I am deeply sorry- on a personal level- for Liz Truss, who has had such a short and turbulent time as PM. No doubt she set off with all the right intentions, but for a whole variety of reasons was simply unable to deliver.
It is only right to acknowledge that the last few months in Government have been shambolic. The demise of Boris (only 4 points behind Labour in the polls- we look back nostalgically), Liz Truss’s election (I was never a supporter) and now demise; the mini -Budget which may or may not have been the best thing for the economy, but which was so badly delivered and explained that it crashed and burned within a week or two, the new Chancellor surgically reversing most of its proposals; the turmoil in the Cabinet and in junior ministerial ranks, the briefings, sackings, resignations; the Parliamentary shambles over the Labour motion on fracking; these and more are matters over which, as a Conservative MP, even one not involved in any of them, I can but say ”Sorry.” It’s been an unedifying sight, and really not a very good way to run a country.
Attention now turns to what we should do about it? It looks as if there will be an immediate election (perhaps a ‘coronation’?) of a new PM. That will be conducted within Parliament, avoiding the unseemly battle we had over the Summer. I will be considering each of the candidates who will now emerge very carefully. Here’s a flavour of what I will be looking for.
We have two years until the General Election (it will not be sooner than that) to re-establish the Conservative reputation by getting a grip and sorting ourselves out. We must be the party of “sound money.” To that end we simply have to ‘balance the books’. What we spend must be no more than what we have earned. If that means unpopular tax rises, a tight grip on inflation, and perhaps cuts in Government spending, then like it or not from an ideological perspective, that is what we must do. Second, we are duty bound to look after those who cannot look after themselves, especially at a time like this of high inflation and rising energy costs over the coming winter. But the ‘safety net’ could well be much closer to the ground, and perhaps better targeted than it has been in recent times. Third, our primary duty is to defend peoples’ safety and security- both overseas with a strong military capability (perhaps counter- subsidised from the Aid Budget), and at home where we need firmness and clarity on policing and immigration amongst so much else.
These, and so many other Government departments need clarity of vision, firmness and pragmatic competence. People look to we Conservatives for straightforward down to earth effectiveness and delivery. Every decision of every Government minister must be sound and sensible; well thought-through and well explained. The people need to be shown that we are competent and able, and if so, they will accept what we say and do.
So I will be looking for a PM who can re-unite the Conservative Party, who will support Jeremy Hunt in his efforts to return to sound money; who will achieve the respect and support of the electorate very probably despite taking some very difficult decisions on a whole variety of topics. I will keep you up to date as my thinking develops.