Currently, the new Prime Minister, Liz Truss, faces the biggest challenges of any UK Prime Minister in recent history. Newly elected by the Conservative Party Membership after an overlong, damaging, bruising, and divisive leadership campaign, Liz has not had the best of starts.
Her mini-budget landed badly, despite the vast majority of its individual proposals, such as the cancellation of the National Insurance increases, cancellation of the planned Corporation Tax increase, and the Energy Price Freeze being overwhelmingly popular.
Seldom has so much taxpayer money been spent to result in such a dire public response. The resultant opinion polls have understandably shaken the confidence and resolve of many of my Conservative colleagues. The messaging around the mini-budget was poor, and the narrative was overtaken and highjacked by media coverage of the ‘Markets response.’
With the benefit of hindsight, not providing an Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) report on the proposals was a mistake, and announcing that there would be more such tax cuts, which the markets considered to be unfunded and unaffordable, to come was also a misjudgment. As Mrs. Thatcher said herself, ” you can’t beat the market.”
However, the response of some of my colleagues, that this all means that Liz Truss and her top team have to be removed immediately shows a massive miscalculation of the current national and international situation. The one that dwarfs even the Government’s own mishandling of the mini-budget, which colleagues are complaining about.
Our country and our new Prime Minister face massive domestic and international challenges, the like of which we have not seen for many decades. At home, the cost of living crisis brought on by inflation rates not seen for 30 years is acute, the threat of essential workers striking over pay, the threat to US energy supplies this Winter.
Internationally, the ongoing war in Ukraine, although turning in Ukrainian favor, is now entering its most dangerous phase as an increasingly cornered Putin becomes ever more aggressive and desperate. Also, the supply chain issues caused by the pandemic are still concerning.
The thought that the governing Conservative party could indulge in another 6 or 8 weeks of a leadership election at this time, given the political backdrop I have just outlined, is pure fantasy. However, it appears some of my colleagues are keen to indulge. The calls for a General Election would be deafening and almost irresistible if we did so.
These are indeed challenging times, but we must put our country and its interests first. There are legitimate criticisms that should be raised privately with our new leader and her team, but now is not the time or the place for another round of public infighting between the Conservatives. The electorate would quite rightly never forgive us.
Now is the time for all Conservatives to take a deep breath. Otherwise, the only winners will be President Putin and Keir Starmer.
MP Andrew Bridgen is the Member of Parliament for North West Leicestershire. MP Andrew Bridgen campaigned for Rishi Sunak at the recent Conservative leadership election.
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