Cumbria Times
A Voice of the Free Press
Roger Winterbottom
Features Writer
1:15 AM 13th February 2024

PopCon At The Ready

Cartoon: Richard Trinder
Cartoon: Richard Trinder
There was more troubling news for the prime minister, Rishi Sunak, this week as everyone’s favourite former occupant of Downing Street / the salad counter, Liz Truss, decided to make a fresh appearance. Although, with her past history, she is now viewed not so much a loose cannon as a loose leaf.

One might have thought that a period of silence on her part would be welcome, but no: she apparently believes that she can delight us a little more with her own special… insight, is it? That’s why we have her indulging once more in her cos-play as a serious politician, this time coming up with another little gem as the figurehead of a new wing of the Conservative party calling themselves “PopCon”. (Don’t worry, everyone misreads it the first time. Then again, maybe “popcorn” would be more appropriate: they do seem to be over-inflated and with very little substance.)

The name of this new whinge – sorry, wing – is seemingly short for “Popular Conservatism”, which can’t help but put me in mind of The Life Of Brian. Whatever happened to Popular Conservativism? “She’s over there.”

Anyway, wasn’t it just a few months ago that these wingnuts were calling themselves the National Conservatives? They really need someone to get someone different to do their PR. First they give themselves a name that can be abbreviated to Nat-C; then having perhaps realised that associating themselves with the party of Hitler may not have been the best idea, they call themselves a name that sounds like a puffed-up snack. Their biggest mistake, though, may have been getting Liz Truss and Jacob Rees-Mogg involved.

But what’s this? Speaking about Truss, Mark Littlewood insisted: “She's not the leader of it. I'm the director of it.” He then went on to add, somewhat contradictorily: “We’re about ideas, not personnel.” Indeed. Completely lunatic ideas, but definitely ideas. Littlewood is the former director general of the opaquely funded Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) and is now a director of “Popular Development Partners Ltd.” (But of course he is. Methinks he doth protest his popularity too much.)

Speaking to PopCon on Tuesday, Truss argued that “Britain is full of secret Conservative forces” but that these people “are ashamed to admit their values” because “they think it’s not acceptable”. I’m completely intrigued by this. I’d really like Truss to spell out what those values are that people won’t admit to. What exactly is it that people are ashamed of?

According to Truss, “left-wing extremists” are now running the country, apparently oblivious to the fact that the Conservatives have been in power for fourteen years. “The system is actively working to stop” the Conservatives enacting their ideas, Truss added, forgetting that she was literally the prime minister and that she did indeed enact her ideas, the result of which was a major economic crash. She may have a hard time arguing that that financial markets are a hotbed of left-wing wokery.

Meanwhile Jacob Rees-Mogg had his own unique brand of delusion going on. “The age of international cabals telling people how to live their lives is over,” he said at the event whose director used to head the IEA. “People are entirely fed up with this internationalist, unaccountable approach to governing,” said the international hedge fund manager who shifted his investment funds to Ireland after voting for Brexit.

Rees-Mogg went on to hit out at the “pious platitudes of pompous politicians who have been running this country for too long”. I mean…I can’t do this anymore. Pompous politicians? There’s no point even trying to satirise this.
All these attempts to undermine the government might have made some uncomfortable headlines for Rishi Sunak this week, but he managed to accomplish that quite satisfactorily on his own. First, there was the interview between Piers Morgan and Sunak – the unspeakable in pursuit of the unrepeatable – during which Sunak agreed to a £1,000 bet about sending refugees to Rwanda, unable to recognise how crass and out-of-touch this was; let alone that it’s morally repugnant to be gambling over people’s lives. “I’m not a betting person,” Sunak initially said, forgetting that he used to be an investment banker who had previously admitted to enjoying “quite dangerous” spread betting. The prime minister was then bullied into the bet by the man who even the GMTV weatherman was able to stand up to.

In the same interview, Sunak even suggested that Keir Starmer was a “terrorist sympathiser”. Considering the interview wouldn’t be covered by parliamentary privilege, it’d be nice to see Starmer sue him for this, but being on Talk TV is like a tree falling in the forest – there’s no-one watching it – so it would be hard to argue Starmer’s reputation was harmed. Even Morgan himself has announced he’s leaving Talk TV for YouTube because he thinks he’ll get more views there, probably by posting videos of himself dancing to Murder on the Dancefloor.

Sunak followed up his gambling gaffe by making an even worse error of judgement, making a joke about trans people when Brianna Ghey’s mother was a guest in the Commons, and then refusing to acknowledge or apologise for his error, blithely insisting that it was Starmer trying to make political capital out of it. With Brianna’s father insisting Sunak should apologise, Chris Philp was sent out to defend the prime minister. “I have got every respect for, obviously, the feelings and views of a bereaved father,” he lied, demonstrating no respect for them at all, obviously or otherwise.

With the Tories splitting into more factions and Sunak demonstrating every week just how bad he is at this, it’s no wonder that they’re predicted to endure catastrophic losses at the general election, particularly if Nigel Farage makes another comeback. Or as the doom-mongers might say: the end is Nigel.