Forty-four days. That’s how long Liz Truss lasted at 10 Downing Street. And within seven days, the United Kingdom will have its third Prime Minister of 2022.
We live in the strangest of times where the Conservative party seems ungovernable. That’s just the party. For the 66 million or so Britons who are struggling to make ends meet, pay energy bills, manoeuvre through strikes, get seen at a hospital, rely on reliable trains, or face increased mortgage costs and diminishing wages, pensions and benefits, well … it seems as if they’re second best.
There’s that famous phrase that dates back the Blitz and the Second World War, when Germany bombers were setting much of London ablaze: Keep calm and carry on.
There seems to be little choice for the millions beyond Whitehall and Westminster.
Yes, there is a war in Europe. But there is also a civil war burning within the ruling classes.
It took 44 days for her vision of low taxes and high growth strategy to unravel in the markets, opinion polls and her party. Even her biggest critics, who questioned her Trussonomics and trickle-down policies, are simply astonished at the speed and manner of her implosion.
“A fighter, not a quitter”
This is a nation that is the sixth largest economy in the world, is a nuclear power, has a seat on the United Nations Security Council, and is about to have its fifth prime minister in six years.
On Wednesday in the House of Commons, she stood and defiantly told Sir Keir Starmer, the leader of Labour and the government in waiting, that she was “a fighter, not a quitter.”
Within 24 hours, the fight had left her and the quitter came to the forefront. Shattered emotionally, personally, humbled, visibly and audibly. Broken.
Her departure was on the cards since Kwasi Kwarteng was forced to carry the can and resign last Friday for implementing the very policies she won the Conservative leadership upon. Heck, the campaign against Rishi Sunak lasted longer than her time in office.
So now, the Tories are looking for their third leader in almost as many months. Who would want the job?
Jeremy Hunt, the man brought in to replace Kwarteng and rewrite most of Truss’ economic policies, has already said that he won’t be a candidate. He’s run twice before and twice lost badly to his Conservative party colleagues in the House of Commons. The desire to be PM has been ”excised”, he said.
Who’s next in line?
Penny Mordaunt, the Leader of the House of Commons, has designs on the office. She’s relatively unknown and was the butt of ridicule on Monday where she had to explain Truss’ absences. “She is not hiding under a desk,” she said.
Sunak? He warned all along of the dangers of Truss’ economic policies. He’s proved to be right. But with an unprecedented mess in just five weeks that have shredded the credentials and economic management of Britain, would Sunak want to take over this mess?
There’s Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, who surprisingly opted not to run in the June race, seems like an adult in the room. But he’s a Remainer, vocal against the dangers of Brexit and the damage it would do to the British economy.
Incidentally, with all of the shenanigans going on at Westminster, a new report pointed out that Brexit has caused a 16 per cent decline in trade with the European Union over the past two years.
Ah Brexit. Boris Johnson, the mastermind of that. The man who was PM up to September, would he be up for a comeback?
Johnson is the man who won the electoral mandate barely three years ago. Gosh, that seems so long ago. Would he be willing to jump back and throw his hat into the ring? But he’s also a man with deep Shakespearean flaws, an uneasy relationship with facts, someone who partied while the rest of the nation was under a lockdown he imposed during Covid-19.
Is it any wonder Sir Keir and Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, are screaming for a general election. That’s the last thing the Conservatives want, trailing by some 30 percentage points in the polls.
Right now, it has a week to find a united front, find someone somehow to lead this rabble, find some way forward. This is Alice in Wonderland territory.