Rats in a sack

It’s all going so terribly well isn’t it? Liz Truss is living down to expectations that she would prove to be the next Worst Prime Minister in living memory, and is doing so in spectacular style. It must be clear by now to even the most obtuse “But what about the ferries!” frother that allowing the Conservative Party to choose the Prime Minister from within their own ranks without a General Election or even any input from the wider electorate is a system guaranteed to produce an abysmal Prime Minister who governs in the interests of the faction within the party which elected them without any meaningful consideration of the needs of other factions within their own party never mind the public.

Truss is simply the most blatant example of this she is a symptom of a dysfunctional Westminster system, and it is notable that Labour’s much touted constitutional review does nothing about the House of Commons, the Ground Zero of British political malaise.

According to polling, over 70% of voters now think the Truss has lost control of the economy after a mere 26 days in office, three of which she spent out of the country, and another 14 of which during which government had ceased due to the royal mournathon. It’s all going terribly well.

Today Truss and Kwarteng have been forced to perform a sharp U-turn on their plan to axe the 45p tax rate for top earners. It’s a desperate attempt to head off a growing rebellion on the Tory back benches and to halt the Conservatives’ plummeting polling numbers. Kwarteng might have done a U-turn on the politically toxic tax cut for the wealthiest, but is going ahead with his plan to lift the cap on bankers’ bonuses. However don’t let the Chancellor’s forced U-turn on axing the 45p tax rate for top earners distract us from the £18 billion public service cuts that he’s got planned.

Over the weekend Truss threw her Chancellor under the bus, blaming him for the idea to axe the top rate of tax for highest earners, in turn the Treasury briefed that it was really the idea of Chris Philp, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. This lot give rats in a sack a bad name. If they have no loyalty to one another, you can be quite sure that the interests of the rest of us don’t even register in their peripheral vision. No one is to blame for this disaster of an idea. The official position of the British Government is that a bad boy done it and ran away.

For his part Philp denied it was anything to do with him but announced the frankly insane plan to remove all regulation from any business employing less than 500 people. Which presumably means that it will now be OK for your local takeaway to serve you salmonella and for waste disposal company to dump chemical waste in your street.

Demonstrating that compassionate Conservatism is alive and well, Tory chair Jake Berry insisted that people who can’t pay their bills as a result of his party’s policies should “get higher salaries or higher wages and go out there and get that new job.” Only last month Tories were telling us not to ask for higher wages because it would cause inflation. The Tory solution to poverty is to tell people that it’s their own fault for not being rich. I am waiting for a Tory minister to tell pensioners and disabled people who cannot get higher-paid jobs to die for the public good.

Meanwhile the co-founder of Jacob Rees-Mogg’s investment management company – a Tory donor, of course – has just been been given a peerage and made a minister. They’re not even hiding it anymore, are they? Rees-Mogg is hugely in favour of the government’s plans to expand fracking, maintaining that it should go ahead where there was local support, but adding that areas may be “encouraged to frack” by bribing them with GP surgeries and schools. Let your town be rattled by earthquakes an have its water table polluted while we create environmental destruction and hasten climate catastrophe for a quick buck, or we won’t provide you with healthcare or schools, is a very Tory message.

Just a week ago Douglas Ross, the hapless leader – at least for now – of the Scottish Conservatives described these tax cuts as a bold plan to ‘turbo charge’ the economy and demanded that the Scottish Government matched them, including the cuts on taxes for the wealthiest. However this week Douglas Ross says Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng “made the right decision” to U-turn on a plan to scrap the top rate of tax. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those rich people who were moving out of Scotland last week. Presumably all those rich people who were supposed to be moving south because of the tory Tax cuts will be cancelling their plans this morning.

This U-turn represents an utter humiliation for Douglas Ross and the Scottish Tories, right up until Monday morning they were demanding with a furious and self-righteous zeal that the Scottish Government copy and paste the Chancellor’s UK tax plans in their entirety. This screeching U-turn demonstrates that Douglas Ross isn’t just out the loop as far as British Government decision making is concerned, but the entire Scottish Conservative contingent does not even rank as an afterthought. He and the rest of the Scottish Conservatives have been exposed as a complete irrelevance, even to their own party. Still, I’m sure BBC Scotland’s Glenn Campbell is on his way to doorstep Ross right now.

This U-turn exposes the deep divisions within the Conservative party and demonstrates the real weakness of Truss. The Conservative Party Conference has only shown how divided, corrupted and vindictive the party is.

Most Conservative MPs did not support Truss in the leadership contest, yet far from building bridges with the rest of the party Truss sidelined them and appointed a cabinet of Yes-men and women. The real problem for Truss is that there are a host of Tory former ministers on her back benches, all of whom hate her and who plan to quit parliament at the next election, they will be more than happy to pull her down. The Conservatives can be ruthless when they sniff the blood of a poor leader, and right now Truss has slashed her political carotid artery. Far from delivering a polling boost for the party she has reduced the Conservatives to levels unseen since the months before the Labour landslide of 1997.

We are now assuredly witnessing the end of the Conservatives’ term in office – at least until the English electoral pendulum swings back in their favour, as it most certainly will eventually. The only question is how much damage the rats in a sack can wreak until they are turfed out of office.


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