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Kwarteng sacked: The Tories have lost the right to govern. The UK needs a general election now

If the Conservative Party tries to cling to power, it will drag the country down with it
British Prime Minister Liz Truss speaks in London on 14 October 2022 (AFP)

Four questions she didn’t answer, and then she ran away.

Weak, crumpled, cowardly, broken, humiliated. And, of course, finished.

Speaking as a British citizen, it’s embarrassing to reflect that Liz Truss is our prime minister. A great, historic, lofty position occupied by many great men and women: Gladstone, Lloyd George, Churchill, Thatcher.

During a nine-minute news conference, a hapless Truss proved beyond doubt that she’s not remotely up to the task. 

The Conservative Party knows this, which is why tonight, its most senior figures are trying to find a replacement - and work out how to get rid of her.

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The Conservatives have turned Britain into a global laughing-stock. They have no remaining authority

There’s talk of Rishi Sunak, the former chancellor who warned with devastating accuracy that sterling would collapse and interest rates rise if Truss put her half-baked “growth plan” into operation. Others, believe it or not, are pressing the case for Boris Johnson, the prime minister they evicted three months ago for lying.

This is fantasy politics. Truss has just torn up the central planks of her leadership manifesto, sacked the chancellor she devised them with, sacked the chief secretary to the Treasury she had put in place to enact them - and she did all this in the “national interest”. 

It’s not just Truss who is broken; so, too, is the Conservative Party. It’s riven by hatred and division. 

The Conservatives have turned Britain into a global laughing-stock. They have no remaining authority. The Tory manifesto upon which the 2019 general election was fought has been destroyed. The leader who won that election, Johnson, has been kicked out. Whoever replaces Truss will, like her, lack any popular mandate. 

Mortal crisis

The stark fact is that the Conservatives lack both the public confidence - and even more importantly, the legitimacy - to govern.

That might not matter too much in normal times. But it’s unacceptable, and actually dangerous, as Britain enters its gravest moment of economic, political and constitutional crisis since the 1930s. At such a moment, a proven inadequate like Truss can’t do the job - nor can any other Tory. 

Asked by the normally loyal Daily Telegraph why she should stay on as prime minister, Truss replied that she needed to “see us through the storm we face”. Delusional.

Britain’s ex-chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, is seen in London on 14 October 2022 (AFP)
Britain’s ex-chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, leaves Downing Street in London on 14 October 2022 (AFP)

When asked why she wasn’t resigning as prime minister, she insisted she was staying to ensure economic stability. A very bad joke. And she boasted: “I will always act in the national interest.”

It needs to be spelled out to Truss that acting in the national interest means quitting as prime minister and handing over to someone more capable of doing that job. Since the Tory party has collapsed and proved incapable, that means calling a general election.

This is no longer about party politics. If you are a Tory MP and you know your party cannot rule competently, and that the nation is in mortal crisis, your duty as a patriot is to go to the country - whatever the electoral cost. The only possible reason for the Tories to cling on is self-interest, and to avoid handing power to Labour. That’s contemptible.

The argument for hanging on for two more years of chaos is therefore not just unsustainable; it’s immoral. 

Painful days ahead

There’s a haunting symmetry about today’s politically momentous events.

Forty-six years ago, then-Chancellor Denis Healey made an emergency flight to the International Monetary Fund to negotiate spending cuts and an IMF loan that terminated the Keynesian social democratic consensus that had governed Britain since the end of World War Two - and opened the way to Margaret Thatcher and neoliberalism.

Liz Truss is finished. And so are the Tories
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Today, a humiliated Kwasi Kwarteng flew back early from the IMF to face the sack, so that his tax cuts could be reversed. 

Today thus marks the end of the near half-century experiment with neoliberalism that has guided Britain ever since Thatcher’s election victory in 1979. Britain has entered one of the most serious moments in our national history. Painful days are to come, but the sacking of Kwarteng can bring an end to the nightmare period of financial buffoonery that began on the day he and Truss took office.

Yet, Britain can only begin to rebuild if Truss follows Kwarteng out the door. The Conservatives, if they are the patriotic party they claim to be, must acknowledge what has been obvious for some time: they make the situation much worse by continuing to govern.

If the Conservative Party tries to cling to power, it will drag Britain down with it. 

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye. 

Peter Oborne won best commentary/blogging in both 2022 and 2017, and was also named freelancer of the year in 2016 at the Drum Online Media Awards for articles he wrote for Middle East Eye. He was also named as British Press Awards Columnist of the Year in 2013. He resigned as chief political columnist of the Daily Telegraph in 2015. His latest book is The Fate of Abraham: Why the West is Wrong about Islam, published in May by Simon & Schuster. His previous books include The Triumph of the Political Class, The Rise of Political Lying, Why the West is Wrong about Nuclear Iran and The Assault on Truth: Boris Johnson, Donald Trump and the Emergence of a New Moral Barbarism.
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