The Prime Minister achieved the impossible in her press conference. She made things worse.

On the day she sacked her Chancellor who over the past few weeks she told the world she was in lock-step with, the PM’s public speeches have been so dry and wooden that they might constitute a fire hazard under health and safety!

Have a listen to Beth Rigby above – who interviewed the Prime Minister very recently.

How long the Prime Minister will last – hey, I didn’t expect the Chancellor to be gone within 48 hours of posting my previous blogpost.

“This is the 1920s all over again, isn’t it?!?”

Step into my time machine!

Above – Time Machine by Tape Five, from Roaring Twenties.

Which takes some doing given their song that could have been about the previous PM – Boris Johnson.

Above – “Just a page in his bunga book of life!” (Or lies – take your pick!)

“I’ll be glad when they’re gone – but the next two years could be a very long time!”

A young Sammy Davis Jr had something to say about that from the same era.

Above – “You Rascal You” by Sammy Davis Jr – which was spiced up by Tape Five

“I’ll be glad when you’re gone you Tories you!

“I’ll be glad when you’re gone you Tories you!

“I’ll be standin’ on the corner full of gin / when they bring your dead party in!

“I’ll be glad when you’re gone you Tories you!”

…because I’m not the person who wishes violence on anyone. Just a rinsing by the electorate would do just fine after all of this!

A reminder that Liz Truss was a Liberal Democrat during her student days

Above – from the former leader of the Liberal Democrats Tim Farron.

It’s not just Liz Truss that is the problem. It’s the whole system.

She was selected by her MPs (even though only a handful had her as their first choice). She was backed by her party members despite the warnings from her opponent Rishi Sunak over policies, and had all of that amplified by the traditional Conservative print press publications, their own social media echo chamber, and the #TuftonStreetMassiv.

Things have gotten so bad that even the BBC which has been amplifying the institutions based there started shining a more sceptical light on their outriders. See their report here

“No 55 Tufton Street houses organisations including the TaxPayers’ Alliance and the Global Warming Policy Foundation – and is the former home of many others, such as Vote Leave and Brexit Central.”

A couple of years ago the address was targeted by Extinction Rebellion protesters, and prior to the 2019 general election, pro-Remain protesters. The issue of transparency of ‘think tanks’ – policy-making organisations that seek to influence government policy, has not gone away.

The IEA’s representatives – along with the Conservative-supporting print press publications were delighted with the Minibudget – as George Monbiot identifies below

Back in 2018, Transparify published its rankings of major UK think tanks on how transparent they were about their donors.

Above – from Transparify 2018

Irrespective of what your politics are, large influential institutions should not need to hide who funds them. At the same time, there needs to be better methods of public scrutiny and holding think tanks and public policy institutions accountable for what they publish. For me the same also goes with print press publications – to the extent that there should be some sort of a forum where editors and senior journalists can be cross-examined on a timely basis for the content they publish. Especially when it is targeting individuals with obsessive coverage over an extended period of time where those individuals cannot answer back – irrespective of whether that individual is a duke or a driver. (Note one publication was particularly pleased with the minibudget.)

Above – this time three weeks ago.

Our structures, systems, controls, processes, and functions of governance and state are all broken – and this latest episode provides even more examples

The system of conventions was comprehensively shredded by Boris Johnson’s Government, but was already on dangerous ground with Theresa May’s minority administration as her government lost vote-after-vote in the House of Commons. These should have resulted in changes in government policy but did not. One key convention is that the monarch sends for the individual who can command the confidence of the House of Commons and invites that individual to form a government.

“UK governments continue in office only as long as they have the ‘confidence’ or support of the House of Commons. This means that they are able to command a majority in the Commons on key matters.”

