We’re all familiar with the old saying, usually attributed to Harold Wilson during the 1964 sterling crisis, that a week is a long time in politics. In the space of seven days, we had yet another new Chancellor, the resignation of the Home Secretary and then, inevitably, the realisation on the part of the Prime Minister Liz Truss that there really was no alternative and she had to go.
The Prime Minister’s departure didn’t surprise me at all. It had been obvious for some time she’s been in difficulty, that she was terminally unsuited to the role she’d been thrust into and had also sought. At the start of last week, it was clear she had a number of hurdles to overcome, both internally in terms of her own Parliamentary Party, and also in terms of everything that was happening around about her, much of it resulting from her own actions.
Liz Truss managed to clip each hurdle as she went over it so it was no surprise she when she eventually came crashing down. The surprise is probably that she’s lasted in post as long as she did. The consensus has been if the Conservative Parliamentary Party could have found someone they could have united around, she would have been gone several days before she was.
Some small outbreak of sanity at least prevailed insofar as we are not currently sitting here waiting for the membership at large of the Conservative Party to vote Boris Johnson back into 10 Downing Street. The fact that such a scenario was being seriously discussed last weekend only underlines how short are the memories of some MPs and the right-wing commentariat who conveniently forget that it was only a few short weeks ago where the machinery of the UK Government came crashing to a halt as 60 Ministers and Secretaries of State resigned citing the then Prime Minister as the reason.
For Boris Johnson to have made a comeback would have merely added to the sense of weakness and instability which now surely hobbles this government until it decides it’s time to call an election.
For the moment, we’ve got that weakness and instability rolled-up with uncertainty. Uncertainty as to what will emerge from the Emergency Budget on Halloween, and weakness as Ministers installed only a few weeks ago – many of them taking positions from people who had themselves only been there a few weeks since the previous bout of bloodletting and chaos – wait to see if they will be allowed to carry on with their jobs.
The new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has his work well-and-truly cut out for him. The last time the Conservative Party held a leadership contest they elected someone who was an economic fantasist who sold them a vision of something that could never be delivered, whether that was on Brexit or whether that was on the economy. In fairness to Mr Sunak, he told them as much during his unsuccessful leadership campaign.
The collision with reality this government has just had should be telling them there is nobody who can deliver that vision because it is simply undeliverable. I think the way you get the shortest path to some kind of stability is to hit the reset button on the whole lot and give people the chance to elect a new Parliament. I fear there will be no appetite for such an approach on the Government Benches. Thankfully, we in Scotland have an alternative route out of this morass should we choose to take it.