All’s well that ends well?
Last week the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland was in competition to see if she could outlast a lettuce. She lost.
“If this were played upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction,” says Fabian, in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. One of my retired friends texted me with more contemporary language, “Cabinet ministers ‘unequivocally’ backing Boris Johnson. WTAF?”
At PMQ’s two weeks ago, the PM promised “Absolutely, absolutely,” no public spending cuts. Since then the Home Secretary resigned. Poor Suella, deprived of her dream to oversee the deportation of refugees to Rwanda in time for Christmas. Monday’s emergency statement ditched Trussonomics. Jeremy Hunt eviscerated the PM’s authority with promises to cut spending to every department. The U-turn on a U-turn over the state pension triple lock. Pushing and shoving to bully MPs to vote for environmentally destructive fracking. The Chief Whip and her deputy resigned and unresigned.
The Government rowed back on their flagship energy policy – which they all supported. No U-turn on removing the cap on bankers’ bonuses, mind. Bankers are the one cohort the Tories protect from the cost of living crisis.
Wednesday’s PMQs saw the lettuce-opponent bellow she’s “a fighter not a quitter”. Then promptly quit the next day.
Rishi Sunak is the bookies’ favourite to replace her. A man whose personal family fortune is larger than the King’s. Mr Sunak is the richest person to ever to sit in Parliament, and as Chancellor oversaw the biggest increase in inequality ever. His wife dodged £20 million a year with her non-dom tax status.
But fear not! Boris Johnson flew back from his Caribbean holiday. His constituents may ask why he’s on holiday while Parliament was sitting. He’s paid £84,144 to represent them. It’s his third foreign holiday since his July resignation, after visiting Slovenia and Greece while still serving as Prime Minister and collecting his £161,401 salary. So it’s okay for him, but when a postie or rail worker wants to earn enough to afford even one holiday a year, they are “militant unions”.
I was in a meeting with my team on Tuesday morning when my phone rang, the caller was the BBC. “Before I answer this, can someone check if she’s resigned?” I asked. On Wednesday I was speaking to a hundred small businesses about the North of Tyne investment funds available to help businesses grow. Despite the national chaos, I reassured them, the North of Tyne is a rock of stability. On Thursday I was speaking to another set of businesses about our Challenge fund to encourage innovation in delivering low-carbon homes. I checked my phone before I started to make sure my speech wasn’t out of date. By the time I walked back to my office 100 yards away, the team had a laptop open watching the PM’s resignation speech.
I would say this is all a comedy, but for the real life tragedy. Even the Financial Times rubbished the PM’s economic mess with its “Moron Risk Premium” – the extra money Britain pays to borrow because of Government incompetence. Millions of people are paying an extra £500 or so a month for their rent or mortgages because of moronic Government decisions.
It’s affecting businesses too. To get through Covid they had to take out loans. One brewer told me he’s planning to consolidate them into one payment. But now interest rates are spiking – far higher than in comparable countries. Britain is seeing 1 or 2 independent breweries go bust every week. That affects their suppliers, who won’t get paid, and their staff, losing their jobs in a cost of living crisis.
I’m not one for schadenfreude. But the Tories have long since lost any credibility for integrity. Boris Johnson and Partygate hammered the nails into that particular coffin. Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng dismembered Conservative economic credibility more efficiently than an industrial grade shredder. Jeremy Hunt’s reprise of austerity’s greatest hits reminded us all how David Cameron and George Osborne crippled education, heath, transport, closed libraries and spawned foodbanks, and created this mess in the first place. A true Comedy of Errors.
It’s time to call a General Election and get a Labour Government. The last poll I saw put the Tories on 19%, with Labour on 56%. That’s a literal wipe out. Not one single Tory MP returned. All’s Well That Ends Well?