Leading article

Editorial: Drama and farce at Tory conference

EVEN in the febrile atmosphere that has pervaded British politics since the Brexit referendum six years ago, events of recent weeks have managed to elevate the levels of drama and farce at the heart of government to new heights.

Most political leaders might expect to enjoy a honeymoon period in the initial weeks after their coronation and be received with acclaim when going before the party faithful for the first time.

Instead, Liz Truss has found herself facing the prospect that her premiership could be over before it has begun following a calamitous budget that sparked chaos in international markets and has left the Tories facing the prospect of electoral wipeout.

The party's annual conference started on Sunday with the new prime minister and her chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng insisting they would "stay the course" on a £45bn tax-cutting plan that would give more to the rich at a time when millions of ordinary families face a cost-of-living crisis and huge hikes in mortgage payments.

The policy was announced without consultation with fellow ministers and Ms Truss was duly forced into a humiliating climbdown on a pledge to scrap the 45 per cent top rate of income tax.

Yesterday there appeared to be a further u-turn as the chancellor looked set to bring forward the date for a detailed fiscal plan, only for the original November timescale to be restored.

Meanwhile, another reverse is on the cards as anger builds at the prime minister's refusal to rule out real terms cuts in welfare payments, with cabinet minister Penny Mordaunt among those to speak out.

Perhaps the most remarkable intervention this week was when Northern Ireland Office minister and leading Eurosceptic Steve Baker made a public apology for past behaviour towards Ireland and the European Union, saying: "I am sorry that we did not always respect your legitimate interests."

The comments came in the context of a marked improvement in mood music around attempts to address the protocol impasse, including the planned resumption of talks between London and Brussels this week.

The DUP predictably sought to inject a discordant note, with Edwin Poots making the outrageous comment that "unless something radical happens", US President Joe Biden could be visiting Ireland for the funeral of the Good Friday Agreement next year rather than its 25th anniversary.

All eyes will now be on Ms Truss's main conference address for further evidence of her intentions. The only certainty is that nothing is certain in British politics these days.



Leading article