The United Kingdom used to be known for its stable, reliable, if sometimes boring, way of running things. But Prime Minister Liz Truss’s decision to quit on Thursday, after only six weeks in office, shows how chaotic British politics have become in the past few years.
Since the Brexit vote in 2016, Truss is the fourth prime minister to step down. That is the fastest change in a hundred years. No. 10 Downing Street has become a place where people come and go all the time.
What’s wrong with England? Analysts here say it’s a story of polarisation, populism, a broken political system and bad leadership that has sometimes put party and personal goals ahead of what’s best for the country.
A Huge Mistake in Terms of History
It all started when David Cameron, who used to be Prime Minister, called for a vote on leaving the European Union. Cameron hoped that the vote in 2016 would end a civil war in his own Conservative Party over Britain’s relationship with Europe and keep the party in power.
It was one of the biggest mistakes in history. By a small but clear margin, the British people chose to leave the EU. The result not only showed how divided Britain is, but also changed the country’s economic, trade, and foreign policies. Most political scientists and economists thought that this island nation would become poorer and less important in politics if it left the EU.
It was clear right away that the people who planned the Brexit vote, like Boris Johnson, who was the most effective campaigner, had no real plan for breaking decades of economic and legal ties with the EU. Then there was political chaos.
We delivered on energy bills and on cutting national insurance.
We have continued to stand with Ukraine and to protect our own security.
And we set out a vision for a low tax, high growth economy – that would take advantage of the freedoms of Brexit. pic.twitter.com/fi6rtdBRAf
— Liz Truss (@trussliz) October 20, 2022
After the referendum, Cameron quit as prime minister, and Theresa May took his place. In 2017, she called a snap election, which was another big mistake. Her party lost control of the House of Commons because of this.
May tried many times to get a Brexit deal through parliament, but the anti-European part of her own party, which wanted a clean break with Europe, kept getting in the way. Like her predecessor, Brexit led to the end of May’s time in office.
The party then turned to Johnson, a charismatic showman with a lot of flaws who had won elections in the past. He ran a campaign to “get Brexit done.” In 2019, Johnson led his party to a huge victory. The next year, he got the U.K. out of the EU, and it looked like he would be in charge for a long time.
Then the coronavirus pandemic happened, which Johnson downplayed until he got the virus and ended up in an intensive care unit. Because his government moved slowly to stop COVID, more than 200,000 people died, which was the most in all of Europe, and he got a lot of criticism. But Johnson’s lying put an end to his time as prime minister.
Even though Johnson’s government banned parties to stop the spread of Covid, government employees still had parties. Most Britons, on the other hand, stuck to the rules, even if it meant they couldn’t say goodbye to loved ones who were dying.
Johnson insisted that his government had followed the rules for a lockdown. It turned out that he had been to two events. He had to say he was sorry and pay a fine. Johnson’s political career was over.
Larry Kudlow on Fox Business 9/23/22: “The new British prime minister, Liz Truss, has laid out a terrific supply-side economic growth plan which looks a lot like the basic thrust of Kevin McCarthy’s Commitment to America plan.” pic.twitter.com/SlW349niNx
— MeidasTouch (@MeidasTouch) October 20, 2022
In September, Truss took over for Johnson. He promised to get the economy going again by cutting taxes for corporations and the rich without cutting public spending.
With inflation in the UK at 10% and energy prices going up because of the war in Ukraine, Truss’s plan scared the financial markets, caused the pound to fall and sent mortgage rates skyrocketing.
Tim Bale, a politics professor at London’s Queen Mary University, says that one reason why Tory prime ministers like Johnson and Truss failed is that they made promises they couldn’t keep. For Johnson, it was a cheap and easy Brexit, and for Truss, it was tax cuts that could not be paid for.
Bale, whose new book, The Conservative Party After Brexit, comes out in March says, “It’s a fantasy that many Brits are willing to believe that because of our supposedly glorious past, we’re also entitled to an equally glorious present or future.” “I think politicians continue to feed the myth that we can have Scandinavian levels of welfare on American levels of taxation.”
Patrick Dunleavy, a retired professor of political science and public policy at the London School of Economics, says that problems with the U.K.’s system of government and the way the Conservative Party chooses its leaders have also contributed to the ongoing chaos.
Liz Truss going is not enough.
Austerity must go.
Poverty wages must go.
Foodbank queues must go.
Cold homes in winter must go.
A new suit in Downing Street means nothing to our people.
Fix the society you have broken – or get out of the way.#EnoughIsEnough
— Enough is Enough (@eiecampaign) October 20, 2022
For example, prime ministers can appoint people to very important jobs without having to go through confirmation hearings like you do in the U.S. Senate. Dunleavy says that allowed Truss to choose Kwasi Kwarteng, a little-known political ally, as chancellor of the Exchequer, Britain’s treasury secretary. Friday, Truss fired Kwarteng because the economic plan they worked on together had messed up the markets.
Dunleavy says that another problem is that party leadership is decided not by parliamentarians but by party members, who tend to be whiter, older, and more conservative than the rest of the British population in the case of the Tories.
“They are not very well-informed or critical as an electorate,” says Dunleavy. “So, they’ve chosen badly, really, with Boris Johnson and Liz Truss.”
Follow us only on Lee Daily for more news like this.