What a difference a day makes! The main hall was full for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, who came on smiling and said of his unexpected return to high office, “It’s great to see the Prime Minister getting the over-50s back into work.”
There in the audience the camera found Rishi Sunak, wearing a broad smile and clapping his hands together in an ostentatious fashion, like a proud parent watching his child collect a prize.
Hunt himself was in model schoolboy mode, the pupil who has won glowing reports from his teachers and has confounded, as he put it, “all the pessimists and the declinists who’ve been talking us down”.
Britain, he declared, is “the world’s next Silicon Valley”, Barbie was filmed here and we must go “not for quick fixes but long-term decisions, which is what you get with Rishi Sunak”.
It is true that in this terrestrial paradise “the level of tax is too high”, but the Government will deal with that by creating “a more productive state” and standing up for those who work, not those who subsist on benefits while refusing to look for work.
For it is not fair that the latter “get the same as someone trying their best”.
Don’t shoot Hunt, he is trying his best. The camera cut away to show the Prime Minister still laughing and clapping, and the applause of the wider audience, though not deafening, was certainly supportive.
The Chancellor spoke again of the need to “take on the declinists and prove the doubters wrong”, and then with astonishing suddenness his speech was over.
On came Kemi Badenoch, the Business Secretary, full of wise saws and modern instances, Polonius without the ponderousness:
“We are on the side of those who toil, not those who tweet.”
“Telling the truth is the most important thing in politics.”
“I will not apologise for fighting for a society that knows what a woman is.”
That last maxim produced a whoop from a woman sitting behind me. Badenoch herself looked in high spirits, a more than willing combatant in the heroic fight for a society that knows what a woman is.
It was, by the way, Liz Truss who on 14th October 2022 called Hunt back to high office after yielding to pressure and sacking Kwasi Kwarteng. She today performed elsewhere, to a roomful of fans including Nigel Farage.
But after Truss herself yielded to pressure and resigned on 25th October 2022, it was Sunak who decided, as he strove to calm the crisis and reassure the markets, to keep Hunt as Chancellor. In Manchester, one notices how undaunted those two men seem. One might even think they are enjoying themselves.