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By Frank McKenna

By Frank McKenna

A train crash of a conference – with post truth in clear sight

Frank McKenna reflects on the Conservatives week in Manchester.

We have just witnessed what, even for an experienced political watcher like me, was an extraordinary Conservative Party conference.

Four days in Manchester which were supposed to enable Rishi Sunak to reset and relaunch, totally overshadowed by the HS2 cancellation announcement, and a series of statements from government Minister that were – how can I put this – lies!

On top of that, we had the incredible spectacle of a former Home Secretary, Priti Patel, happily dancing away with former UKIP leader Nigel Farage to the tune “Can’t take my Eyes Off You” at a Tory Party party; the former Tory prime minister who trashed the UK economy attracting a massive audience for her ‘fringe’ event where, with a lack of self- awareness that is hard to fathom, she was happily autographing copies of her ‘mini budget’ which we are all still paying a huge price for; and one of the country’s most talented mayors, Andy Street, coming close to blowing up the entire week by resigning (how close he came to doing so, I suspect, we will never know).   

But, other than the scrapping of HS2, my thoughts on which can be viewed here, the big talking point among commentators, and indeed Tory politicians who have resisted the swivel eyed wing of their party, was the sheer audacity of ministers taking to conference platforms and telling lies.

The Energy Secretary Claire Coutinho claimed in her speech that Labour was proposing a tax on meat. Transport Minister Mark Harper suggested that local councils want to decide where and when you shop. London mayoral candidate Susan Hall said that the Jewish community is scared of Sadiq Khan. Even Sunak was at it, describing inflation as a ‘tax’. Lie, lie, lie, lie. 

And perhaps, with his scrapping of non-existent taxes on flying, and his contention that households would be required to have seven bins, his party colleagues have taken the PMs lead. If he can make shit up – then its only fair everyone who works for him can too surely?

Now, many of you reading this will be thinking ‘well, all politicians lie’. But, actually, they don’t. And, up until very recently, if a politician was caught in a lie, it would often lead to said politician losing their position.

But this post-truth rhetoric that gripped the Conservative conference is at a whole new level. It is gaslighting on speed; a total disregard for accuracy; and a contemptuous way to treat the British electorate.

I was also amazed how Sunak’s distasteful remarks about Nicola Sturgeon went virtually without comment – but maybe even the media was too embarrassed to report them.  

I hope that the vast majority of folk see through the lies. However, we only have to look across the pond, and see the state of political discourse in America, to evidence how erosive the type of narrative that we have seen there, and now being repeated here, can be.

God help us. And God help America.

Downtown in Business