UK CONSERVATIVE PARTY
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In a little more than a week’s time, Liz Truss will most likely become the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, only the third woman to hold the position.

As things stand now, she holds a commanding lead in support when it comes to the slightly less than 200,000 Conservative party members who will choose the successor to Boris Johnson. The results of the vote will be formally announced on 5 September, but there is little doubt that they will place their support in Truss.

The party says that it has between 180,000 and 200,000 members. Most are over 65 years of age, predominantly white, mostly male and the membership core is based in London and the surrounding ‘home’ counties.

All told, the party members represent about a quarter of one per cent of the wider UK population as a whole — hardly a representative snapshot as a whole.

Yes, over the past month or so, both Truss and her rival, former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, have been focusing their campaigns on garnering the support of this small, semi-exclusive cross-section of modern-day Britons.

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Is it any wonder then that many Brits are wondering if the party and its candidates are simply out of touch with what matters to most now trying to make ends meet in a deepening economic crisis of soaring energy costs, rising price and wages that are failing to keep pace with goods at the till?

Yes, the economy will be the priority for the new PM, but so too tackling a deep malaise that has hit Britain in recent months. And sooner rather than later, Truss will need to call a general election, seeking a mandate to tackle the woes that beset this post-Brexit Britain.

This deep malaise has been heightened in recent days by shocking events that have unfolded on the streets of the UK cities — far away from the leafy, tony suburbs where Conservative party members live.

In the real Britain, where food banks are running out of food, one-in-three Britons will face making the choice between heating or eating this winter, and where families are struggling to live from shrinking pay packet to shrinking pay packet, there is now the worry of street crime — with isolated and horrific crimes fortifying a perception that things are going from bad to worse.

In northwest London last week, in Greenford, an area that borders the constituency of Boris Johnson himself, an 87-year-old man was knifed to death.

What makes the murder of Thomas O’Halloran — a grandfather well-known in the local community — all the more shocking is that he was stabbed to death as he rode his mobility scooter in an attack that police described as “vicious”. And it happened in broad daylight, just after 4:30 on a Tuesday afternoon.

As bad as that crime was, in Liverpool, a 29-year-old woman was shot to death in her backyard. She died instantly, and police say it was a case of mistaken identity. She simply looked like the intended victim.

Liz Truss/Opinion
Liz Truss may be best placed to unite the UK Conservative party Image Credit: Gulf News

But the third case is one that has simply shaken Liverpool and much of the north of England to its core.

On Monday, as many households in the northeast were tuned into the Premier League football game between Sunday between Manchester United and Liverpool, a nine-year-old girl was fatally shot as she stood behind her mother who was trying to stop a gunman entering the family home.

Olivia Pratt-Korbel died after a 35-year-old man — unknown to the family — ran into the terraced house in Kingsheath Avenue, in the Dovecote area of Liverpool, in an attempt to get away from a shooter.

Her mother Cheryl Korbel, 46, was shot in the wrist as she tried to close the door on the gunman while her nine-year-old daughter stood behind her. Cheryl had gone to the door and peered out after hearing a commotion and gunshots on the street.

The man who had entered their home suffered gunshot wounds to his upper body and, as Olivia lay dying, was picked up and taken to hospital by friends driving a dark-coloured Audi.

The incident happened exactly 15 years after 11-year-old Rhys Jones was fatally shot in Croxteth, another suburb of Liverpool.

Not enough police officers

As shocking as these recent events are, the reality is that the UK does not have a significant problem with guns. Just 35 murders in 2021 were with guns. Across the UK, there were some 700 murders — most were of people who knew their victims. That murder rate is not out of line with other years.

The Chief Constable for Liverpool has said that she will be getting more officers on the streets, and she has vowed to make Armed Response officers — the vast majority of UK officers carry non-lethal weapons — more visible.

There is simply a perception that there are not enough police officers across the UK when they’re needed. Over some 15 years of successive Conservative party governments dating back to the coalition administration first led by David Cameron, police officers have been cut through round after round of austerity.

While small government plays well with that mostly older, mostly white, mostly suburban group that selects party leaders and prime ministers, the reality is that small governments mean less services for areas where they’re needed most.

It’s not just fewer officers. It’s less support for poor communities, fewer youth clubs, a very thin support fabric. And when that happens, criminal gangs see the market for drugs — selling street drugs to youths who no longer have hope. The lure of quick cash selling drugs is far more lucrative than the prospect of working hard in school, getting an education, and becoming a taxpayer. And yes, Truss and Sunak will cut those taxes if elected Conservative party leader.

Is it any wonder many feel as if the Conservative party race is taking place in a vacuum — far removed from the reality faced by so many.