The UK has now had four chancellors in one year – in fact, four chancellors in four months. If the chaos that the Conservatives have inflicted on us all continues, then perhaps Andy Warhol’s vision will find a new expression. Everyone will be chancellor for 15 minutes.
The sacking of the latest one was particularly painful for the prime minister. In her letter accepting his forced resignation she told him:
“We share the same vision for our country and the same firm conviction”.
If that is true then why is she still prime minister? The policies that have been put in place by the latest incarnation of this government are ones that Liz Truss has enthusiastically endorsed for a long time. It was her choice to refuse to listen when Rishi Sunak told her again and again during the leadership campaign that the policies would lead to higher mortgages.
It was her choice to remove from the Cabinet anyone who might advise a bit of caution or doubt about applying untested far right economic theories with enthusiasm. It was her choice to select the co-author of her main expression of economic thinking as her chancellor as they both authored a tract called Britannia Unchained which outlined many of these policies ten years ago.
The Conservative schism
One of the sloppiest pieces of thinking on the left is that all Conservatives are the same and they are all equally detestable. Nothing could be further from the truth. They have steadily got worse. The dominant version of conservative thinking used to want the government to be UK PLC and simply pursue the best interests of business as competently and as quietly as possible.
The lot that are in charge now believe in radical right political theories as an article of faith. They are not interested in pesky things like hard facts, experts, or evidence. They are interested in implementing their theories with a conviction that would make a Trotskyist blush and they have used exactly the same entryist strategies as the Trotskyists.
These are two completely incompatible political philosophies living within one political party. Sooner or later the tensions of that have to lead it into a split. When she captured power Liz Truss made a conscious decision to send one of those factions into the wilderness and to rule as if only the views of those who could sign up to her vision mattered.
People forget now that only six years ago the Conservative Party campaigned to remain in the EU and told us all that it would do immense harm to the economy if we left. The predictions of a Conservative Prime Minister were dismissed as project fear. Now mortgages are up and the cost of living is through the roof. If you ask anyone whether Britain is prospering in a glorious new post Brexit dawn then it could only be a naïve optimist who would say yes.
The elephant in the room
Some of the damage to the British economy is indeed down to Vladimir Putin and his allies. You remember those Russian oligarchs? They are the ones that have channelled millions into the Conservative Party in the last few years. They are the ones that have been enabled by light touch regulation to launder their money through the city of London cheered on by the Conservatives. They are also people who cheered on Brexit because they thought it would weaken their opponents and were quite prepared to use shadowy social media campaigns to influence public opinion.
Much more of the damage to Britain has been self-inflicted. The extra paperwork that has cut our exports to our main market is the direct result of a flawed political vision. The queues of lorry drivers at Dover and the lack of labour to pick fruit, care for the elderly or help our NHS to function is also the direct outcome of a mistaken political theory.
The high cost of energy is down to a conscious refusal of government to invest in insulating homes and an unwillingness to tax fossil fuel companies or to manage market extremes. Incredibly, energy costs in Britain have risen more than on the continent despite much lower dependence on Russian supplies.
Call a general election now
Even a hefty proportion of Conservative MPs now think that the faction that has captured power in their party carries heavy responsibility for the mess we are all in. The crucial question over the next few days and weeks is what do they decide to do about that. They could sit on the back benches and watch as an incompetent and uninspiring leader tries to lurch from one crisis to the next and wait for the carnage at the polls in two years’ time.
Or they could dump her now and face the horrible reality that there is no one in the Conservative Party who can unite both factions and carry the trust of the public. ‘Bring back the liar’ is not a great slogan.
They are in a mess of their own making and are led by a woman whose decisions have increased the mess with astonishing speed. It is hard to see how the divided, demoralised party that manufactured so many of our problems can make things better.
There is however one way out of it for the country. Hold a general election and start the long hard work of reconstructing the credibility of the country and a sustainable economy. Something which must begin by recognising what a monumental mistake Brexit was instead of refusing to speak out in case it shocks a few voters to hear the truth.