Liz Truss faces impossible task of promising Tories things they want to hear, but avoid sending the pound crashing, says Michael Portillo

The Conservatives gather in Birmingham today for their annual conference in the worst circumstances that I can remember.

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The Conservatives gather in Birmingham today for their annual conference in the worst circumstances that I can remember.

The party threw itself into a change of prime minister and a change of economic policy. Boris Johnson was a bit of a rogue but with a roguish charm that won two mayoral elections in London, a referendum and a parliamentary majority of eighty.

Liz Truss has no meaningful record of winning elections and in the few days since she entered No 10, Labour has surged ahead in the opinion polls.

The new economic policy might succeed in creating economic growth, but the tax cuts for the better paid are unpopular, and the government’s lack of care to explain how its policies will be funded, sent the markets into turmoil.

The prospect of a dramatic increase in interest rates is scary for those who have mortgages and their extra monthly payments could easily exceed any benefit from cutting the basic rate of tax. That’s on top of surging prices.

The pension funds teetered last week and the Bank of England had to intervene massively to avoid disaster.

Most people - and I include myself - find markets difficult to understand, but we know enough to be frightened.

Thirty years ago, when I was a minister in the Treasury, on a day that went down in history as Black Wednesday, interest rates soared and in my view, people were so alarmed and angry that they decided not to trust the Conservatives with economic policy.

The government’s doom was sealed and it was massacred at the next election.

Some Tory MPs think that their party has reached that point again.

Liz Truss faces an impossible task at the conference. She has to rouse and reassure her party, convince them of her competence, promise them things that they want to hear, but avoid sending the pound crashing. Oh dear.