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  • Sean Voitov

No, No, No!

Imagine It’s October 1980, the Conservative leader and the first female Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher stood up and gave her first speech to the Conservative party, outlining her vision for a Britain on the road of recovery to prosperity, of a stable and orderly society, and as a respected global power. On her critics calling for her to U-turn her economic policy, she said “You turn if you want to, the Lady’s not for turning”. What followed was public spending cuts across the board and tax rises to benefit the rich whilst the poor paid more. Over 4 decades later the third woman prime minister tried to woo the conservative party by trying to act like Thatcher’s almost spiritual presence that she has in the party’s history books.

However, Liz Truss’s time as prime minister can only be described as one massive U-turn. She said there would be no tax rises, then she raised them. She said that she was in lockstep with her chancellor, then she sacked him. She said she was a fighter and not a quitter, then she resigned. Never before has a prime minister had such a car crash in terms of their time as prime minister in such a short time. When Liz Truss came to be Prime Minister, it was after months of no action being taken by the limbo government of Boris Johnson, oozing with sleaze, whilst households didn’t know whether they’d be able to stay warm for the winter, feed their loved ones and if they could get the treatment they need. The economy needed fixing, the conservative party needed unifying, and the country just wanted reassurance. All of this seemed to be something Truss would do as she said she would hit the ground running, but instead the markets hit the ground and the Tories stabbed her before long and we cannot feel any more reassured that there is anyone actually in charge of the ship.

Whilst her campaign to be Prime Minister ended up being longer than her actual time as Prime Minister, her impact on the party will be felt for a lot longer. Liz Truss had a unique position that now Rishi Sunak will have to work hard and long for. People were willing to give Truss a chance. After three years of Boris Johnson, it felt like the country might get back to what it was like before political turmoil, whatever you can call normality after nearly 12 years of conservative rule. Now, people are not willing to give the conservatives a chance as they seem unable to decide what to do with themselves on a daily basis. As it stands, the conservatives are set to lose around 300 of their seats in the House of Commons as the country screams NO to the conservatives, whilst Labour are set to dominate the chamber. Do not be fooled by what you might hear in the future, the conservative party is not in it to win it, they are trying to survive. The party went from trying to pick someone who could win them an election, to someone who just needs to make sure they are a party at all. And it seems to the Conservative party that that person is Rishi Sunak.

By every right there should be a general election and we do need a different government. We have had 12 years of the same party showing that they cannot show economic competency and they have accepted that themselves. The economy never fully grew under the austerity measures of David Cameron and people only grew poorer with the lowest growth in living standards for decades and it led to future Conservative Prime Minister’s quick to brush off any mention that their economic policy was like austerity. Because of low growth and countless cuts to public spending, covid and the recovery from covid was made worse despite their claims they were fixing the roof while the sun was shining, they were in fact taking materials for the roof from the walls. This is not to mention that the last two prime minister’s we’ve had in the last several weeks were elected by less than 1% of the country and what used to be an elective dictatorship has now turned into a club vote. But alas the conservatives know that any general election would just mean a wipe-out for them, even though it is the majority of people’s wish.

But now we have Rishi Sunak as prime minister, it is an amazing feat that we now have the first ever Hindu PM. Rishi has been popular amongst many Tory MPs for a while, he won all the MP ballots in the first leadership election and was in the lead the moment Truss resigned. He’s credited with keeping the economy afloat during Covid and being economically competent and in the eyes of some, even prophetic in his predictions of Truss’s policies. But he has problems to deal with that will interfere with his image, and they’re not even the ones the country faces.

Firstly, he is not clean from the sleaze of Johnson’s cabinet. He was himself fined at the same time as Johnson after he and Johnson both attended a party during lockdown at a time when everyday they told people to make sacrifices and not see relatives for the safety of the country. He was always around Johnson during the biggest of decisions and it’s how he made his name, but it raises questions over how much this is really a different government of just the same old sleaze, which has not been helped by the reappointment of Suella Braverman despite her breaking the ministerial code by sharing emails on national policy from her personal email and sending them to the wrong people.

Secondly, he is out of touch. He’s on the Times top 100 rich list and no matter how hard he tries to come across as from a working-class background, whether it be him not having working-class friends, wearing the most expensive clothes or simply not even knowing how to pay contactless, he comes as anything but working-class. Meanwhile many of his MPs run constituencies that have the poorest people in the UK that struggle with their incomes during the best of days. If he is indeed to take the conservative party into the next election, he will not be able to connect with people like Johnson managed.

Then there’s everything else. Whilst not official, it is almost certainly the case that right now we are in a recession and that we will face a winter of economic slowdown, unemployment and cold. The first month of Sunak’s time as Prime Minister will not be an easy one. He will have to prove his economic competence whilst the Bank of England raises their interest rates. He will have to help people who are choosing between the heating or food. He will have to deal with a twindemic as Flue and Covid cases rise and clog up an already battered NHS. He will have to show the UK’s seriousness to continue being on the world stage as the Ukraine-Russian War ravages on. He will have to make sure that we do not forget that the world is slowly roasting and put forth measures with COP27 just around the corner.

What will Sunak bring to the future? He is certainly going to last longer than Liz Truss, albeit that is at a historically low bar, but it is probable that he will lead the party to the next election. The conservative party are barely surviving as a party at the moment, so any change in leadership again would be suicide, even if Sunak turns out not to be the sweeping saviour of the party as some might hope for, the party will have to take a bad leader for a bad one. He is competent enough to make the conservatives a serious party again. Whilst he was in Johnson’s cabinet, just a year prior he had never been in a major role in government so his political newness gives him a somewhat clean slate to work off of and he is a unifying force in the tory party which is much needed for the sake of the country.

Despite his message that everything is going according to plan, in reality he’s trying to stay off the media radar and let politics get back to boring to let the dust settle. But in the next month we will see Sunak’s true intentions as his chancellor, Jeremey Hunt, will deliver his Autumn statement after it was delayed several times and the picture of the economic climate will be published for all to see. For the sake of the country, if the conservatives won’t stand up in a general election, let them try and stable the ship they’ve rocked.

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