Meet the new Prime Minister, same as the old Prime Minister?

Liz Truss is facing a fight to hang on to her short premiership.

Liz Truss: Meet the new Prime Minister, same as the old Prime Minister Getty Images

We have been here before and it is all too familiar. A Prime Minister soldiers on as all around the Westminster village everyone ask: ‘How long can she survive?’.

If the premierships of Theresa May and Boris Johnson were ended by a long, slow burn of chaos, then that of Liz Truss has simply exploded in her face.

The ‘off the record’ despair of senior Conservatives is delivered in pained tones as the number of ‘on the record’ interviews calling for her to go increases. It looks like Tory MPs will once again deliver a run on a premiership that they helped bring about.

The culture of the parliamentary party can be summed up as elect, depose, elect again, and depose again. They are a group who continually try and save themselves from the folly of their own decisions.

Since that mini budget of Kwasi Kwarteng (remember him?), effective control of the politics has been seized by international markets and the Bank of England.

The one person not in control is the Prime Minister.

She performed several U-turns in a disastrous eight-minute media conference in Downing Street on Friday before appointing Jeremy Hunt as Chancellor. She laid down the life of her Chancellor to save her own bacon in an exercise in self-preservation which was quite simply brazen.

Since becoming Chancellor, Hunt has more or less given interviews saying “I’m in charge”. He tried to soothe the markets yesterday in a round of TV interviews and in an emergency statement this morning which will be repeated in parliament, he buried the last remnants of that mini budget.

Who governs? The markets? Yes, they have rendered meaningless the idea of economic sovereignty.

The central bank? Yes, they will now squeeze inflation out of the system and create mortgage misery for millions with little the government can do.

Jeremy Hunt? Yup, he’s now driving economic policy.

Liz Truss? Absolutely not. She is Prime Minister, but only in name.

Spending cuts are on the way. Income tax cuts have been shelved. Corporation tax will increase and, most controversially of all, the two-year guarantee of universal help with energy bills has been axed with, in all probability, a less generous scheme put in place next April.

The new Chancellor has been decisive and hard-nosed. But if long-term help on energy bills is withdrawn for middle-income households next April, he might just have sounded the death knell for his party’s prospects at the next general election.

From where I sit, it looks too decisive too early. The new policy on energy bills will now open up another avenue of attack from backbenchers who will be horrified they are being asked to defend more targeted help.

Today, the politics here at Westminster will be dominated by the Chancellor, the man calling the shots.

Attention will then turn to the woman who has binned everything she has spent months arguing for, the Prime Minister who promised to hit the ground. At least she has managed that.

Truss has no chance of leading the Tories into the next election. The right-wing intellectuals who warmed to her (dubbed the libertarian jihadists by one MP yesterday) will be dismayed that she has caved into an economic orthodoxy they have come to hate.

She only ever enjoyed the support of about a third of MPs during the leadership contest and fatally made the mistake of elevating mostly friends in an effort to turn government into an echo chamber.

Yes, we have been here before as our national politics is turned into a game of ‘pick a Prime Minister’ by Tory MPs.

A lot will move this week. Stay tuned . . .

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code