Here are the conservatives at war, fighting like cats in a bag to get – precisely nothing | Marine Hyde

NOTnothing could be longer than this Conservative leadership race – not even the last minute of your washing machine cycle. Every promise made there should be treated with the same deference you would give to the claim that the tab closure of a cardboard cereal box “seals in the freshness”. Given the crises raging outside, the contest resembles a Dickensian reality TV show, in which two grotesques compete to run the hospice, simply refusing to be sidetracked by the pleas of more more desperate for their poor. Who, in richly sarcastic respect, are nowadays called “customers”.

Hustings are now happening at a pace only 75-year-old sociopaths can hear, so I’m afraid I don’t know if bubbly redcoat detention center Liz Truss promised last night to “see you again” to bring poor laws back , though I appreciate the Sunak campaign’s doomed efforts to insist their guy gets it. “For too long the water hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves,” Rishi whispered, the same day the Northern Echo published an aerial photo of the huge pool complex Sunak built at his constituency home in Yorkshire, under an authority who this morning announced a garden hose ban. Sunak has really done everything to show us that his fight is real, unless he runs under the slogan “Kim, people are dying!”.

Our underdog’s attempts to drum up sympathy are best described as mixed. Last night Sunak revealed he had messaged and called Boris Johnson for the past few weeks but had not heard back. Don’t worry, mate – you can catch up on the benches in September. Except, unfortunately, that joke doesn’t quite work because it’s based on the frankly unbelievable premise that Johnson will run for Parliament.

It certainly can’t be an asshole to be prime minister of a country about to set itself on fire for his attention. Today’s headline in the mild-mannered Metro newspaper is: PM GOES FOR THE REUNION. It was the story of Boris Johnson unexpectedly turning up as the ‘surprise guest’ at a Downing Street meeting with energy bosses who are set to dump an unspecified but hefty percentage of the country in extreme financial distress. The meeting resulted in the government not announcing precisely any new measures. So think of Johnson’s quirky cameo as some sort of apocalypse “and finally” the cost of living. According to his comments after the meeting, the Prime Minister plans to “continue to urge” the sector to help people. The official reading adds that Johnson also “emphasized” some things. Thank you for your service, sir! The Rock has something he calls his Do some shit table. Downing Street has the opposite – a Get Jack Shit Done table.

Also seated around him yesterday were Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng (more on him later) and Nadhim Zahawi of No 11, a man who has realized he will only be in the job for a few weeks and therefore wants to have a hot Chancellor in the summer doing things like spending time on vacation and ignoring questions about his tax affairs. Still, it’s great to see Nadhim recharged by his past time, back around the table for another hard day of insistence and emphasis. He apparently threw flannel on the “spirit of national unity” – and you can well think he will succeed in bringing the nation together in an irresistible desire to call it a waste of space.

Hand on heart, however, you cannot accuse Keir Starmer of filling the vacuum created by those at the top of the government to which he leads the opposition. A very unfortunate shock of the holidays has left the Labor leader and his front bench absent from inaction, with Starmer’s absence from the debate once again raising the suspicion that his most tirelessly nurtured political skill is simply waiting for everything to go to the shit. I don’t know what you would call this strategic ideology. Default ? Can your opponent double fault you in number 10? I guess we’ll see eventually, but there’s a school of thought that winning the argument is a better foundation to build on than another epic failure losing it. I note that the Labor leader is finally starting to roll out his proposed economic package like the fronds of a rare fern not to rush but letting Gordon Brown step in and make the counter argument for him was a lot like asking your mother to realize your school project.

As for Kwarteng, it is ironic that he was one of the Tory MPs (along with Liz Truss) who once wrote a book claiming that British workers were “among the worst idlers in the world”. Praises! The UK ‘rewards laziness’ apparently, which seems accurate in this case, given that 10 years later Kwarteng is now a minister whose job is done by television’s Martin Lewis, as well as those around four other Secretaries of State. It never ceases to amaze me at the lesser known fact that lowering the flow temperature of many boilers can save consumers around 8% per year on their annual energy bills. When the Social Market Foundation James Kirkup asked various politicians why the government wasn’t there to officially give boiler optimization advice to the public, they all basically said they didn’t want to be accused of nannying. Apparently they prefer to “nudge” – so be glad they didn’t tie up those who are currently being pushed into the abyss.

Amazing, given all this inaction, that we still hear about “the blob”. Do you know “the blob”? It’s the invisible enemy that ministers and their media scrubbers love to talk about because it shows how a woo-woo antagonist prevents them from even being in the same postcode as “adequate”. The blob is a bone idler’s version of The power of nightmareswhere a band of sensationally indolent ministers and their brushed spikes concoct an enemy that will allow them to do the square root of nothing for the people they are supposed to serve, while blaming something called “the blob”.

It’s really a mark of how completely battered political discourse is that this way of talking about executive failure is always given at the time of day when the biggest decision that Boris Johnson has bothered to take over the past few crisis months is whether to let a tax avoider pay for another chocolate fountain at his wedding. In recent weeks, the blob has been retrospectively blamed for Johnson’s disappearanceand preemptively blamed for the failures of a Prime Minister Truss, and as these crises deepen you can be sure they will continue to be cited by an increasing number of lazy, unfocused or ineffectual ministers trying to shift blame for the ordinary people’s anguish away from their own doorstep. The blob?! Sorry but no. Don’t tell us about the blob. THE BLOB IS YOU.

  • Marina Hyde is a Guardian columnist

  • What just happened?! by Marina Hyde is published by Guardian Faber (£20). To support the Guardian and Observer, order your copy at guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply

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