and then gave the strangest speech, inciting the room, no fewer than 12 times, to stand up and fight because the future of life on earth depends on it.
She reached fever pitch all on her own before announcing that Conservatives need to stand up and start fighting for FREEDOM! A confused audience stunned into silence forgot to erupt into rapturous applause, and as tumbleweed wafted past, she thanked conference and stalked off the stage.
A noteworthy fact: when the words ‘freedom’ and ‘liberty’ are so nebulously used by a Conservative politician, accompanied by a display of unBritish overconfidence, someone on the US right has probably choreographed the show.
Suella Braverman blew in forecasting hurricanes of immigrants. Well, they’ve done swarms, hoards, armies, and waves, so let’s finally see some onshore wind power at work.
Apparently people who don’t agree with multi-millionaire Braverman and her impossibly rich boss are guilty of ‘luxury beliefs’. A concept developed by American political commentator Rob Henderson in 2019, in an attempt to intellectualise the demonisation of compassion.
Even less interesting than before, she has become a caricature of herself, trying to out-Cruella Suella with each performance and it’s become a bit predictable. She’s done her bit and can now sit back and look forward to Halloween.
This is where things get particularly desperate.
Mark Harper, secretary of state for transport, found his inner Majorie Taylor Greene and started spouting online conspiracy theories to attack the rather pleasant idea of a few local shops and transport links within 15 minutes from home for people for whom such conveniences do not currently exist. He then explained that not only should communities not have local facilities, but they should also put each other at risk by abolishing the blanket ban in Wales, that never was, on driving 20mph in specific areas.
It’s important to understand that he was addressing those at home who go on YouTube and believe that 15-minute cities are really all part of the left, woke, tofu-eating, BBC-watching literati, funded by the UN and the WEF who want us filmed on lamppost cameras and that we will have to accept being locked into a 15-minute zone and not allowed to leave. Pause for breath.
Yes folks, this is an actual UK government minister speaking to the nation actively promoting online conspiracy theories.
Claire Courtinho and Susan Hall
Claire Courtinho, the newly appointed think-tank prodigy, secretary of state for energy and net zero, wasted ten minutes of her and everyone else’s life wrongly claiming that a meat tax was imminent if Labour had their way. Sophie Ridge dealt with that.
Susan Hall, candidate for mayor of London, out of nowhere accused Sadiq Khan of terrorizing the Jewish population of the capital and prompted an almost immediate response from the Board of Deputies of British Jews in defense of Khan and his constant ‘friendship and respect’. Previously misdescribing herself as the future female Labour mayor of London, she refuses to back down. At least she remembered the incident though, which is more than she can claim for liking a pro-Enoch Powell tweet. Given the horrific news coming out of Israel and Palestine this weekend, such recklessness with facts is highly dangerous and not worthy of a candidate for mayor of the Capital.
GB News, the Conservative Party’s Pravda?
Despite a catastrophic week for the channel, GB news was everywhere. One of their contributors, Liam Halligan hosted Truss’s Growth Rally, Priti Patel declared her love for the channel and GB News presenter Nigel Farage was having the time of his life. He and Priti Patel were filmed stomping around a hired room at the Manchester Hilton at the GB News party screaming Frankie Valli hits. Who would guess they are supposed to be political adversaries? Patel’s family have UKIP history, so she and Farage surely feel very at ease together.
Mark Dolan, who has replaced Dan Wooton on GB News, is claiming credit for the contents of Sunak’s speech and Lewis Goodhall noted on the News Agents podcast that the Tory party is Farage’s party now. Several high-profile Conservatives, even so-called moderates like Tom Tugenhat, have offered warm words in response to the idea that he might rejoin the party.
The channel regularly pushes Ofcom rules to the limits, especially by featuring Conservative MPs interviewing each other with no challenge or counter arguments present. Its presenters have spoken of sinister ‘global’ elites, the threats of mass immigration replacing our culture, anti-motorist woke lefties threatening our way of life and the hysteria behind climate change concern.
How far we have fallen
Our politics were historically regarded as pragmatic and levelheaded. We had ideological disagreements but in general there was a relatively high bar set for political discourse and comportment by our politicians. That bar has been snapped in two and thrown in a ditch and Sunak, as the prime minister, cannot avoid responsibility for that.
The Conservative Party’s references and nods to conspiracy theories and American right-wing commentators is revealing. It shows a complete lack of original ideas and projects. It also highlights their own retreat into an isolated zone of online madness where such theories are taken seriously, because they have nothing to offer the real world. The capture of the current Conservative Party by the American radical right is virtually complete and proof of this was on display in Manchester last week.
That was the week that, unfortunately, was.