Wednesday 19 October 2022

A Day of Conservative Carnage

How do you begin to describe what happened to the Conservative Party on 19th October, 2022? For a brief moment in time - a day - it looked like things might have stabilised under the backseat premiership of Jeremy Hunt. But one should never, never overestimate Liz Truss and her propensity to screw everything up.

At the weekend, the Sunday papers were briefed by a Downing Street source that Sajid Javid was "shit" and wouldn't be considered for high office under a Truss government. This morning, her spad Jason Stein was suspended pending an investigation. Javid, as one of the least disliked front rank Tory politicians but also one of the most thin-skinned was furious, and threatened to tear Truss a new one at Prime Minister's Questions. Stein had to go to save her blushes.

As it turned out, Truss managed to get through Prime Minister's Questions without stepping on a land mine, though eyebrows were raised when, responding to the SNP's Ian Blackford, that she was actually against scrapping the triple lock on pensions. Reportedly, Hunt is not so taken with keeping it (demonstrating, if anything, his instinct for self-preservation is weaker even than Truss's). And then late afternoon, what would (surely) be the big political news of the day dropped: Suella Braverman was out as Home Secretary, and was replaced by Grant Shapps - the first time two people have been appointed a great office of state on a job share basis. The good reason for Braverman's sacking/resignation (depending on who you ask) was her sending classified materials from her personal email account. The real reason was Braverman's contempt for cabinet discipline. She attacked the reversal of the 45p tax rate's abolition and scuppered Truss's efforts at landing a free trade deal with India. Reasons enough to get rid, but she clung on, freelancing on what the government's position should be on cannabis (make it class A), "dreaming" about planes taking off to Rwanda loaded with refugees, and setting her face against temporary visas for seasonal workers. She was too right wing, too overzealous Facebook group moderator for Truss, and had to go. Indeed, according to someone who's usually in the know about such things, the impulse came from the Prime Minister without any input from Hunt. Perhaps this was her effort to try and reclaim some authority.

That alone would be enough to keep a Tory watcher happy, but that did not reckon with the utter shambles that was about to unfold. With Truss's enthusiasm for fossil fuels and commitment to restart fracking, Labour put down a motion to keep the ban Boris Johnson put in his intentionally thin 2019 manifesto. A lot of Tory MPs were upset by the party reneging on this promise, and this morning the whips' team put out the instruction that this was to be a "hard" three-line whip, with suspension the punishment due on any dissenter. Seems straightforward. But then, during the Commons debate, what was once clear had become unclear. It was no longer being treated by the government as a confidence matter. The minister speaking for the government said it wasn't, then said he didn't know, and the parliamentary party imploded into pandemonium. As Jacob Rees-Mogg and Thérèse Coffey were physically forcing reluctant MPs through the no lobby, the chief and deputy chief whip resigned on the spot. As Craig Whittaker, the former number two in the whipping operation put it, "I am fucking furious and I don’t give a fuck anymore", As Truss was firefighting this new sudden threat to her barely existent authority she missed the vote, effectively abstaining on her own government's position and theoretically falling foul of the sanctions she wanted applied to any rebel. She got the chief whip to unresign, but very obviously the parliamentary party was left on the point of disintegration. This farce would have been rejected as a Thick of It plotline for being too preposterous. Such is the Tory party in 2022.

The only surprising thing is Truss is still in post this evening, and will probably limp on until morning. But surely the game is now up. You would have to go back 120 years to find the Tories in such a state, but the difference then was the Tories as a party were in the ascendency. The better years lay ahead as they dominated the politics of the 20th century. Now, not only have the Tories been negotiating with long-term decline for over a decade, Truss has slammed down the accelerator pedal.

Even if the end for the Prime Minister comes quickly, changing the face in Number 10 won't becalm internal turmoil nor improve its electoral fortunes. It does look like we're in the end of days for the Conservative Party.


Dipper said...

I think this is correct.

Typified by Corporation Tax. You cannot simultaneously be the party that believes in promoting business with low taxes and the party that believes a solution to our public spending issues is to clobber business. There is no mood for compromise.

Still, soon be all yours. Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

"Now, not only have the Tories been negotiating with long-term decline for over a decade, Truss has slammed down the accelerator pedal."

I would say that the cost of having to pay for the energy cap has slammed down the accelerator pedal. The increases in taxes are initiating a death spiral. Tilting the balance between work and benefits is going to discourage work. That will result in a shrinking economy, hence shrinking tax revenues, hence more taxes, ...

Ken said...

I’ve wished for this for such a long time. That old cliché keeps running round my head about be careful what you wish for. Could it be something worse? It’s difficult to imagine, but then, last night’s chaos was unimaginable until last night.

Note to Daily Mail, this is what a cabinet of chaos looks like and not your usual contenders.

Zoltan Jorovic said...

Even you, Phil, probably didn't expect events to overtake your post quite so quickly.

Farewell Liz Truss.
In office for 45 days. Never in power.
Tufton Street grifters fed your delusions.
Reseller of snake oil, you believed your own bullshit.
The toxic effects took you by surprise.
Your self confidence was boundless.
Your competence infinitesimal.
You came, You saw, you misunderstood.

Blissex said...

«That alone would be enough to keep a Tory watcher happy, but that did not reckon with the utter shambles that was about to unfold.»

