QUENTIN LETTS: Liz Truss speaks at Great British Growth Rally
QUENTIN LETTS: Unleash that gas, Liz said and floated back to her seat as if tip-toeing on Angel Delight
Through the throng loomed a familiar, froggy grin: Nigel Farage was at the Conservative conference for the first time since 1988. He was there, he insisted, as a GB News presenter.
Activists queuing for the Great British Growth Rally fringe event went mad when they spotted him. There were shouts of ‘Nigel!’, as if the Messiah had been glimpsed. A crush of bodies surged towards him as a single organism, seeking selfies.
While Farage the humpback whale gorged on this Tory bait ball, there came a distant, panicked sound of Rishi Sunak’s spin doctors wrestling for control of the news agenda. ‘We cannae hold her, captain!’
The lunchtime rally, hyped as a major rebellion, was easily the biggest draw of the day. The queue snaked for miles. They wanted to hear Liz Truss, Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg and Dame Priti Patel make the case for economic stimulation from tax cuts and lower spending. This time last year Ms Truss tried the first without, alas, remembering the second.
She floated to the stage on her tippytoes. ‘Make Britain grow again’ slogans echoed Donald Trump’s ‘make American great again’. Reminders of her ex-prime ministerial status were evident. She had a security detail. A burly press officer carried her small, cream-coloured clutch bag. At first I thought it was a Cornish pasty. Nearby sat Ms Truss’s husband Hugh, a slight sadness in his eyes.
Former British Prime Minister Liz Truss attends the Britain’s Conservative Party’s annual conference in Manchester on Monday
The lunchtime rally, hyped as a major rebellion, was easily the biggest draw of the day. The queue snaked for miles. They wanted to hear Liz Truss, (pictured on Monday)
Reminders of her ex-prime ministerial status were evident. She had a security detail. A burly press officer carried her small, cream-coloured clutch bag. Pictured: Liz Truss at the conference on Monday
The event was a glorious circus. Getting into it was like boarding an Indian train. Press photographers were there en masse. In the trade we call them ‘monkeys’ because they climb over everything. This was a zoo’s worth of monkeys.
Mr Farage’s arrival only added to the frenzy, boom mikes swinging and TV camera men skittling activists with their tripods.
Sky News’ Beth Rigby was much evident in vermilion trouser suit and a Joker’s smile.
The BBC’s Nick Robinson knelt at the front, the better to interview rebels. How good to see the corporation on its knees, and the day not even Sunday.
Ms Truss’s own trousers were too short – just like Rishi. She held her hands wide apart, Sir Simon Rattle about to bring the Berlin Philharmonic to thrilling life.
But despite the build-up, the rally fell short of an act of mischief. Solid arguments for lower taxes were put but without any ad hominem Tabasco.
Liz Truss is pictured at the Great British Growth Fringe Rally on Monday at the Manchester Central Convention Complex
Liz Truss is pictured leaving the Great British Growth Rally, a fringe event where she spoke on Monday alongside Dame Priti Patel, Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg and Ranil Jayawardena during the Conservative Party conference in Manchester
Former British prime minister Liz Truss, Conservative MP Ranil Jayawardena, former Home Secretary Priti Patel and former Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg (pictured left to right) attend the Great British Growth Rally fringe event on the sidelines of the Conservative Party’s annual conference in Manchester
The PM was actually praised for having pushed back some of the Net Zero deadlines. Sir Jacob’s speech was clever and courteous. No one in our politics is as skilfully fluent.
Ms Truss more cartoonable. ‘Let’s stop taxing and banning things,’ she bawled, her straight, slightly loopy fringe swinging from side to side.
‘We’re sitting on 50 years of sustainable gas. Unleash that gas!’ No naked flames, please.
Having bitten the air enough, she floated back to her seat, as if tip-toeing on Angel Delight.
In the main hall Jeremy Hunt made his ‘big speech’. It lasted all of fifteen minutes. Arriving, he waved his left hand as if de-fluffing an enormous duster.
He is a gangly, donnish figure with an egret’s neck and a husky voice. ‘The level of tax is too high,’ he croaked. But there was no word on cutting them. Not yet.
Liz Truss is pictured posing for selfies for young conservative delegates at the Conservative Party Conference
Liz Truss is pictured at the Conservative Party Conference on Monday
Sometimes you want a chancellor to be boring. This may still, just, be one of them. Not that Mr Hunt is entirely without political personality. There is a grain of experience there and dry humour.
‘Our friends in the Office for National Statistics changed their minds’ about the state of the economy, he said. That ‘friends’ was judiciously ironic.
‘Don’t bet against Britain,’ he continued. ‘It’s been tried before and it never works.’ George Soros might disagree.
Kemi Badenoch, business secretary, scored herself a few runs, despite nerves. ‘We are on the side of those who toil, not those who tweet,’ she averred. Then the Tannoy told us that Mel Stride, pensions secretary and world-class bore, was going to make a speech. Stampede for the bars.
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