It ought to be astonishing. But it isn’t. Despite everything that has happened since the EU referendum – four prime ministers, seven Chancellors, a crashed currency and an economy in retreat – the Conservatives continue to regard the governance of Britain as their sole preserve.
It doesn’t matter what disasters befall the UK. The Tories must always be in charge. The Labour Party, they tell us, is the Stupid Party, led by woke Marxist extremists, that if allowed to grab hold of the reins of power would take the country relentlessly downhill.
They cannot accept that after 12 years of successive Tory governments, the UK is already at the bottom of the hill.
The country that once ruled a third of the world and stood alone against Hitler has become an international laughing stock.
Yes, Rishi Sunak is a good choice as Tory leader. He may be super-rich and entitled; he may have a recently-expired Green Card tucked away in his wallet and a $6 million house waiting for him in California; and his Indian wife, as a non-dom, may have avoided paying millions in British taxes. But the former Chancellor is intelligent and rational and, best of all, sane. So we must wish him and the UK all the best in the eighteen months or two years remaining until the British public, rather than the Tory Party itself, gets to pass its verdict.
Isn’t that the point, though? Backing us off from the disaster they themselves caused is not the same thing as good government. The Tories’ time is up. We shouldn’t have to wait another two years to send them packing. What the country wants – what it is crying out for – is a general election. Boris Johnson had his chance. He blew it, as did David Cameron, Theresa May and – God help us! – Liz Truss. The most the Tories – more than 70 of whom this weekend wanted Johnson, not Sunak, as prime minister – can do is hang on until the axe finally falls on their disgraceful period in office.
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Keir Starmer may not be an inspirational leader. But he is at least as intelligent and rational as Sunak, with none of his baggage. What he offers Britain is a fresh start and a long-overdue change of course. He and his team deserve to have their case put before the voters.
Sadly, if predictably, the Conservatives are having none of it. By fresh start, they mean yet another chance to prove, against all evidence to the contrary, that they have the ability, and the people, to provide stable and responsible government.
Are they mad? Do they think we haven’t been paying attention these last few years? Do they imagine that the spectacle they have made of the United Kingdom ever since Brexit has somehow passed by unnoticed?
Mark Carney, the former governor of the Bank of England pointed out last week that in 2016, just before the Brexit referendum, the British economy was 90 per cent the size of Germany’s but is now less than 70 per cent as big. He might have added that since Brexit business investment has grown in every one of the G7 nations except the United Kingdom. And that is without mention the collapse of sterling and the increase – deeply worrying for millions – in mortgage rates.
If the Tories had even done half the things they said they would – take the UK out of the EU without serious interruption of trade; build an exciting new network of international trade links; end illegal immigration; rebuild social services and the NHS; secure the Union; redress the imbalance between north and south in England; rebuild the armed forces; most of all, grow the economy. But they didn’t do any of these things. They failed at every turn.
It is, of course, true that global factors have been at play, not least the pandemic and the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Not all Britain’s misfortunes can be laid at the feet of Boris Johnson and his pals. But every other country in Europe has faced the same problems, as have the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. With very few exceptions, they have all in recent years outperformed Britain. The markets now view the British economy through the same lens as they use for Italy and Greece. And just to add insult to injury, the Republic of Ireland is, on a per capita basis, between 40 to 60 per cent richer than its former colonial master.
So, on what basis does the Conservative party claim that its stewardship of the economy gives it the right to yet another term in office? Isn’t the truth that three out of four Tory MPs are concerned with one thing and one thing only – their personal survival?
You don’t have to be a Socialist to vote Labour. You don’t have to embrace strikes and the left-liberal woke agenda. You simply have to believe that anything has to be better than another two years of the manifestly and monumentally incompetent Conservatives.
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