5 in a row

The demise of UK politics over the last 12 years.

David  Cameron David Cameron
The present Government gives us the fifth PM in 12 years. However, 12 years in power seem to have exhausted both the Conservatives and public alike. Rather than growing stronger over time they have become weaker. But it’s not just the Conservatives as all political parties represented in Parliament have followed the Conservatives into weakness. It goes further in that all public servants have joined in this demise.

You may have noticed that we have another PM as the last one resigned. The new one is called Rishi Sunak, has been in post 6 weeks and we'll take a look at him later. You may have also noticed that things are not going well for us here in the UK and more on that later too. The outgoing PM Liz Truss had to sack her Chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng. But what did he do? Well he did what she told him to do! He had been in post for 38 days and the turn-around in his fortunes and by implication those of Truss, who served for 49 days, are remarkable.

Theresa  MayTheresa May
So how did all this start? Brexit is not to blame for where we find ourselves and Michel Barnier, the EU’s Chief Brexit negotiator, has gone on record to say so. Even so there is an opportunity for those people who will never accept the Brexit result to gather themselves up for a fight. We have to go back a very long way to get to the start of this trouble, remember we were in what became known as the EU for over 40 years. A brief recap of PMs post referendum shows that David Cameron made no preparation for the result no matter which way it went. As it could only go one of two ways that was stupid. At the time it looked like he simply bunked off early in a hissy fit as he did not get his way. But why did he think he would win? It really does look as if his Government had misread all the signs, and there were many of them, that suggested Leave had the upper hand. Theresa May took no notice of Leave means Leave and with help from Whitehall began to dilute the Leave voters' demands. Why did she do that? In this case it was not just the MPs who had no confidence in democracy but Whitehall too. Boris Johnson just wanted a bit of fun and thought that PM was a role in a theatrical production shown daily on TV. Also he needed the evenings free to write his book on Churchill so did little to help improve the position of the UK. His levelling up agenda is a case in point, all talk and, it would seem, forever stalled being nothing more than a photo opportunity for himself.
Boris  Johnson Boris Johnson

In short all the way through this saga we can see that Government was failing the public. It was failing because so few politicians wanted the public making a decision for them via the Brexit referendum. And following the referendum result these MPs could not come to terms with the shift in the balance of power. Now we come closer to date and Liz Truss, whom we are told was ‘spooked’ by the market reaction to her mini-budget. Now this is odd. The public were asked to vote on Brexit and the then Government was spooked. In the case of Truss the Government acted alone, and was spooked. In both cases the Government seems to be surprised by the outcome of its actions. This is as if the Government is so self obsessed it has lost all understanding of how others see it; very similar to the protesters we see from BLM and various eco-nutter groups, they have no self awareness. The Conservatives are supposed to be the party of sound money so why did the Truss mini-budget cause so much trouble for them?

You would have thought that the Conservatives either instinctively knew about, ‘the markets’, or would have been told by their advisors about potential problems. But no, they just created a policy based upon what they thought was ideal but untested and not fully costed. Alas it was not ideal according to those who had it sprung upon them. Time will tell whether this was a valid response or an over reaction. Post mini-budget fiasco details of how Truss has conducted her life in politics are emerging. Chaotic would describe a lot of it, leading to a better understanding of why Dom Cummings always calls her: ‘ a human hand grenade’. We now see reports that attempts were made to reach Truss to warn her of problems with the mini-budget, however, both Truss and Kwarteng claim no warnings arrived. So could it be the Brexit referendum result set off a chain of events that led to a fragile government lacking in confidence and sound analytical ability. The outcome from this being a form of government that tends to fail rather than succeed?
Liz  Truss Liz Truss

Prior to Truss taking office there was talk about how she would change things. We were told there was a tendency for the UK to be held back by Treasury Orthodoxy. So what is TO? John Redwood has written -

Ever since the Maastricht Treaty the Treasury official advice has been a version of the Treaty controls on EU economies. These were designed for countries in or planning to join the Euro, so they were answering the question how do we get these economies to converge. They were not designed to optimise the growth/inflation outcomes, and usually entailed the target economies running with considerably higher unemployment than countries on different systems. It was only when Covid and lockdown allowed the Euro controllers to undertake large QE schemes creating huge liquidity did the EU abandon the Maastricht criteria, and go for a mixture of much faster inflation and a temporary fall in unemployment from stimulus. The UK followed this with fervour, with an annual debate on progress and full reports to the EU, even though it had no intention of joining the Euro and did not face the same penalties for Treaty breaking on deficits as Euro members did. Out of the EU the Treasury has reformulated these two controls, but they remain similar.

Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak

For here we are all these years on, having left the EU and never been part of the single currency but the concept of TO, although as Redwood says, ‘ reformulated’ remained. It was this that led Truss to develop the mini-budget. It’s also fair to say that she was not alone with a desire to go beyond TO. However, The Maastricht Treaty was signed in 1992 and the present Government has been in power for 12 years. The question must be why have so many PMs put up with this? It all depends on what you want, there are projects and projects, spending and spending. It has been reported that Boris Johnson has clashed with the Treasury over funding for his pet-project ideas. However, the Treasury did see fit to throw money at HS2! Jacob Rees-Mogg has said -

Some of our policies seem designed to ruin industry. I am particularly concerned about steel, where the price of energy is, in normal times, about 60 per cent more than our competitors. We then give subsidies to steel to keep their operations open. The emissions trading scheme makes this worse, as they lose credits if they do not produce loss-making steel, which they cannot sell. This ought to be sorted out, but the Treasury does not seem interested.

