For the second time in three months, Britain’s Conservative government is on the verge of collapse.
No, you don’t have déjà vu. For the second time in three months, Britain’s Conservative government is on the verge of collapse.
- The introduction of U.K. Prime Minister Liz Truss’s botched tax cut plan spooked markets and sparked economic instability, forcing her to fire her finance chief and appoint a new one who promptly shredded the economic agenda she campaigned on.
- On Wednesday, Truss fired Home Secretary Suella Braverman, the powerful minister in charge of policing, immigration, and internal security, for a minor technical violation of ministerial rules.
- In her resignation letter, Braverman savaged Truss for abandoning the Conservatives’ election promise of stopping illegal immigration and urged her to follow her lead and resign.
- The Home Secretary is one of Britain’s “Great Offices of State,” the four most important and powerful government positions: the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Foreign Secretary, and the Home Secretary. Truss has now fired two of those officeholders in less than one week.
- On Wednesday evening Parliament is set to vote on banning fracking. The Prime Minister’s office initially declared it a confidence vote where any Conservative MP who votes against the motion will “lose the whip” or be kicked out of the parliamentary party.
- The government backtracked in the face of a growing rebellion and the vote collapsed into chaos, with members of Parliament screaming at each other in in the lobby of Westminster.
- Truss’s chief whip and her deputy – the officials in charge of maintaining party discipline – both appeared to have resigned minutes after the debacle. (UPDATE: While it was widely reported both had quit, the Prime Minister’s Office later confirmed that both would remain in their positions).
- Majority parties in parliamentary democracies rarely lose votes – especially when they have an 80-seat majority like Britain’s Conservatives.
- A British tabloid asked its audience on October 14, “Will Liz Truss outlast this lettuce?” The Daily Star’s livestream of its slowly wilting produce is currently on day six.
- Can Liz Truss outlast a livestreamed vegetable? Smart money is on the lettuce.
- The New York Times reported White House and Federal Reserve officials are viewing the British crisis with increasing concern, worrying whether Britain’s market meltdown could happen in the U.S. The Biden administration found that a financial crisis “probably could” happen here, “though a crash does not appear to be imminent.”
- A CNN contributor wrote, “just about the best that can be said for the embattled Truss is that she is not cowering beneath the furniture inside 10 Downing Street.” Truss would have to survive another 80 days to avoid the ignominious distinction of being Britain’s shortest-serving prime minister ever – a prospect that seems incredibly unlikely after the events of this week.
- The Guardian analyzed Suella Braverman’s resignation letter for the differences between “what she said and totally meant.” Braverman took full credit for her breach of ethics, clearly implied Truss should resign and left hints she plans to run for leadership once Truss goes.
- Truss adopted a defiant posture in the face of the slow-motion collapse of her government and calls for her resignation, per Fox News. Keir Starmer, the leader of Britain’s left-wing political opposition, attacked her competence in a brutal session of Prime Minister’s Questions. Truss responded to his attacks with a defiant declaration: “I am a fighter and not a quitter.”
- National Review wrote Truss is a “victim of forces beyond her control” – “overreacting” investors, regulators, established businesses, the left wing of the Tory Party that never trusted Truss – that have cost the Conservative Party its reputation for economic competence and could lead to a left-wing Labour government taking power after the next election.
- The Telegraph reported Conservative lawmakers were despondent after the day’s chaos. A former Conservative minister said, “We are a national joke,” while another is “waiting for the moment in Dallas when Bobby Ewing walks out of the shower and says it’s all just been a bad dream.”
© Dominic Moore, 2022