Sky News says that the resignation speech of Ms Truss lasted ninety seconds. For some it must have seemed like a lifetime, for others it just flew by. By any standard, it was grim. None of her colleagues appeared with her, not even Larry the No 10 mouser showed up. Her attempt at an Apologia was no more than a few sentences and was simply excruciating. Despite the enormous media presence, there was silence when she finished. Not a single question was directed to her back as she re-entered No.10.
Her tenure as Prime Minister, the shortest in the history of the Office, can still be divided into three parts. Protocol, custom and practice meant that she officially became Prime Minister when meeting the Queen on September 6. Forty-eight hours later the Queen was dead. Truss had promised in the course of the Tory leadership campaign that she was going to hit the ground running, but very few expected her to so quickly take out a woman who had managed quite well for 96 years.
One. This chapter of her 44-day stint was almost entirely taken up by an orgy of institutional and ornamental grief for the latest of the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha monarchs to pop their clogs. In the dim past there were John O’ Groats to Land’s End ‘races’, over the 867 miles between the two points. The eleven-day funeral odyssey to Windsor was the closest modern equivalent. It ground on and on, whereas Government ground to a halt.
But it was not uneventful, in the early days of the reign of Elizabeth of Downing Street, her newly-installed Chancellor exhibited peculiar behaviour. Sitting in a pew at the Memorial Service in Westminster Abbey, laughing while making or taking a call on his mobile phone. As a participant on University Challenge in 1995, he became notable for audibly saying ‘fuck’ twice, during the programme. He had now been in office just 12 days, but had been extremely close to Truss for many years.
Two. With the monarch disposed of came the next phase. Four days later the dingbat Kwarteng, stood up in the House of Commons and delivered his mini-budget, which immediately crashed Sterling to a historical low against the Dollar and, had it not been for intervention by the Bank of England ,would have collapsed some of the UK’s biggest pension funds.
In the cacophony of panic and derision that followed, Truss stood by her man for a whole 25 days of incremental hysteria and insanity, until October 14 when she summoned him from an IMF conference in New York and sacked him as soon as he entered British airspace. One undenied version being that he learned of his fate on Twitter.
Three. While her statement on the beheading of the Chancellor, ascribed no blame to him or herself for the financial meltdown he and she had caused, a head was needed and it was not going to be hers. She installed Tory nice-guy Jeremy Hunt former Minister and twice failed candidate for the top job, as Chancellor. She was now holding on by her fingertips, not yet her nails. Hunt’s political soundtrack is essentially lounge-lizard music and his designated role was essentially to glide fragrantly through the Treasury and make soothing noises in the Commons and in backbench caucuses.
By the time Truss stood up at Prime Ministers Questions on Wednesday 19 October, hers and Kwarteng’s mini-budget which had been concocted without reference to any other member of Cabinet, was demolished with but one exception. Hunt had not touched the measure lifting the cap on Banker’s bonuses.
In response to baiting by Starmer, who is by no means ever more than a three-star performer at the Dispatch Box, she lost it completely. Asked whether the “triple-lock” on Pensions would be maintained, she virtually yelled “Yes”. The look on Hunt’s face told it all. Installed as her minder, he had only a day previously declined to give such a guarantee, as had Downing Street. By the time she sat down, she was irretrievably washed up on the rocks.
The Tory party may have been finished with her but she wasn’t finished with it. The decision to oppose the motion on fracking that same evening and the manner in which it was handled, led to riotous behaviour within the inner sanctum of the Members’ Lobby, almost as brutal as Bosworth Field. In seeking to retain the Crown, members of the Cabinet had clearly lost their marbles. Hours later, actually in the middle of the night, Downing Street issued a Statement which ludicrously attempted to ‘clarify’ whether the fracking vote which led to a genuine punch-up, was or was not a ‘confidence vote’.
The flapping of the Men in White Coats now reached a crescendo. The constant flow of gibberish could no longer be tolerated. Into Downing Street in mid-morning on Thursday went the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Tory 1922 Committee, the Chair of the Tory Party, the Men in Dark Suits. and every jobsworth was required to iron out a pathway to replace her, in no more than seven days or even as early as Monday. Once they went in, they were not coming out until she agreed to stand down. She did not jump, she was pushed. At 2.30 in the afternoon, she came, she smiled a little whiningly and she scuttled away.
Graham Brady, Chairman of the 1922 Committee already had the mechanism ready for replacing her by the time he spoke to the media a couple of hours later. The 100-plus number for nomination, squeezes Johnson probably too hard to allow him run. He could conceivably reach that threshold but he is too lazy to do anything other than let the ‘ERG/Bruges Group’ do the heavy lifting for him. He will enjoy basking in the the plaudits of this gruesome mob, but he is in that peculiar Trumpian position: the risk of getting on the ballot and then losing is more than his ego could bear.
Current Westminster wisdom suggests no more than two candidates rather than the possible three provided for by the ad hoc arrangement now in place. Possibly, if enough heads are knocked together and enough threats made, just one name will emerge when nominations close on Monday. Best guess, two names will emerge, Sunak and Mordaunt, both implicitly agreeing to reward the loser with a senior post. Whichever wins, Hunt will not be removed as Chancellor for now,.
Throughout the Michael Foot days as Leader of the Labour Party (and indeed with Neil Kinnock) that party became convulsed with the issue of Trotskyist Entryism. What was not given the attention it deserved, was that the real Monster Raving Loony Party had successfully embedded itself in the Tory party; a process which was more ruthlessly pursued in the Brexit Referendum and the elevation of Johnson. Whomever is announced as the new leader a week from today, the bitter division within the Tory party and the internecine strife, will continue. There is more havoc to come.
Does what the Tory yobbos get up to matter to us? Of course it does. Despite the UK’s departure from the EU, our trade with them remains enormous. The issue of the so-called ‘Northern Protocol’ and societal stability in the North and on this island as a whole, rests delicately for now, in the hands of a political rabble who neither understand nor care about such issues. We have a dog in this race.