The planet burns, the bills get higher; the workers strike and here we are waiting to be told by fewer than 200,000 Tories who our next prime minister will be. We’ve recorded the hottest day ever in the UK, and we’re also living through some of the oddest. What we can be sure of is that neither of the no hopeful Tory leadership candidates has what it takes to solve the problems of the day. Actually, it seems that neither of them really wants to.
On September 5th, the winner will be announced, and at this stage, it seems likely that it will be Liz Truss. She has modelled herself on Thatcher, and despite being the continuity Boris candidate, she has successfully presented herself as the change she thinks the Tories want. Which means evoking the ghost of Thatcher in style rather than substance. Sunak has done the opposite. He has presented himself as the essence of New Right policy and, for his trouble, has been labelled a centrist and (largely because of the pandemic furlough scheme) a one-nation Tory. What you see isn’t what you get. The Tories are often critical of the left ‘wanting to take the country back to the 1970s’ but they also suffer from a lack of forward thinking.
Let’s assume that Truss will win. The autumn of discontent could be so much more spectacular than the summer. She will enjoy a small honeymoon period. The right-wing press will applaud her. Labour will be mocked for still having a man as leader, and rightly so. For the party of equality to be beaten on this three times over is utterly embarrassing. But the honeymoon will be brief. The divisions in the Tory party are marked. Truss has made commitments in the campaign that she will have to start to deliver. Meanwhile, the economic hardship people are suffering gets worse by the day. On top of the commitments made recently, the government still has a manifesto from 2019 to deliver and this will haunt Truss, particularly the policy to level up parts of the country.
A budget is planned for November but bring it forward a few weeks and you have an ‘emergency budget’, good for showing people that you are in control / bad for showing people that there’s an emergency going on. Who would be Chancellor to deliver this budget? How much will Truss want to move away from the Johnson years? How will the Johnson supporters take that, considering that they’ve supported her? The divisions will show quickly. There will also be a party conference to get through and the inevitable calls for a general election and the new leader to prove her worth at the ballot box.
The people take a starring role in all this drama. The political class have clearly no clue how many people are feeling. The Don’t Pay campaign on energy bills is gathering pace, the strikes are increasing, and the calls for public ownership of railways and energy firms are rising. The official opposition is lacklustre in response. Always behind the public, never leading. We should be grateful because they would, given the opportunity, lead us all down the path of compromise rather than rebellion and victory. Keir Starmer proves, at every opportunity, that he is not really a politician. He has little instinct for it and what instinct he has steers him to proclaim dull and meaningless phrases he seems to think are policies. A desire for economic growth is not a policy. Being pragmatic over strikes is not a policy, and what on earth does it mean?
In a few weeks, we will have a government unwilling to solve our problems and an opposition unable to take advantage of that. It will be down to the people to force the issue. Money saving expert, Martin Lewis, has been warning of civil disobedience for months. The Don’t Pay campaign is exactly what he means. Civil disobedience can go further though. If things don’t hot up by the end of the summer, then surely the autumn?
Image by Don’t Pay.