Day three. Brexit still means Brexit and we’re not going to get a running commentary on it, so you’ve just got to get on with things. First up was Welsh Secretary Andrew RT Davies, who told the conference hall with all his sonorous Welsh might that he was going to “make a success of breakfast” and they quite rightly broke into applause. These are testing times.
Anyway, it’s three days since Theresa May baptised this “new sovereign and independent nation”, liberated from the undemocratic yolk of Brussels, which was as good a time as any to hear a whole range of brand new policies from a whole range of brand new ministers in our brand new Government that nobody’s voted for.
Political journalists have been struggling for months with the difficulties of life under a Prime Minister that shares her name with the modal verb of choice for not actually knowing what you’re talking about. The May Government may need a new name. I suggest, for ease of purpose, this new Government, made up of people you’ve never heard of who won’t tell you what they’re doing, simply be called the “EU government”.
It’s easy once you get going. “The EU’s bringing back grammar schools.” “The EU’s repatriating NHS doctors.” “The EU’s telling students to go home.” It’s almost comforting, isn’t it? You only run into trouble when you have to say “the EU’s leaving the EU”, but don’t worry, because they will make a success of it.
In any event, it's always soothing to hear from Beijing-pork-market-opener-in-chief Liz Truss, who was on just before everyone went off to make a success of their lunch. She’s Justice Secretary these days, the third consecutive Conservative to hold the highest legal office in the land without holding any legal qualifications. Ungenerous judges might suggest such a state of affairs is a disgrace. In fact, ungenerous judges have done.
Newly liberated from cheese-induced rage, Ms Truss talked big on breaking the cycle of reoffending in the criminal justice system. The evidence presented was stark.
Every year she comes to conference and delivers a frankly unsettling speech, switching in to a curious staccato growl at the end of every third paragraph.
If you can recall that moment in the first Lord of the Rings film, when kindly old Bilbo Baggins sees the ring and his face suddenly flashes like a half starved lion that’s caught sight of a T-bone steak, then you’ll also be able to detect the moment at which Liz Truss is getting. to. the. bit. you. are. meant. to. clap. at. Trouble is, not everyone’s seen that film.
Still, even with a track record as serious as this, she returns to reoffend year on year, each time somehow in possession of an even more serious job, an even grander department to manage. This, she knows, has to end.
In her defence, she does have clear ideas on how to do it.
Now, apparently, as if there weren’t enough going on already, is “a great opportunity to reform our country too, and use all of the talents we have”.
“Only one in seven QCs is a woman,” we were told. “Only one in 10 judges is from an ethnic minority.”
And one in one Lord Chancellors hasn’t even got a law degree, but on this evidence, that looks certain to change. (That. is. a...)
“We will ensure merit wins out,” she continued. “Open up the justice system. A justice system of all the talents. A justice. system. that. works. for. EVERYONE.”
Home Secretary Amber Rudd was next, and “for those determined to do us harm”, there were mixed messages. She is going to make it far harder for foreign criminals to enter the UK.
But if only these foreign criminals could just make it over here, not 10 minutes ago they’d been promised “successful rehalibitation”, “meaningful jobs”, “living with dignity” in “brand new modern prisons”.
“Here is British justice,” Ms Truss had said. “The best in the world.” Five minutes earlier, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon had told us we had the best armed forces in the world, so good in fact, he was derogating them out of the European Convention on Human Rights for offences committed on the battlefield. The Best Armed Forces In The World and The Best Justice System In The World, just so long as the two never meet.
This went on, in total, for six hours, before Education Secretary Justine Greening built to her closing crescendo: “The Conservatives are going to level Britain!”
We’ve known that for months. They just won’t give us a running commentary on it.Reuse content