The world has become accustomed to political upset, but in truth, the Tory leadership race was over even before it had fully begun. Once the race had been whittled down to the final two, there was never a serious suggestion that Liz Truss would not emerge triumphant.
The campaign presented an opportunity to reach out to the public and reassure them the country was in safe hands. Plagued by a series of crises, Britain seems broken, with every sector suffering debilitation and decline.
Instead, the party took a different route, one that was inward-looking and self-serving. The race was presented as an ideological boxing match with Rishi Sunak (the tax hiker) battling it out against Liz Truss (the would-be tax slasher). The relentless focus on ideological direction came to the detriment of resolving so many issues that curse British life; it was like watching a nurse stick a plaster on a gaping wound.
Consider the housing crisis. Neither candidate presented a comprehensive plan to combat the shortage of homes and soaring house prices. Of course, there was the occasional aside about who and who wasn’t in favour of constructing on the green belt, but that did nothing to reassure an entire generation who seem trapped in the overpriced rental sector, with home ownership something of a pipedream.
The candidates appeared committed to combating the migrant crisis in the Channel, which has been exacerbated under the Johnson government, but only by continuing the deport to Rwanda scheme – a policy that so far seems dead in the water. This year alone, more than 25,000 migrants have crossed the Channel, and the figure will likely surpass last year’s record of more than 28,000. This is costing the tax payer tens of millions and yet nobody in government seems to have the grit or wherewithal to do anything about it.
Then there’s the National Health Service, which has turned into something of a thorn that pricks away at the side of every prime minister. Despite successive budget increases, the service seems more paralysed and weakened than ever. Ambulance waiting times are catastrophic as elderly patients are left waiting hours, and in some cases days, for treatment.
And of course, the issue of our time: the energy crisis. It would be unfair to blame this entirely on the government, for the War in Ukraine has exposed Europe’s reliance on Russian gas and in turn Britain’s dependence on international markets. However, the energy crisis has brought to light the failure of British leaders of all stripes to invest in renewables, nuclear and a long-term self-sufficient energy strategy.
Despite her commitment to scrap the green levies on energy bills and revoke the rise in National Insurance, it is now patently obvious that Liz Truss must do more to prevent full-scale catastrophe this winter. At the start of the campaign, she ruled out any talk of ‘hand outs’ to assist people with their energy bills. But the alternative to hand-outs is destitution for millions and electoral carnage for the Conservatives.
Even if it were the economically sound path to take, cutting corporation tax while refusing to aid families with their soaring energy bills would present the most fatal misjudgement in modern politics. Consider the optics of a prime minister ostensibly dispensing money to millionaires while families choose between heating and eating.
Inheriting such a mess from her own party makes the task ever more difficult for Truss. She must juggle this catalogue of crises, while continuing to make the case that the Conservatives are best placed to lead Britain through the 2020s and beyond. The Tory record is becoming increasingly difficult to defend, so much so that even Tory activists I speak with struggle to uphold the record of the government.
Truss is now Prime Minister, and she deserves the chance to lead. She has been dealt an unenviable in-tray and she bares little blame for many of the issues that now confront us. But at the next election, whether fair or otherwise, Truss will be the poster child for the Conservative party and all the problems it has presided over.
Liz Truss is a formidable character. She has lasted longer in Cabinet than any of her colleagues, that alone must tell you something about her strength. She is a patriot, who loves this country and has the ambition and drive to lead us towards great things. If she can combat the many struggles of our time, she will become a formidable force in British politics. But with a general election only two years from now, she must move mountains to get there.