Much has been made of the Conservatives’ ability to reset the party’s public image with each new leader. This has been fundamental to twelve years of power, and could have led to many more.
But today’s antics have revealed that the Tories have at last run out of immortality. The honeymoon that Boris Johnson and even Theresa May enjoyed never materialised for Liz Truss, and it’s all down to the ironically named mini-budget, which has cleaved through Truss’s political capital, culminating with today’s ramshackle firing and embarrassing press conference.
The way Number 10 are now talking about it, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the budget fell out of the sky with no real author. Kwasi Kwarteng’s departure is clearly meant to cast him as the culprit, but in his final letter he sneakily asserts that it was Liz’s “vision of optimism, growth and change” that provided the policies. All this comes after weeks of collective responsibility where both of the dynamic duo stood by the budget.
And after that, we get the icing on the cake: a humiliating U-turn on corporation tax freeze. Raising the tax to 25% as Rishi put in place does nothing for Truss; the people alienated by the last fortnight of shambles are not going to flock back to her side.
And it does nothing but antagonise loyalists and the membership that put her in Downing Street in the first place after her promises on the campaign trail.
In between questions the Prime Minister anxiously glanced around the room, umming and ahhing, desperately on the lookout for allies and answers. She found neither, and promptly retreated after taking four questions.
At any point in the last two weeks, a crumb of media savviness or strategy might have applied a meagre pressure to the brakes as the car headed towards the edge of the cliff. Unfortunately, Team Truss seems to have taken the rapid decline of the pound as a personal challenge to her approval rating, and is committed to driving it even lower.
As with anything partisan, it’s difficult to tell when something is objectively bad, or just confirmation bias. But the almost unanimous verdict from the political class has for once united the talking heads on one point: The Truss government has misjudged the scenario at every step of the way.
Delivering a budget where millionaires were to pay the same amount of tax as the middle class during a cost of living crisis was clearly going to be unpopular, by Conservative MPs as well as the public. The lady, who clearly is for turning, continues to misjudge the situation. Or perhaps, she is wilfully ignoring it. Sacking Kwasi as a move to make him look somewhat more culpable than her is unlikely to work. They thought up these policies together, and she will not be pulling the wool over the public and MPs’ eyes.
Nonetheless, this is the route we are on, as the Conservative party desperately tries to scramble enough talent to make a function-able government. Again.
Today’s events are confirmation of what has been suspected since the mini-budget first debuted. The Tories’ judgement on the political landscape has been eroded by too many years in power. They have thrown away their last regeneration on an incarnation with no instinct, no popularity, and no clue how to get out of this mess.