Liz the Duck
What do you call it when your country is already a laughing stock and then it does something worse?
[This was a Twitter thread. Here it is without typos - probably - and with a couple of changes to make it make more sense.]
Honestly this is getting a bit weird.
Like one of those stories where there’s a magic duck on a cushion and so long as the magic duck sits there the Emperor stays on the Eiderdown Throne.
But the duck is sad and lonely and wants to live in the marshes, so they chain it to the cushion and put the cushion in a cage and the cage in a room in the tower and because it’s a macrocosmic duck the whole kingdom turns to shadows and confinement.
(I’m starting to think there aren’t very many stories where this happens but I’m toughing it out.)
Basically the rule of the Emperor depends on holding a particular entity in prison.
And so here we are and the Tory Party is basically keeping Liz the Duck chained up, staring with wide eyes through the windows at the marsh she once thought was her destiny.
It’s doubly weird because technically the PM’s powers already derive from the crown. We actually already have a duck. His name is Charles. Having been bred in captivity he’s not really on the same narrative track.
But the point is that we now have King Duck and PM Duck whose power is flowing through them to Jeremy Hunt.
How many ducks can the magic actually sustain? It feels like one of them has to fuse at some point.
But seriously: PENNY MORDAUNT took the urgent question on the economic crisis? As what? Next friend of the duck? Apparently Truss was meeting Graham Brady and couldn’t come. How do those two have anything to say to each other that takes longer than “goodbye”?
Partly because the Tories are edging towards the idea that they can keep the duck on the cushion and have a shadow puppet administration where everything is notionally done by the duck but in fact she holds no power.
I don’t think it’s going to work because I think everyone involved is basically too twitchy at this point. It’s the sort of move you can brass out if you’ve got a really united and unscrupulous team, and this is just not that day. The Tories haven’t actually agreed with one another about very much since Brexit. They used it to prise open the fault lines in Labour, but even at the time it was obviously also going to affect them.
But imagine if it did work: how incredibly embarrassing would that be? Keeping like PM in the attic and putting “her mark” on edicts while asking everyone to collude in the fiction of democracy?
I think… ultimately they will fold. They will accept that the duck’s natural destiny is not the cushion but the marsh. Where the duck will almost certainly get eaten by some other metaphor.
Because, again, imagine if they don’t. All government is either by consent or shared, created illusion depending on how in love with it you are. This is the kind of thing that breaks the fourth wall. If you make the process too ridiculous - if it falls out of sync with the popular understanding of the spectacle as it should be - you get a crisis of legitimacy which can be quite (and quite literally) explosive.
Two layers of ducks? You’re absolutely on the ridiculousness precipice, on a stepladder, trying to change a lightbulb you can’t reach.
And that thing in your hand is not a lightbulb.
It’s a duck.
Ornithology from the fires of Mount Doom. Next week: Tom Bombadil vs Therese Coffey. Or maybe I’ll do some work.