Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking at the the Commonwealth Business Forum at the ICC in Birmingham last month. (Photo: Peter Byrne via PA Wire/PA Images)
Boris Johnson surprised many this morning when he turned up at a meeting between energy bosses, Nadhim Zahawi and Kwasi Kwarteng.
The fact that his presence at the Downing Street summit was considered to be newsworthy spoke volumes.
But anyone hoping that the prime minister’s presence might lead to a new package of help for hard-pressed customers struggling to pay their bills was sorely disappointed.
Proof of Johnson’s political impotence came from the man himself.
In a statement issued by No.10 afterwards, he said: “Following our meeting today, we will keep urging the electricity sector to continue working on ways we can ease the cost of living pressures and to invest further and faster in British energy security.”
Reading those words, you could be forgiven for not realising that Johnson is still — in name at least — leading a government with all of the power that entails.
He even had the gall to say he and his ministers “are doing everything we can to support [people] and must continue to do so”.
This rather flew in the face of comments from his own spokesman, who said on Monday that “by convention it is not for this prime minister to make major fiscal interventions” before his successor is announced on September 5.
And this was before it emerged that the energy price cap is set to rise to more than £4,200 a year from January.
Chancellor Zahawi was reduced to appealing to the mega-rich energy bosses’ better nature to help struggling householders, because the government has decided it won’t actually do anything to force them.
“In the spirit of national unity, they agreed to work with us to do more to help the people who most need it,” he said.
There are still more than three weeks to go before Johnson’s successor is announced, during which time we can safely assume he and his government will do nothing on the biggest financial crisis facing Britons in decades.
Regardless of what you think of Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss’s own solutions to the country’s ills, September 5 can’t come quickly enough.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.