Institute for Government

The simple reason being that a government that does not have the confidence of the House of Commons cannot get the essential business of government done – which includes passing a Budget – and thus ensuring public services can function and our essential services and their employees get paid/funded. Passing a Budget means The Chancellor tabling a Finance Bill before Parliament every year, and Parliament approving (subject to any amendments) that piece of legislation. It is why at the end of a Budget Statement – i.e. the Second Reading of the Finance Bill, the Chancellor concludes with: “And I commend this Budget to the House”. That is the Chancellor formally asking The House of Commons for its approval for the Government’s spending plans. If a government has their Budget rejected, the convention is that this is an issue of confidence – and the government would have to resign and call for a general election *unless* another MP in the Commons could gain the confidence of MPs, nominate a Chancellor who could then present new plans, and get them approved by Parliament.

The problem is Liz Truss started off showing contempt for existing conventions and processes

The ‘minibudget’ did not contain the evidence bases that normally accompany major financial statements. It’s one of the reasons the financial markets rinsed The Pound on the foreign exchanges, and why the credit rating agencies hit the UK’s credit rating – making it more expensive for the Government to borrow. The meeting at the end of September two weeks ago was excruciating. As it turned out, the financial markets and the hit that UK mortgage holders – the people who tend to vote Conservative and who also are more likely to vote in elections, didn’t take too kindly to their repayments shooting through the roof through ministerial arrogance and incompetence. Mindful of the crises in costs of living and energy costs – both of which could have been avoided with alternative policies of which they were warned repeatedly. They only have themselves to blame.

“So who is the new Chancellor now?”

‘The Minister for Murdoch’

Above – from The Guardian, 24 May 2012.

A decade ago, Jeremy Hunt came under huge pressure when he was Culture Secretary over his relationship with the media tycoon. The BBC summarised those issues into ten questions here. The strange course of events has been that the attempt to takeover Sky in its entirety by NewsCorp failed, and in the end it was successfully bought out by Comcast in 2018.

“So…what happens now?”

That’s up to the Government’s backbenchers. Remember the convention is that the Prime Minister is the individual who can command the confidence of the House of Commons. Speculation is rife as to who that person might be – an ideologue from the same wing, or a ‘dream team’ of two more moderate individuals? Then there is the question of whether their constituents and the wider general public (not to say the financial markets) would consent to a second Prime Minister in a row being appointed without a general election / their own mandate from the people. Because more than a few of the major policies that were announced by Truss and Kwarteng were not in the Conservatives’ 2019 general election manifesto. Therefore they have no political or electoral mandate for those new policies. Which makes it easier for the House of Lords to delay any legislation on them.

“Who will force the issue? The public, or the financial markets?”

A mix of both. What’s being missed are the social and behavioural impacts of the mess that ministers are making – actions that are benefiting their opponents.

People are becoming more politically aware (if Brexit, Covid, and the Climate Emergency hadn’t made them so already) – and making them lean towards opposition parties than the party in government.

More people are joining trade unions – which traditionally are the bedrock of the Labour Party, as they find they cannot make ends meet on current wages/salaries.

The polarisation of growth vs protecting the environment has opened up a new Green vs Blue party political front line – as we have seen the Conservatives lose a number of local council seats to The Green Party, and a rise in the number of traditionally Conservative voters to The Greens at a general election over large housebuilding projects could enable other opponents (in particular the Liberal Democrats in the south) to snatch a number of seats. In the north it’s more likely to be a traditional Labour vs Tory face-off. Here in East Anglia? Harder to tell, such has been the all-encompassing dominance of the Conservatives ever since party politics became a thing.

Also, when the Government – and the Prime Minister is being lampooned by the Daily Star, it shows we’ve gone beyond the stage where politics or a political issue has jumped out of the Westminster bubble and the wider public is now aware.

Which one will last longer?

We live in farcical times. Just when we need a ministerial team of the highest calibre. And if our electoral and political systems are not delivering this, then our systems need overhauling and improving. And quickly.

Normally I write about issues local to Cambridge & Cambridgeshire, but this present era is somethin’ else! If you are interested in the longer term future of Cambridge, and on what happens at the local democracy meetings where decisions are made, feel free to:

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