It seems to be accepted – despite evidence to the contrary – that on account of the mini-budget the economy has been trashed, the pound is used as inexpensive toilet paper, and pensioners are now eating each other to keep warm.
Thus, to cope with the crisis of catastrophe, an Urgent Question was granted in Parliament after the morning’s emergency broadcast and just before an emergency statement.
Labour demanded the PM to come to the Commons to apologise for the consequences of her recklessness. Apologising is thought to be the ultimate humiliation. It’s not, of course.
In a deft political manoeuvre, Liz Truss outsmarted them all. She sent Penny Mordaunt instead.
This might have been too clever. Penny is Parliament’s Sweetheart. The benches look at her and compare her very favourably with the Prime Minister. The self-deprecating charm and so forth, the despatch box material that flows from her like a bubbling stream.
Keir Starmer felt himself to be hard enough and had a go. He sallied at her, ‘Everyone gets to be prime minister for 15 minutes.’
‘I am quietly confidence the hon Member will not have his15 minutes,’ she volleyed back. Her side roared (you had to be there).
The Tories have just shredded their budget and abandoned practically every policy. The position is indefensible at the despatch box. Except that, by good fortune, and as Penny pointed out, Keir Starmer had abandoned every position he promoted under Corbyn’s patronage. She listed those and itemised her own party’s hits.
More Tory roaring (it’s Parliament for ‘That’s not at all bad.’)
Ed Davey, among others, demanded an apology. ‘Apologise!” he cried, the Liberal Inquisitor.
She was happy to do so, very much regretting any increased anxiety that had been caused. Two or three other slow-coaches demanded apologies and were given them. They didn’t see their trope had blown up in their faces.
Angela Eagle attempted significance – a low, slow delivery that had us checking our watches. Jess Phillips gave us her impression of angry woman in pub (it’s spot on), Caroline Lucas accused the PM of contravening “at least three” of the Nolan Principles (she forgot to insert the word “Ridiculous”) and more and more questioners demanded to know exactly where the PM actually was.
It must be noted that Penny had very skilfully, almost invisibly, teased them into doing so by murmuring over several answers that there was a very good reason why her leader wasn’t there, wanted to be there, couldn’t be there – and that she wanted to say why but hadn’t been given permission.
It was all very tantalising.
She said something that even made the Gallery laugh. To a Labour accusation that the PM was hiding under her desk, she said: ‘The Prime Minister is not hiding under her desk.’
Yes, she is really pretty good at this.
But then – in a stunning twist, Liz Truss came in. There she was, hair glowing. She seemed content. Almost serene. Holding her interlinked fingers in her lap, her eyes settling into the middle distance as her new Chancellor spoke of the vital need for stability, sensible spending, reassurance, compassion.
She didn’t move her face or her fingers. She didn’t have to apologise. She was suffering the ultimate humiliation. For our poor PM, being there was the worst humiliation there is.