Alasdair Galloway of the Sensational Alasdair Galloway Band (SAGB)
Even in this time of uncertainty, there are, I think, two things we can all agree on.
The first is that Liz Truss is unlikely to become one of the UK’s longest serving Prime Ministers. Go she will, but when and how, and who’s next?
The second is that unless or until the polling numbers change markedly there isn’t going to be a General Election before December 2024 (ie for more than 2 years). Anyone who imagines that the Tory Party is going to go to the country when polling suggests something like 500 Labour MPs is delusional. As a Tory MP put it, that wouldn’t be electoral defeat but annihilation. Even if, as some say, the party would welcome time in opposition to regroup, they aren’t going to go for the sort of extermination that polling suggests just now.
Of course, these two questions, while conceptually separate, are inter-related. For instance, who replaces Truss will to some extent be the person expected to turn polling figures around from near extinction to ….well even merely dreadful would be an improvement, wouldn’t it?
First of all, how will the Tory Party rid itself of this utterly incompetent woman, who has done little more than illustrate the Peter Principle (that we all get promoted to our own level of incompetence)?
One way would be to trigger a general election, which would demonstrate mainly that the Tory Party has taken complete leave of its senses, given polls and the above.
Another way would be for there to be some kind of challenge to her leadership. However, the party’s own rules don’t allow for this for at least the first year of her incumbency, something they might not be able to afford. Therefore, it seems eminently possible that their rules could be changed. Again. Particularly if a large number of “colleagues” submit letters of no confidence to the 1922 Committee. The aim, if commentators are correct, would be to select a single candidate and for there to be a “coronation” on the Theresa May model, obviating the need to bother the members Christmas preparations. We’ll come back to that.
Cognate to this is that the men in suits pay Truss a visit and she subsequently resigns for the good of party and country. A variant on this would be mass resignations by her Cabinet, the model that was used to get Boris Johnson out of Downing Street.
Just for the record this, at first sight, doesn’t seem to be what is going on with Braverman. She resigned in the first instance because she had sent a sending an official document from her personal email account, which is a big security no no.
Of course, this begs the question whether Suella is really that dumb to do this by accident. But did she do it deliberately, particularly given the lack of contrition and the use of invective in her resignation letter? Sadly, though, it is easily possible that she is that dumb, so at this point it seems unconnected (tightly) from getting rid of Truss. But …..should there be another “mistake” by another cabinet member then it would be justified to ask what is going on.
So, there are means. The question is whether, as in Julius Caesar, the plotters have the courage to act. There is though little like the possibility of losing their seat to provoke a Tory MP to action.
If the 1922 Committee changes the rules to allow a vote – for instance to allow a vote at any time if letters of no confidence come in from a significant majority of Tory MPs (eg two thirds) – would Truss resist this? Does she have the brass neck to face the plotters down when she has trashed the UK’s reputation for financial probity and taken her own party’s prospects down to levels probably never seen before (and at the same time propelled Labour to unimaginable heights)? Or would she just go quietly? My suspicion is the latter, and if a rule change allowing a challenge were made that she would very quickly decide to spend more time with her family, rather than go through the humiliation of being voted out.
The question then is, who replaces her. In this regard a Yougov poll published yesterday is most helpful (https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/articles-reports/2022/10/18/most-tory-members-say-liz-truss-should-resign). Having made clear that Tory Party members think Truss should go and go now, they turn next to who should replace her. Who do you think that might be? Well, one Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson! Yes, the one who left office only last month! Some 61% of the Tory Party membership want him back (considered very/fairly good).
The problem with this is that while this may be the view – and it’s an important one – of members of the Conservative Party, the question is how many MPs, or indeed how much of the UK electorate is prepared to accept the return to power of a PM who proved last time to be a dissembling liar? How politically is it possible when Labour (and SNP) would have a field day?
We can learn more by going further into the poll. Johnson, for instance has enemies – 35% of Conservative Party members think he would be fairly or very But in that regard, while not good, he does come out better (marginally) than Sunak (36%), Mordaunt (34%), Hunt (40%), Tugenhadt (50%) and don’t even ask about Michael Gove!
So, Johnson is divisive, but no more so than any other potential candidate other than Ben Wallace (21%) but who has less support than Johnson, with much more saying “don’t know”. Moreover, in the previous contest Wallace made pretty clear he didn’t want to be PM.
So, would they try to parachute Johnson back in, when he was booted out less than 7 weeks ago? Somehow, I doubt even the Tory Party has that much “brass neck”. It may be that Boris stands back and allows the party to tie itself in knots selecting someone with significant lack of support.
See above for the runners, but of them all the one with least baggage is Wallace, who doesn’t want it. Sunak would bring with him many supporters (60%), nearly as many as Johnson. So he and Johnson have similar support bases, and Sunak secured the support of more Conservative MPs than Truss did, and if, as seems possible, the membership are kept out of it (eg a “coronation”) then he could be the man, if Johnson stays out of it.
What would be the reaction to Sunak’s appointment? He seems to have been fingered as the man who wielded the knife (at least the first one) on Johnson, and to have been plotting his demise for some time. So, it seems likely there is little love lost between the two.
When Alex Ferguson gave up being manager at Manchester United, Jonathan Wilson forecast that he wouldn’t want to be his successor and that it might take several iterations for the club to find the right man (perhaps they haven’t even yet). Likewise, would you want to replace Johnson? Truss played her hand incredibly badly and is likely to pay the high price of failure, but didn’t have much of a hand in the first place, as the debt tab was close to maxed out.
Noe of that, though rules out destabilising a Sunak administration, particularly if the polling numbers don’t change all that much. Give him a bit of time to hang himself (or achieve nothing), and then BoJo will offer his services, or better still has to be conscripted by a desperate (but grateful) party. As always, the Tory Party’s first instinct is toward power.
Last time Boris was the “Prince from over the water”. This time it’s more likely, it will be as “the Prince just out the nick, but promising to go straight”.
One final thought to those who consider this a bit far-fetched (and maybe it is), Harold Wilson once famously said “a week is a long time in politics” – but its still (at the time of writing) only Wednesday. The Tory Party is in such a state, that the BBC Political Editor is able to call it “dysfunctional” and express the opinion that “the government is not functioning”. In normal times, just one of those would have the Tory Party writing to the BBC asking for this man to be removed from his post. Harder when he is clearly right. We “live in interesting times”.