Voices: Liz Truss will soon realise that wanting growth is not the same as having a plan

I am grateful that the Tories have packed up and left my city. During the summer I was delighted when film crews and crowds gathered for the Commonwealth games festivities, showing off our city to the world. Every day my children would get excited spotting our much-loved sites on the telly. It was considerably less fun to spot those same familiar settings this time around, as deluded cabinet ministers spouted words that damned the city they gathered in.

As Liz Truss took to the stage in Birmingham, I was less than 200 metres away, at a conference about how lack of regulation has caused unfettered growth of “supportive” accommodation for the homeless and vulnerable. In reality, many of these are anything but supportive. It is a cash cow for bad providers to make tens of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money to offer squalid, unsafe and exploitative accommodation. It has caused huge expense to local police forces, masses of antisocial behaviour and has meant that rape victims, domestic abuse victims and mentally ill people have been placed in inhumane and dangerous accommodation. It costs the taxpayer dearly, over and over again.

We have begged and pleaded with the government for regulation to end this problem, but regulation isn’t their bag. Oh we’ve got growth, alright: growth in crime, growth in cost to the taxpayer, growth in the bank accounts of exploitative landlords. Growth, growth, growth.

I walked out of the event into Birmingham city centre as Truss’s speech raged on. There was no buzz on the streets that the most powerful people in the country were in town. The rain lashed down as Liz Truss spoke, providing pathetic fallacy to a premiership where pretty much everyone in Birmingham will be colder, wetter, greyer. The streets were eerily quiet.

I bumped into quite a few of the Tories who were in Birmingham, to some surprise on their part, as if it might be unusual to see a Brummie in Birmingham. I prefer to see them in Westminster and if the truth be told, they looked a bit out of place.

I imagined what it was like for the staff at the International Convention Centre, many of whom rely on universal credit or are working two jobs, to listen to the lunacy being spouted about part time workers and benefits claimants. Some of them will have settled here having fled war. Many of them are young people with diminishing hopes of buying a house. The conference must have seemed like a work of fiction to them, like a historic reenactment expo of enthusiastic role-players getting together for a weekend to shake off the shackles of reality.

I look forward to them being back where they belong next week. But I honestly don’t know what to expect. I have found that rebellious Tories go one of two ways in Westminster: they either dangerously convene working late into the night, hiding behind corners huddled and plotting, or they talk an incredibly tough game on the telly and then just file through the lobbies doing their whip’s bidding.

I cannot tell which it will be. It depends on what Liz Truss starts to lay out as her, erm, plan. In Birmingham, she repeatedly said she was the only person with a plan, but never actually told anyone what it was.

Saying you want economic growth is like saying you like peace and justice. Anyone can say it, they can even repeat it over and over again, but that doesn’t mean you have a plan to get it.

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When she starts to tell us this week exactly what her plan is – which at the moment seems to be cutting benefits, demanding part time working mothers just magically do more work for better pay, and annoying a load of local Tories with fracking plans in their backyard – we will see which way Tory MPs turn.

For my money’s worth I think we will be seeing a lot of huddling plotters. And the prime minister? She is going to realise that her rainy stint in Birmingham, as rocky as it was, was probably as good as her time in office was ever going to get. It’s a premiership that amounts to a wet weekend in the midlands. But I’m glad that for once she will remember us, even if none of her policies ever do.

Jess Phillips is the shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding and Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley

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