SOMEWHERE in political heaven, the ghosts of former British politicians have gathered to discuss the Tory Party conference. In the chair is

Sir Winston Churchill, chewing a non-existent cigar. “What,” he asks, “do we think of this idea of Rishi Sunak’s to stop local authorities from introducing 20mph speed zones? Bonkers?”

“Is there a constitutional crisis? Has local government collapsed? Why is the Prime Minister, of all people, concerned with setting the rules for driving motor carriages? Has he nothing better to do with his time?”

An intervention comes from Churchill’s old friend David Lloyd George, who was prime minister during the Great War: “When I was PM, we dealt with serious matters.”

There is a silence around the ghostly Cabinet table, as the shades of politicians past try to work out why the modern Tory Party is reduced to discussing minutiae normally dealt with by parish councils.

“No, there is no breakdown of local government,” says Churchill, sounding a mite perplexed. “Except in Birmingham where the council has run out of money and the government has sent in bailiffs.”

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Everyone looks at Joseph Chamberlain, the former great mayor of Birmingham and founder of the Liberal Unionists. “Never, in my day,” he thunders. “Why have the Tories reduced local government to a slave of Whitehall? I thought they were in favour of local democracy and autonomy? Or they were in my day.”

Again, the assembled elder statespersons ponder the strange direction modern politics has taken. “At least,” says Churchill, “Rishi is building a mighty new railway to link the metropolis with the provinces. At least I think he is. What’s the latest?”

Everyone looks at the ghost of Harold Macmillan, the Tory PM who built a million homes in a single year, to resolve a housing crisis – thus proving that major infrastructure projects can be delivered on time and on budget with the right leadership. He is laughing heartily: “The cost of so-called HS2 is now £90 billion and rising. And that’s before it gets past Birmingham. It will never happen under this shower.”

“Outrageous!” chimes in Chamberlain. “In my day, we’d do the job and make a profit.Are there no business folk in this Tory government?”

Churchill, sipping a ghostly whisky, says: “They say Rishi is a millionaire banker. But in my experience, bankers have caused more economic crises than everyone else put together. I remember the 1907 bank crash. And 1929. And 2008. And …”

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“Surely Rishi has good men around him. What about that Braverman fellow, his Home Secretary?” This is from Lloyd George.

“You’re wrong again, LG,” Churchill tells his old rival. “It is Suella Braverman. The Home Secretary is a woman. Her parents are from the empire. But she is a fierce opponent of anyone else coming to Britain. She is sending the Royal Navy to stop them landing.”

LG, who is clearly not up to speed on modern military matters, responds. “Why is the Home Secretary commanding the Navy? I thought you did that as First Sea Lord, Winston?”

“I don’t know,” answers Churchill. “But the Royal Navy seems to be in as bad a state as the railways and HS2. We have two aircraft carriers but one is permanently broken and the other has no aircraft because we can’t afford them.”

“Who is the First Sea Lord, these days?” asks Lloyd George but no-one knows the answer.

“I have a question,” interjects a new speaker, the great former Labour home secretary Roy Jenkins. In his day, Jenkins reformed divorce law, legalised homosexuality and abolished capital punishment.

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“How is it that a Cabinet led by the children of immigrants is the one most opposed to immigration? Have they no sense of irony? Have they no understanding of history?”

The old Tories in political Valhalla pretend not to hear Jenkins. Old Roy was an intellectual who wrote books. Obviously, a very different sort from Braverman. Imagine having a home secretary who was literate and worried about making life better for people.

“I think we can leave the philosophical questions to another time, Roy,” concludes Churchill. “The real issue is whether or not there is anything to be done about this fag end of a Tory administration. It has had 13 years to sort the country and failed miserably. Anything to add Denis?”

The old warhorse Denis Healey, one of the greatest prime ministers Britain never had, narrows his immense eyebrows:

“The Tories were elected in 2010 on a platform of austerity and have raised taxes to a peacetime record. They have doubled the national debt which is a burden on future generations. Under them, economic productivity has tanked due to lack of industrial investment. But bankers such as Sunak have gotten richer. Plus we have left our major trading partner in Europe.”

“Is there any good news?” asks Macmillan.

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“Yes,” says Healey. “Boris and Liz got dumped. At least the Tories have some sense of self-preservation. At least they haven’t started a war to divert the attention of the electorate from their failings.”

There is a ghostly shuffling of feet at this point as another Storm Shadow cruise missile flies by. Heaven has become rather a thoroughfare for rockets in the past two years, but nobody wants to talk about the prospect of a nuclear war in Ukraine. Heaven is crowded enough.

“Maybe there will be a new Labour government soon and Sir Keir will sort matters out,” says Churchill. “Time for a change, eh?”

“Sir Keir who?” asks Lloyd George sounding a bit perplexed. “There have been so many damned governments lately that I can’t keep up. Is this Keir fellow related to my old friend Keir Hardie? Splendid chap. Opposed the Great War, though. And wanted to nationalise the banks. And give votes to women. Is this new Sir Keir a radical too?”

“He’s a lawyer, David. Just like you.” Churchill laughs at his own little joke. “But these Labour chappies always sound radical at first then they settle down. Look at Ramsay MacDonald.” MacDonald, sitting on a cloud by himself, says nothing.

Uncertain as how to proceed, Churchill decides it is time to call in The Lady. Everyone has been dreading this moment. “Perhaps …” mutters Winston, “… perhaps Lady Thatcher has a contribution …”

Churchill and Thatcher get on well. They knock off a half bottle of phantom malt most nights.

Never trust a politician who doesn’t drink, muses Churchill, thinking of Donald Trump. Thatcher prepares to speak.

“This is not – I repeat not – a Conservative government. In fact, I don’t know what it pretends to be. It has no convictions, no reforming zeal, no morality, no backbone.

“It is wet, wet, wet. It takes my name and reputation in vain. I built the Channel Tunnel – they can’t even get as far as bloody Birmingham. I did business with Gorbachev and ended the Cold War. This shower has started a new Cold War on two fronts and doesn’t have a clue how to get out of it.

They have …”

Mrs T goes on and on. The rest of the ghostly Cabinet drift into a long-deserved snooze.