The PM is not under a desk
The rest of us watching, however...
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I’d planned another newsletter for this evening, one that began with an apology for my partial absence last week. But apparently, one no longer needs to apologise for unexpected absences, or even explain them, so I’ll just say I had a “very good reason” and we’ll leave it at that, shall we?
In my defence, and unlike Liz Truss, I’ve been checking in weekly at a minimum. If today’s brief appearance in the House of Commons was anything to go by, the PM is now fully and entirely checked out.
Having very much “hit the ground” as promised, Truss today left her former leadership opponent Penny Mordaunt to take an urgent question on *gestures at Britain* from Kier Starmer, calling in absent for reasons that remain entirely unexplained. “The lady’s not for turning - up!”, Keir quipped, to guffaws.
Mordaunt’s ability to sound vaguely coherent while explaining how the “courageous” PM was urgently detained elsewhere was quickly celebrated to such a degree as to remind us how low the bar is now set in parliament – though her assurance that “the Prime Minister is not under a desk” was surely a new low for even this government.
Twitter went bananas. Rumours abounded. Was Truss in the midst of a breakdown? Was a member of her family seriously ill? Was national security at risk?
And then, as speculation reached fever pitch and Jess Philips reached new levels of apoplexy, Truss herself waltzed in, grinning. Her timing – as a now presumably mortified Mordaunt reiterated that she couldn’t explain the absence of the Prime Minister now sat right next to her – couldn’t have been better. Or worse, depending on your level of sanity. At this point, who the hell knows?
Anyone hoping the Prime Minister had arrived with answers was left sorely disappointed. A mute Truss remained in the chamber only as long as it took to watch new chancellor Jeremy Hunt, (the fourth in as many weeks) demolish every promise she’d made since taking office. Well, all bar one. Our great saviour might be junking Trussenomics but he’s still lifting the cap on bankers’ bonuses, praise be, so if you’re feeling poor, you can always get a job in the city. Anyway, I digress. Where were we?
Having dodged scrutiny and demands for her whereabouts, a wordless Truss then slow-blinked her way through Jeremy Hunt’s total reversal of her entire leadership platform in the manner of someone who’d just taken someone else’s medication by accident – her Health Minister Therese Coffey’s presumably.
Even the lobby was flummoxed. Where had Truss been? Was she going to speak? The answer became clear moments after Rachel Reeve’s blistering performance ended, when Truss stood and left without a word.
Far be it from me to stoop as low as those speculating about the Prime Minister’s ‘o-ring’ necklace, but it certainly did look as though she was under the control of something other than her own sentient thought process. A dominant is a possibility, I guess. A remote control running low on battery seemed more likely.
An hour later, just a few stalwarts remained, throwing lacklustre questions at a by now hoarse Jeremy Hunt. No, he wouldn’t be promising fuel bill controls for two years, as promised. No, he wouldn’t be cutting taxes, as promised. No, he wouldn’t be maintaining public spending levels, as promised. He wouldn’t be making any promises on anything, really, other than that he’d be going in entirely the opposite direction to everything the government pledged just last week. There were so many U-turns he was doing donuts by 6pm. He appeared to be thoroughly enjoying the adrenaline high.
The markets, for their part, rallied. For how long remains to be seen. But if anything is certain, it is that Truss started the day looking powerless and ended it looking utterly impotent. Taking back control? Not a bar of it.
Five MPs have now publicly called for her head. Anonymous briefings suggest as many as 100 have taken the brave route of sending in a letter of no confidence.
She’d probably have been better hiding under her desk.
Did you watch? Was your jaw on the floor? I’d love to hear your thoughts…