Voices: This is not a government. It is a rolling experiential performance art piece

Yet another day, then, to just breathe it all in. Events not to try to understand, but merely to wonder at. The Tory party, yet again, in its full pomp, its full majesty. At its most staggeringly, most marvellously ridiculous.

They have been such a stunning joke for such a very long time now that no one is laughing anymore. Not that they ever were laughing, as such, but the level of sustained absurdity is such that it has begun to feel entirely normal.

For quite a while now, I have watched the Tory party in action and found it very hard not to be reminded of the time a close friend of mine was summoned to collect his three-year-old child from nursery, who had been excluded from the afternoon’s crafting activities after pulling his pants down and colouring himself blue in a place where the staff are not legally permitted to clean it off.

That sort of thing is hilarious, just the once. And it only happened once. Boris Johnson, Liz Truss, Kwasi Kwarteng, Suella Braverman, Rishi Sunak, Dominic Cummings, Gavin Williamson, the absurdist list rolls on and on, and endlessly on – to the point where its idiocy has become tedious.

It is not a government, it is a rolling experiential performance art piece, of which the latest character to take centre stage is Jeremy Hunt.

Jeremy Hunt is a very, very boring man. But not sufficiently boring, not quite, to render invisible the madness of what he is up to. Fifty-five days ago, a different chancellor, under a different prime minister, stood in that spot delivering a different Budget/mini-Budget/autumn statement/whatever you want to call it, it really doesn’t matter.

He stood there and announced £50bn in unfunded tax cuts. He abolished the top rate of income tax altogether. And here we are, not yet two months later, the top rate not simply returned but expanded, from £150,000 to £125,000. Two months ago, if you earned over £150,000, you’d suddenly saved yourself an average of £10,000 a year. Now, two months later, you’ve been given a bill of £1,200.

These, Hunt stood there saying in as stern a fashion as he could manage, are the consequence of global forces, of Russia’s war in Ukraine, of the aftermath of the Covid pandemic. But the trouble, as always, with blaming global forces is that it makes it very easy to see who, out there in the global world, is managing to deal with them and who is making a very obvious tit of themselves.

The global forces are more or less the same for everyone and they have not changed. High energy prices and high food prices. But it is only in this country that the same party of government has completely and utterly changed its mind on how to deal with them.

If global forces knock at the door of your house and they’re wearing a little eye mask, a stripy T-shirt and carrying a bag marked “swag”, the people are now expected to trust a government that can’t decide if it wants to call the police or invite global forces inside for a cup of tea.

As Hunt went on, scrapping road tax relief for electric cars, cutting public spending, the people sitting behind him remained more or less silent. The government, on the front bench, were quieter still. Some of them nodded, from time to time, but it does not appear to have escaped even their attention that at least eight of them were still sitting exactly where they were two months ago, nodding and clapping along to a Budget that was the complete opposite – and direct cause – of this one.

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The Labour benches howled and jeered as well they might. At one point, Hunt told them: “I have a lesson for the party opposite. You cannot borrow your way to growth.” They went slightly apoplectic, but not as much as they might have done. Because it’s not even especially outrageous anymore – it’s tragic, it’s pathetic.

This was a man, an actual nominally sensible human being, trying to explain the precise depth of the s*** we’re all in from having to fill a £50bn hole dug not even two months ago by his own party. Truss and co had not an idea in their heads, not a clue, beyond throwing money that didn’t exist at the already rich and imagining something they vaguely remembered from their undergraduate classes at Oxford might then step in and make it all better.

Jeremy Hunt, he must know, doesn’t have a lesson for anyone. None of them do. The consequences of their actions are abundantly clear for all to see, and the voters are not going to forgive or forget. There are two long years of pain coming, and they have taken every possible opportunity to be blamed for it. The tide has gone out on them and it is not coming back.