How do you debate the merits of this candidate or that, for this leadership election or that, when it is clear they are just different takes on the same irredeemable s**tshow?
How do you make a cogent argument about the best way forward when what you want to do is to storm the Bastille and crush the amoral, self-serving cretins playing poker with our lives, along with the flawed political system that enables them?
This week, as every week now, it feels as if we are trapped in a Hallowe’en carnival – the hall of mirrors reflecting grotesque distortions of power, the waltzers whirling out of control, the riders screaming, but no-one willing to press the stop button and let them off.
On Thursday, the lectern of doom appeared outside Number 10 for the second time in four months, and the worst Prime Minister since the last one resigned. But any flicker of schadenfreude we might have enjoyed was stubbed out by the knowledge the joke is still on us – that another Tory, with a different bag of ideological torture instruments, but the same determination to use them on the disadvantaged, is about to take her place.
As Half Man Half Biscuit sings: “The light at the end of the tunnel is the light of an oncoming train.”
That this oncoming train could take the shape of the disgraced (and disgraceful) Boris Johnson heading back down the one-way track he took out of office, testifies to the rot at the heart of the establishment.
Thanks to MPs who give not a fig for democracy, what should have been political oblivion may turn out to be several short holidays in exotic destinations. Even though he left a pile-up of scandals behind him. Even though those with the inside track on the ‘Partygate’ inquiry say – if re-elected – he will be gone by Christmas.
And then, who next? Third time lucky for Rishi Sunak? Or would it be time to give Nadine Dorries a shot behind the wheel?
The same applies to the right-wing journalists, who have been pushing Johnson like street benzos; all because they would prefer to keep us locked in the Conservative Party’s never-ending psycho-drama than see the matter put in the hands of those who ought to decide what happens next – the voting public.
Our political system was designed for a world in which a sense of decency prevailed; in which prime ministers would be forced to go to the country if their mandate was in question.
That sense of decency has been extinguished from the Tories. In its place, an appetite for power so gargantuan it devours both their brain cells and their consciences. In order to deny us the general election they know we are owed, once apparently reasonable politicians, such as defence secretary Ben Wallace, insist “Boris has a mandate”, though they must know this to be a fallacy.
There are myriad ways in which Johnson squandered his mandate: the pandemic shindigs, the failure to report donations towards the refurbishment of his flat, his attempt to change the disciplinary system to protect Owen Paterson, and his lies about the Chris Pincher allegations.
If his colleagues felt he was fit to govern, why did they oust him? And if they believe he’s what the public wants now, why not put his popularity to the test?
Of course, Johnson might not get the numbers. But the fact he is being talked about at all is testament to how far the party has sunk.
The Tories know that whoever replaces Truss, they have lost their legitimacy. And if it wasn’t already obvious the country is hungry for change, Labour’s 36-point lead is a whopping clue.
As for those commentators, such as Toby Young, who write “Boris Johnson? Aren'tchajustsickofhim” one day, then “hats off to Boris Johnson” the next, I hope there’s a corner in hell where they can spend eternity reflecting on their reckless cynicism.
Given events post-2015, the Conservative party’s Trumpian desire to cling onto power is predictable. What is harder to fathom is the electorate’s cowed acceptance of its fate.
The refusal to call a general election, despite the Commons’ reduction to a Wild West saloon, is a direct attack on democracy: why aren’t we out on the streets demanding we go to the polls?
The answer is obvious, if depressing. The pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the cost-of-living crisis may not justify Truss’ incompetence, but these – along with the death of shame and accountability – go some way to explaining the sapping of the public spirit.
Yet an exhausted, submissive electorate is exactly what the Tories want as they continue to line the pockets of the rich, while trashing our public services.
Without push-back, there’s a danger the country’s brokenness will become normalised until one day we will read about a pensioner dying while waiting for an ambulance and no longer remember that once they could be expected to arrive at an emergency within minutes.
In the past few days, there have been hints of dissent. A petition here; a planned national day of protest there. But we need to do more. The stakes are so high.
The country is already on the brink. If we wait until 2023 – or worse, 2025 – people will starve. We must shout from the rooftops, and fill the streets until these charlatans yield. We must, as they say, take back control.