But the resignation of Truss is a huge defeat for the parliamentary left, and so-called "democracy": it means that it is twice again well established and widely accepted that "deviant" politicians, be they Corbyn or Truss (Sanders or Trump), can be eliminated with a concerted campaign by the neoliberal globalist blob, bigging up the imaginary or real flaws of those they want to destroy through exceptionally compliant right-wing major propaganda organs.

It would still have been a defeat for democracy, but at least a win for the parliamentary left, if Truss (or Trump) had been eliminated by a a campaign of left-wing major propaganda organs, but in the UK (or USA) there aren't any. It would have been a win not because of the elimination of some democratically elected right-wing leader, but because it would have proved that the parliamentary left can retaliate, and thus discouraged attack campaigns like that against Corbyn (or Sanders).

Cheering on the ability of the right-wing propaganda to eliminate politicians at whim, whether applied to left-wing or right-wing targets, is a shallow pleasure.

Zoltan Jorovic said...

Exactly how much of a democratic mandate did Truss have, @Blissex? Putting aside that she was chosen by a tiny proportion of the electorate, the policies she put forward were not in the manifesto that the Conservatives were elected to government on. She installed a bunch of unelected advisors to devise a programme of their own invention which unravelled as soon as it was launched. Her fall is entirely her own doing and if you think it was the work of the "blob" then you are in the company of such as the Bruges Group, John Redwood, and the reverend Dan Wootton. She was out of her depth from the start, a fact that was obvious to everyone before she got the job - apart from the dribbling loons who selected her. Her ideas were delusional, her policies demented. The only real surprise was the speed of her fall.

That you manage to read into this a defeat for the "parliamentary left" is 'surprising'. Yes she was a deviant in the sense that her ideas deviated from reality in imagining that setting monetary and fiscal policies in direct conflict was a recipe for economic stability. Her resemblance to Corbyn could only be that both had fervent supporters who saw them as the messiah, rather than a decent but limited man in one case, and a gullible fantasist in the other.

I love a conspiracy theory, but you don't need one to explain the events of the past couple of months. It is what happens when people with radical ideas based on untested theories, with a selective approach to data and a blinkered view that eliminates anything that doesn't fit their weltanschauung, launch policies based on this methodology without any preparation, planning, or attempt to secure support. It is like throwing a selection of carefully chosen colours at a wall and expecting it to form into a perfect representation of the Last Supper.

Blissex said...

«Exactly how much of a democratic mandate did Truss have, @Blissex? Putting aside that she was chosen by a tiny»

Representative democracy is based on rules: following the rules, the Conservatives as a party got an 80 seat majority (even with just a plurality of votes), and the rules don't say that party leaders are directly elected by citizens, but they are the leaders of their party, and are chosen (in whichever way the party statutes say) by their party.

That's how UK democracy works, and being shocked, shocked that party leaders are currently partly elected by party members is ludicrous, as if the rules were different or whichever rules are in force don't matter, retroactively. Attlee's was elected as leader and them PM by 88 people, was that thoroughly undemocratic?

«proportion of the electorate»

Ah the usual revolting blairite propaganda the "centrists" used against Corbyn many times, no surprise here.

Fortunately the plan for both Conservatives and New Labour is to make the selection of their leaders even more "democratic", that is to eliminate the involvement of members, or make it purely formal. Rejoice! Rejoice! :-)

The reason why in the USA there are citizen selections for presidential candidates, followed by the direct election of the executive, and citizen primaries for the the selection of party candidates, often open to non-party members, is to reduce democracy as much as possible, by effectively making every candidate utterly dependent on high-net-worth donors for both selection and election, in as many layers as possible to maximize campaign expenses.

I reckon that one of the major reasons why Sanders an Corbyn were brutally eliminated by concerted media campaigns is that they managed to raise significant funds from many small donors, instead of a few dominating high-net-worth ones, and that is COMMUNISM! :-).

«not in the manifesto that the Conservatives were elected to government on. She installed a bunch of unelected advisors to devise a programme of their own invention»

I am shocked, shocked that policies happen that were not in the manifesto 3 years ago, and that parties use unelected advisors to devise policies, both from the civil service and from the private sector. It Never Happened Before. :-)

«Her fall is entirely her own doing and if you think it was the work of the "blob"»

What the right-wing "blob" does as a rule is to support to the full "their own", however vicious or crazy they are. Instead here they attacked Johnson and Truss with ferocious character assassination (and bigging up their significant flaws) as they did against Corbyn, because obviously they did not regard them as "their own", covering instead Rish! with appreciative praise, and letting off Starmer, the leader of the "opposition". A PM hounded into resigning over beers at "work" meetings and expensive wallpaper and mishandling of groping complaints? Another over an 8% fall of the pound? Not even for "well-proven yearnings" for genocidal anti-semitism and the extermination of the kulaks?

Perhaps the right-wing "blob" despite trying so hard had no influence on the outcome for Johnson and Truss,just as they had no influence on the outcome for Corbyn, of course, they all fell because of their own doing. Perhaps that their presumptive replacements are all from the right-wing neoliberal "blob" is just happenstance.

I am shocked, shocked by my own paranoid conspiracy theory that scheming in going on this joint. :-)