For a moment, I wondered whether I had woken up in Cold War Moscow. Surely this was the sort of economic policy we’d expect from Stalin and friends.
But this is the reality in modern Britain. We have a Conservative government in crisis, announcing energy price rises and making us all hundreds of pounds per year worse off. Just don’t mention the 14-fold rise in profits for the energy giant, Shell. It doesn’t fit the Tory story.
However, the good news was that it was going to OK after all! We found out in the same morning bulletins that the Chancellor would be giving us some money off our council tax and an energy bills discount too. Though it seems we’ll have to repay the discount later - a bit like a loan. Sorry, exactly like a loan. It’s a loan.
You could be forgiven for being confused. Isn’t Universal Credit the catch-all, bureaucracy-lite system that enables the government to help people in need? Apparently that’s been forgotten. And, as it happens, that was recently cut for the poorest families who’ll be worst hit by the cost of living crisis. “Thanks anyway for the loan, Mr Sunak”, said nobody.
On the upside for the government, they’ve done a good job distracting people with the general chaos of their Westminster soap opera.
Even the most talented Soviet propagandists would have struggled to come up with the script delivered by Boris Johnson’s team over the past few weeks.
“It wasn’t a party, it was a gathering,” we were told. “The Prime Minister was ambushed by cake,” another Conservative MP smirked. Others went further: “The government is going from strength to strength,” we learned. Another felt it was necessary to angrily tell TV cameras “The Prime Minister tells the truth.” HOLD THE FRONT PAGE!
Unfortunately for that particular snake oil salesperson, thanks to the UK Statistics Authority we know that Johnson has officially misled us about crime statistics, as well as all those porkies about lockdown parties.
And then we have the false accusations and smears. Johnson started with the spurious claim that the Leader of the Opposition is a “lawyer not a leader”. It’s a crass line that would exclude many former Prime Ministers from high office. It was also an unfair slapdown to Cheltenham’s Conservative MP, the Solicitor General in Johnson’s government and a Barrister by training.
But it’s the deplorable decision to deploy Jimmy Savile attack lines on opponents that has disgusted so many, including the victims of the prolific sex offender. Maybe it sounded like a compelling argument in the Prime Minister’s head. Let’s be honest, he probably thinks it’s hilarious ‘banter’. Sadly for the Conservatives, nobody else is impressed.
As I write, a handful of Conservative MPs have told their Prime Minister to go.
The others must be watching a different version of the news to the rest of us.
Or perhaps they’re scared of a Soviet-style response from their leadership. Surely even Boris Johnson wouldn’t try to send people who publicly disagree with him to the gulag. Would he? The Police and Crime Bill suggests he does indeed fancy a crackdown, though dissenting members of his own party will probably just get a life sentence in the House of Lords to shut them up.
It’s more likely that the tired Tories are just running out of energy. Aren’t we all? Except they probably won’t struggle to pay the bills.