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.
Having seen her government’s popularity plummet just weeks after taking office, British prime minister Liz Truss has sacked her chancellor of the exchequer, Kwasi Kwarteng in a bid to save herself. Kwarteng, widely seen as Truss’s right-hand man, was rushed back to London from New York for the occasion, where he had been meeting with IMF officials on Thursday evening.
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.