We shall never know if the mini-budget would have worked. It has to be said that the Government has been in power for 12 years and has seemed to cope with Treasury Orthodoxy so far.

But time moves on and now Sunak is PM. This means he picks up responsibility for all previous mistakes by Ministers, including himself. In time both Sunak and much of his party may come to regret they waited so long to deal with these mistakes. During the wait the mistakes turned into formidable problems, for example, six of the most pressing things for a PM to deal with would be: Net Zero, the Covid aftermath, the rubber boat invasion, the NHS, Ukraine and the economy. But there is more. It’s doubtful whether Sunak has a clue about matters like cancel culture and identity politics. These soft subjects are subtle in nature but have far-reaching effects. Truss never got a chance to show her attitude to this problem but we have our doubts about how much she knew or cared. We could see Johnson was either out of his depth on this sort of thing or did not care. May was like Cameron above it all. For them it was trivial, not real politics. It’s hard to imagine Sunak doing well here. For cancel culture like similar topics will not respond to his usual trick of throwing large amounts of money around. So how will he make his mark? It really does look like being the manager of decline will be his only option. Going back to our list of six mistakes that then turned into formidable problems, see above. Truss tried and failed to make the economy her, 'special', subject with the mini budget. She wanted, ‘growth’, to be her achievement. How lucky we have been on that score as she also wanted more mass legal immigration to 'power' this!

By contrast Sunak all through the Summer hustings made it clear he had other plans. He wanted to ‘repair’ the economy via taxation so he cannot now hope to make headway on that score. It is hard to equate growing an economy with raising taxes which will take money out of circulation. We should remember that all through the summer Sunak looked weak when in debate with Truss. There must be doubt about both his understanding of his job and his resolve to do it. The Autumn statement has come and gone and, while it did not cause a riot as per Truss, it also looks unable to do much to either enhance the standing of Sunak or help the UK. And so back to ‘the list’, we now look at Net Zero, Covid and Ukraine. As for Net Zero we saw Sunak flip-flop on COP 27, to go or not to go, he was playing second fiddle with this to Johnson, it made him look foolish. Sunak should have stayed at home and let Johnson ‘play’ alone but no he played along with him. So it was clown versus fool. This put both of them in the same patch as Matt Hancock who having failed at politics now tries pantomime. The only real and sensible thing to do with Net Zero is cancel it but Sunak is too weak for that. As for Sunak succeeding in doing something about the invasion of rubber boats the future looks grim. Close on £150 million has been given to France over the years to ‘solve’ this problem. It would be interesting to know how the money was spent as the problem continues to escalate regardless. What we have is a breakdown in our ability to govern ourselves. It goes beyond the current political parties in the House of Commons and their policies. It has been said that it’s time for the Conservatives and Labour to merge there being no practical difference between them!

The UK Government response to Covid is now being reviewed and some of the early conclusions are not good. In short the survival rates of those who caught Covid is at least 99%. The National Audit Office puts the total amount of money spent on Covid at £376 billion, however, the NAO states of this estimate -

Total cost estimate for measures for which government departments are responsible (where data are available).

The point, ‘where data are available’ leaves the whole thing open and suggests the true figure for costs beyond government departments is very much higher. Another point to consider is that this is a Government who would take us to Net Zero although when you look at the cost and complications of this it makes you wonder if they should even try. Virtue signalling and poverty go together if those who would lead us are stupid. On energy security, something that was debated back in the summer, Sunak seems clueless. Germany is demolishing a wind farm to extend an open cast mine, by contrast Sunak shows no sense of urgency or dynamic, perhaps he does not even understand it? To him being able to buy energy as opposed to developing your own supplies from indigenous sources is all it takes. So importing resources the UK has under its feet is sound business!

But it not just Sunak his Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, is equally stupid. For Hunt thinks it’s reasonable to muddle up the failings of the last 12 years of UK Government with other matter Hunt has said people should cut their energy use to stop the UK being 'blackmailed' by people like Russian President Vladimir Putin. Hunt said -

in the end everyone is going to have to take responsibility for their energy bills and consider how to cut their consumption, people need to change their behaviour

So here we go again, Johnson saw the war in Ukraine as an opportunity to advance himself. Similarly Hunt sees it as reasonable for him to talk in terms of Putin being ‘responsible’ for something which is in fact a failing of the UK Government. A Government of which Hunt has been a member and has failed to provide anything like an adequate energy policy. Thus the real responsibility falls to people like Hunt himself, likewise the blackmailing is being done by him upon us! And remember when Hunt back in the summer was on the hustings hoping to be PM he was against austerity and tax rises. But having been elevated to Chancellor by the long gone Truss and now inherited by Sunak he’s gone the other way. He is fully in favour of making things worse via tax rates not seen in 70 years, such hypocrisy!

At the moment MPs are trying to avoid what has been described as: ‘ the indignity of losing their job in public’. Well good luck on that! There is evidence that business insolvency rates are rising. The largesse of the then Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, during Covid has worn off. The cost of energy looks to be the prime factor in small and medium business insolvency. The Government has chosen to support families with their energy bills not business. But has also elected to continue support for HS2 and increase Defence spending. The Government will not doubt try to contain public sector workers pay demands. But we all know that throwing money at the public sector like the NHS is, in the end, what governments do. This is normal government policy. There will be talk of reform to 'improve' the NHS but not much to show for it. All MPs are resposible here, they voted for things that will cause immense hardship across the UK. However, they are unaware of this as they see their role as saving the planet! They cannot imagine that their primary role is serving the public. The public who pay taxes and see the uncontrolled Channel crossings as one of the MPs biggest failures. They are truly disgraceful creatures.