With the UK’s new prime minister in office, it looks like the political turmoil of the last few months is likely to ease, at least for the time being. Rishi Sunak and his fellow MPs must put their political differences aside to focus on stabilising the economy and calming financial markets. But Sunak will of course have one eye on the next election, which he must call before January 2025.
When Rishi Sunak lost to Liz Truss in the first Conservative Party leadership race of 2022, few were surprised. Many of the people given the chance to choose between the two candidates blamed Sunak for Boris Johnson’s downfall. They also preferred Truss’s “optimistic” economic policies to Sunak’s sombre assessment of the fiscal outlook. Where she promised generous tax arrangements, he argued that economic circumstances would be hard and taxes could not be cut in the short term. Indeed, he warned, they might even have to rise.
As Liz Truss stepped away from the lectern outside No.10 Downing Street after resigning as leader of her party, it probably occurred to her that her time as prime minister will have been only as long as the leadership campaign that got her there.
Phil Tomlinson, University of Bath; Andrew Burlinson, University of East Anglia; Catherine Waddams, University of East Anglia; Donald Hirsch, Loughborough University; Jean-Philippe Serbera, Sheffield Hallam University; Jim Watson, UCL; Jonquil Lowe, The Open University, and Steven McCabe, Birmingham City University
UK chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng has just launched the biggest package of tax cuts in half a century. This will involve around £45bn of reductions for people and businesses by 2027 – 50% more than anticipated before the mini-budget announcement.
Boris Johnson’s time as prime minister comes to an end next week, giving us all a chance to consider what his legacy will be. More than his predecessors, Johnson owed his premiership to his reputed ability to persuade audiences other Conservatives couldn’t, through his charisma, unpredictability and energetic campaigning.
A YouGov poll of party members completed on August 2 shows Rishi Sunak to be trailing Liz Truss 31% to 69% in the Conservative leadership contest. A similar poll completed on July 21 had him on 38% to her 62%. She appears to be winning the contest hands down.
As Boris Johnson barricades himself in Number 10, apparently unwilling or unable to listen to the advice of close party colleagues who are calling on him to resign, how can we understand this bizarre melodrama?
As I watched Johnson’s appearance in front of the House of Commons Liaison Committee on the afternoon before his showdown with key members of his cabinet, I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a deeper malady at play. It was as if an existential disconnect had settled across the comfortingly boring committee room.