Voices: On Laura Kuenssberg’s show, Liz Truss gave a Johnsonian masterclass in the unbelievable

There is just one overriding reason why the Conservative Party began its 2022 conference with a different leader from the year before. And that reason is that its previous leader publicly claimed on many occasions not to have been aware of the existence of a cheese and wine party he personally attended.

It’s not merely that similar behaviour adjacent to this was deemed by the Metropolitan Police to have been a criminal offence. That sort of thing you can probably ride out. The problem was that his own MPs calculated that the public had concluded that they could no longer believe a single word that exited the man’s lips, and that therefore it would be impossible for him to win a general election.

And so we turn to the new era. Liz Truss will surely know that she is only prime minister because the last one very publicly set fire to his own credibility. So it is unfortunate that her traditional set piece Sunday morning eve of conference BBC interview (with Laura Kuenssberg these days, not Andrew Marr) was an almost Johnsonian masterclass in the unbelievable.

It is now well known that her budget last Friday has trashed the UK’s international reputation further, and it has spooked banks into pulling their mortgage offers and replacing them with ones that are likely to require almost double the monthly repayments as before.

Liz Truss seems to be annoyed that people are focusing on the link between this and her decision to abolish the 45p income tax rate, the one that saves you thousands of pounds if you’re a millionaire and benefits precisely no one else. She told Laura Kuenssberg, just like she told eight separate incredulous local radio hosts on Thursday, that this was the least important bit of the budget, that there’s not much money involved in it and it doesn’t make much difference.

But she will also have been aware that it was the biggest measure in the budget speech that she and Kwarteng did not pre-brief. It was the last thing the chancellor announced. It was (though I loathe the term), the rabbit in the hat. It was kept a secret and announced at the end precisely because it was the biggest deal. It was their deliberate and calculated choice to make it the headline-grabbing measure.

So the mess they find themselves in – of normal people watching their mortgages double and blaming it on the government for cutting tax for millionaires – is entirely 100 per cent of their own making. They made it this way.

It’s not merely that they’ve shat the bed. That is an unfortunate event assumed only ever to have been an accident. What has happened here is that Kwasi Kwarteng has stood up from his chair, folded a newspaper under his arm, announced he’ll be 15 minutes or so, and has confidently strode straight past the bathroom door, loosened his belt and headed into the bedroom.

On this front, Truss told Kuenssberg several times that mistakes were made in “how the ground was laid”. But she remained adamant that the things placed in front of her eyes were not real.

“We had to act on taxation, to make sure the economy didn’t slow down any further,” she said. Truss was elected by around 80,000 people, and is now pursuing her own private economic fantasies, so it is entirely plausible she has forgotten she lives in what remains, nominally, a democracy. That you really can’t say that you had to give tax cuts to the richest people in society to prevent ordinary people from suffering.

That if you borrow huge market-spooking sums of money, then give that money direct to the people who need it least, there are likely to be electoral consequences, like, say being 33 points behind in the polls practically overnight.

Because no one believes it. If you tell people that various parties you personally attended never actually happened, a large number of people will simply piss themselves laughing. If you repossess their home to pay off your hedge fund mates, they’ll probably riot.

Perhaps most depressingly, and most worryingly, Truss has not come up with anything better since the world’s worst media round on Thursday morning. She still seems to think people will believe all this is Putin’s fault.

After about the sixth time of her saying that interest rates are going up around the world, because of Putin’s war in Ukraine, Kuenssberg showed the prime minister a graph, going back just a few weeks. It showed the massive rise in the rate the government has to pay to borrow money, which went up from 2.5 per cent to 4.4 per cent, the uptick beginning before Kwasi Kwarteng had even finished his budget last Friday.

The prime minister looked at the graph. She paused. She also raised her right hand as if she were about to smack a disobedient child, which appears to be her newest tick. And then she opened her mouth and said the following words: “This is a global problem caused by the war in Ukraine.”

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It bears repeating that the thing she was looking at was a graph showing a near doubling in five-year rate government borrowing rates (five-year gilts, to give them their proper name), the doubling beginning the second she’d announced her borrowing intentions, and describing them as “a global problem caused by the war in Ukraine”.

She also, several times, sought to link them to her new energy intervention, the cost of which has already plummeted and was announced two weeks previously.

A year ago, a large number of political soothsayers, myself included, made complete fools of themselves. We wrote things about how Boris Johnson was the world king of British politics, a huge majority, a 10 point lead in the polls, the unqualified adoration of his party.

It went wrong for him because he very quickly made it impossible for anyone to believe a word he says. Truss has done exactly that already, and it’s already far too late to turn it round.