Labour parties like it’s 1997 as Tories descend further into chaos

<span>Photograph: Adam Vaughan/EPA</span>
Photograph: Adam Vaughan/EPA

The morning after the night before. Many Labour delegates had already gone home or were recovering from late-night karaoke sessions: Things Can Only Get Better on repeat. Party like it’s 1997. The curious decision to bring the leader’s speech forward to Tuesday had all but killed off the Labour conference. Maybe that had been the plan all along. To keep things short and sweet. If so it worked a treat. The queue to enter the venue had been reduced to a mere trickle. Only the hardcore remained.

Not that Keir Starmer was bothered. He was still on cloud nine. Things could hardly have gone better. His own party had shown their best, their most competent face to the world just as the Tories had descended further into a kindergarten death squad. His speech had been well received and the morning round of media interviews had turned into a victory lap.

People were treating him with noticeably more respect; listening to his answers rather than fighting to interrupt with further questions. He was the prime minister-in-waiting. Labour, the government-in-waiting.

Best of all, the International Monetary Fund had intervened to call out the government’s unfunded tax cuts as reckless and inflationary. Kamikwasi Kwarteng and Librium Liz were paralysed with terror. They had waited years for their chance to wreck the economy and now couldn’t bear to deal with the consequences. Truss hadn’t been seen for days. Kamikwasi, looking like an addict strung out on coke, had appeared only briefly. And then only by accident having made the schoolboy error of using the Treasury front door. He had rushed back in hurriedly.

Librium Liz and Kamikwasi couldn’t believe their eyes. First the IMF had morphed into a dangerous leftwing terrorist organisation. Worse than that, a woke, dangerous leftwing terrorist organisation. One that embraced Starmer’s touchy-feely fiscal rules. That’s the last time the Tories would be going to Davos – the Cuba of central Europe.

As for the bond markets, they were obviously crashing because financial traders were terrified of an IMF-backed Labour party. Er … Let’s think that one through. No one had heard of Labour before the Tories’ not-so-mini budget last week. Maybe not. Let’s try this. The markets were scared that Labour would crash the economy. Unlike the Conservatives who had already done that. Perhaps not again. Maybe, then, the traders were also secret socialists and had only increased bond yields to 4.5% just to topple Librium Liz. Nuts, but these are the mad excuses that were passing off as rational explanations in government circles.

It wasn’t just the economy that was crashing. It was people’s neural networks. Seldom has so much stupidity been concentrated in such a small area. Kamikwasi could be heard begging bankers not to make money by betting against the pound. Fool. Hadn’t he heard they had uncapped bonuses to make?

Up in Liverpool, Wes Streeting was appearing before a hall that was barely half full. This wasn’t exactly what he would have wanted. The shadow health secretary comes heavily tipped as a future Labour leader and he’d have loved a standing-room only audience. But he’s nothing if not a pro. He knows his time will come and he is happy to wait. Now it’s all about Keir, unity, Keir, solidarity, Keir and getting Labour over the line.

So if doing a turn on the graveyard shift is what’s required, he’s more than up for it. Streeting didn’t really have anything new to say – Rachel Reeves had nicked Labour’s most eye-catching NHS announcements on Monday – but he still hit the sweet spot. Twice earning himself standing ovations in a speech of less than 10 minutes. Not a bad return. And well deserved. Wes has done as much as anyone to make Labour electable over the past few years.

After a powerful and moving speech from guest speaker Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the opposition in exile leader of Belarus – it was a salutary reminder that there are other world leaders even more dangerous and mad than Librium Liz – it was left to Angela Rayner to wind up the conference. Back in the day, this used to be John Prescott’s slot and Labour’s deputy leader did her best to go out in barn-storming style even though the hall was still only two-thirds full.

Rayner worked the crowd mercilessly, unashamedly telling all her best gags. She didn’t want the Boris Johnson ones to go to waste before he was a forgotten footnote in history. Though, knowing the Convict, he’s probably sensing a vacancy in Number 10 already.

She was like a Glastonbury Sunday afternoon act belting out all her greatest hits. And no one minded that they already knew the words because that was the whole point. A celebration not of the new, but of the familiar. A sense of a history and a future shared.

Then, after a rather perfunctory rendition of the Red Flag and Jerusalem, it was a race for the exits. To see how many of us would still have homes to which we return.

By now the Bank of England had taken to buying UK debt with money loaned by the Treasury to try to head off a total collapse of the economy. It was like something out of a banana republic. The Marxist IMF has a lot to answer for. Librium Liz was also under pressure to sack Kamikwasi for doing precisely what she had asked him to do. Onwards to the Tory party conference next week. If there is a next week.