Toby Neal: Less of the Iron Lady and more of Tin Lizzy

Dear, oh dear. After just a few weeks the new era of Truss has been diminished and endangered.

Not for turning?
Not for turning?

Have people already forgotten those dark days when respect for politicians had ebbed away, and the reputation of MPs as a body of straightforward and honest toilers on the public’s behalf had, they themselves told us, been trashed?

With the arrival in Downing Street of Liz Truss, Tory MPs wiped their bloody backstabbing knives, mopped the cold sweat off their brows, and breathed a sigh of relief as they comforted themselves with the thought that they might not lose their seats at the next general election after all.

A safe pair of hands, unsoiled by slices of birthday cake. She wasn’t actually their number one choice, but she would do.

Oh, if they had all known then what they know now. Oh, if those Conservative member voters could have their time again. Oh, if only they could turn back the clock.

The Tory membership electorate thought they were voting for an Iron Lady, but they have got Tin Lizzy.

Together with her former sidekick Kwasi “Kamikaze” Kwarteng she has indeed expunged the stain of that birthday cake, but you have to ask whether an illicit slice of Victoria Sponge (or whatever) was more damaging to the nation and the public than a programme of making the rich richer while the poor are made poorer, blowing up pension funds, inflicting misery on people with mortgages or dreaming of owning their own homes – dream on – and crashing the markets.

Incidentally I would not by choice give the old Chancellor the nickname “Kamikaze,” but I believe it is what Labour wanted us to associate with him – although I am sure they will deny it. Have you noticed how they kept calling it a “kamikaze” budget? Have you noticed the assonance with his name Kwasi Kwarteng? Do you really think it is a coincidence?

Meanwhile, we have to wonder how it all went wrong for Liz. That mini budget was politically controversial, but if you can’t handle political controversy, you shouldn’t be in politics. Politics is institutionalised controversy.

But to sell policies you need to have a flair for sales and for showbiz. I am quite sure that Liz Truss has all the qualities to run a whelk stall, except the ability to sell a whelk. In fact, judging by the way she and her Chancellor simply disappeared from view after their mini budget, Liz might actually go missing from the whelk stall entirely.

With Kamikaze returning early from his trip to be given his marching orders, Liz appears to have to decided the time has come to tip over their whelk stall and start again.

There is a lesson in this affair for all politicians. You can ride the storms in the Commons, but you mess with the markets at your peril.

***

When it was announced that one of Britain’s latest super carriers was to be called HMS Prince of Wales I did wonder whether that choice of name was tempting fate.

With the troubled carrier limping back to port for repairs, my fears that it will prove an unlucky ship may be being borne out.

The last HMS Prince of Wales, a battleship, was notoriously unlucky. She was damaged by bombing even while she was being built at Cammell Laird. During her encounter with the Bismarck in May 1941, a hit on the bridge killed or injured almost everyone there – including Esmond Knight, a well-known actor who was blinded – and her guns malfunctioned.

In December 1941 she was attacked by Japanese aircraft and the very first torpedo to hit her left her crippled and a sitting duck. As the air attack developed, up to 300 casualties were being treated in an area used as the ship’s cinema. A bomb fell among them. She sank with over 300 fatalities, including her Captain and the Commander-in-Chief of the Eastern Fleet.

While we’re on military matters, early reports suggested the Crimean bridge was blown up by a truck bomb. It did send a shiver down my spine in the light of the development of driverless cars. The thought of driverless cars driving around our big cities with bombs on board doesn’t bear thinking about, but for all our safety, somebody needs to be thinking about that possibility.

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