“There is no doubt that the sharks are already circling Truss after she dropped to a level of unpopularity amongst the public far below even Johnson achieved at his lowest ebb.”
By Ian Lavery MP
It is difficult to imagine how the first few weeks of Liz Truss’s tenure as Prime minister could have gone worse for her and her Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng.
The chaos began when Mr Kwarteng announced his mini-budget, what was in fact one of the most significant financial interventions into our economy in recent decades.
But the root of the problems go back further still, which is ultimately that practically nobody voted for the direction the new Prime Minster wants to take the country. Truss never had the support of the MP’s in her party and was voted for by a mere 81,000 people with an inevitably right wing political skew as a result of being a member of the Conservative party – many of whom were simply voting against Sunak rather than for her. This is no mandate, and the vitriolic reaction to her early policy announcements from the public, opposition, and members of her own party is the inevitable result.
To say Truss and Kwarteng took a gamble by massively increasing borrowing to fund tax cuts for the richest 1% is perhaps something of an understatement. The announcement threw the markets into turmoil as the pound dropped to a record low on the dollar leading the Bank of England into an emergency intervention to buy government bonds in a bid to avoid the UK’s pension funds collapsing – a consequence that would have been an unthinkable disaster for the government and country
Such a brazenly elitist financial announcement that was unapologetically designed to benefit the richest people in the country was always going to be a hard sell, never mind in the midst of the worst cost of living crisis for decades – something Truss found out the hard way on a calamitous and frankly embarrassing round of local radio appearances on Thursday morning.
The subsequent U-turn on the 45p tax rate have opened up profound wounds from within the Tory party, exposing the deep divisions that lie under the surface often so well hidden. Some prominent Tories such as Gove and Mordaunt have praised the U-turn and called on the government to raise benefits in line with inflation, whereas others such as her new Home Secretary Suella Braverman and Levelling Up Minister Simon Clarke expressed their ‘disappointment’ in her backing down.
The roots of these disagreements are profound and have been bubbling under the surface of the Tory Party for a long time. They ultimately expose completely different and often contradictory ideas of what it means to be a member of the Conservative party today and what we left the European Union to achieve.
Truss is already a weak and perhaps even fatally wounded beast. Any good will or benefit of the doubt she may have carried into the job by MP’s who were never supportive of her has been obliterated, and her authority has imploded as enemies and allies alike criticise her from every direction, keen to distance themselves from a Prime minister who has already become an electoral liability for themselves and the party.
There is no doubt that the sharks are already circling Truss after she dropped to a level of unpopularity amongst the public far below even Johnson achieved at his lowest ebb. She has been a gift to the Labour Party who are offering a vision of the country far more in line with the priorities and needs of the public a fact that has been reflected in recent opinion polls. Rumours and whispers will do doubt have filled the corridors at the Conservative Party conference last weekend over what is to be done, with coups being devised and schemed and successors already approached.
This would all be a comedy of errors if in fact there were anything funny about it. As ultimately it is not the politicians in smoke filled rooms who will have to deal with the consequences of the mess created in the last few weeks.
It is the ordinary man and woman already struggling with the cost of living crisis who will be the ones to pick up the pieces created in Downing Street. If benefits do not go up in line with inflation as this government has threatened and mortgage rates skyrocket as predicted all on top of the current cost of living crisis then struggling communities in Wansbeck and elsewhere in the country face a long harsh winter indeed. The potential consequences of this are truly frightening.
For her own sake and of the sake of millions of people in the country Truss must admit her mistakes and set out a proper plan to get us through the winter before it’s too late.