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20 October

End this banana republic and call a general election

Britain did not sign up to three prime ministers in three months, a trashed international reputation and a broken economy.

By Martin Fletcher

“I’m a fighter, not a quitter,” Liz Truss declared during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday. That was yesterday. Today she has resigned after just 44 days in No 10, the shortest-serving prime minister in British history. The “human hand grenade” has exploded faster than anyone thought possible.

And so the Conservative Party will begin the process of picking its third leader, and Britain’s third prime minister, of the year – and the fifth in six years. It looks likely to prove a right old bunfight. The incompetent, narcissistic, dishonest Boris Johnson once again? Heaven forbid. Rishi Sunak? Penny Mordaunt? Suella Braverman? Kemi Badenoch? Ben Wallace? Any money on Jacob Rees-Mogg? The latter was only yesterday insisting that “this is a government that’s functioning well”. Who knows in these wild, crazy, untethered times?

Incredibly, it appears that those barmy Tory members who gave us the twin disasters of Johnson and Truss may be offered a say yet again, but there is no candidate behind whom a party that has fractured into myriad feuding factions can possibly unite. 

The upshot is that having been without an effective government for the entire summer as the Conservatives sought to choose between Truss and Sunak, Britain must now suffer a further period of rudderless drift even as it faces the worst economic crisis of modern times, a war in Europe and widespread industrial action. 

This cannot go on. The Tories have surely forfeited any right to be called a serious party of government. Aside from three prime ministers in three months, they’ve given us four chancellors in four months and three home secretaries in two months. They’ve given us double-digit inflation, soaring interest and mortgage rates and a plunging pound. They’ve trashed our international economic credibility and good name. They’ve broken our public services. These self-styled patriots, who brag of “Global Britain” and will not give interviews without the Union flag behind them, have reduced the UK to a banana republic.

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It is crystal clear that a party hijacked by populists has squandered all popular support, all public trust. It stands at barely 20 per cent in most opinion polls, 30 percentage points or more behind Labour. Having been elected by 81,326 hopelessly unrepresentative Conservative Party members, by precisely 0.17 per cent of the British electorate, Truss had only the slimmest of mandates to succeed Johnson and embark on an ill-fated libertarian revolution that bore no resemblance to the Tories’ 2019 general election manifesto. Her successor will have none at all. 

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As Keir Starmer said after Truss’s resignation statement, Britain is not the Tories’ “personal fiefdom to run how they wish”. The British deserved better than this “revolving door of chaos”. After 12 years in power the Conservatives are exhausted, a spent force, utterly lacking in any sense of responsibility, discipline or direction, flailing desperately as they perform one screeching U-turn after another. Far from “taking back control”, they’ve completely lost it.

If they really care about the national interest, if they really want to “deliver on the people’s priorities” as their leaders endlessly profess, they should test the people’s will by calling an immediate general election. There can be little doubt that the electorate would not forget, not forgive. They would choose to get rid of the whole rotten bunch.

[See also: How Boris Johnson comes back]