‘The Girl is Mine’, unarguably the weakest track on the biggest-selling album of all-time, was a duet between Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson that enforced suspicions as to the occasionally sappy tendencies of the former and the treacly shortcomings of the latter. Perhaps the key moment in this gooey ballad came towards the end with a toe-curling spoken passage in which Jacko claimed ‘I’m a lover, not a fighter’. Bizarrely, the track was issued as a single ahead of ‘Billie Jean’, a worldwide chart-topper which gave a clearer picture of the jukebox smashes ‘Thriller’ actually contained. But that sick-bucket line, ‘I’m a lover, not a fighter’, returned to my head today when I heard Liz Truss had claimed ‘I’m a fighter, not a quitter’ with an absence of convincing conviction. Yeah, I guess most might think more of Richard Nixon declaring ‘I have never been a quitter’ just before he announced his resignation from the White House – or maybe even his similarly hollow ‘I am not a crook’ declaration the year before; but I thought of Michael Jackson.
Not that the Prime Minister can look forward to her own equivalent of the pop cultural domination Michael Jackson enjoyed in the wake of his 1982 album’s global success; if anything, her career seems set to be as short as La Toya Jackson or one of those other minor members of the Jackson clan that embarked upon ill-advised solo outings. This week has seen Liz Truss’s dwindling power diminished even further by what effectively amounts to a Downing Street coup; the relocation of Remoaner technocrat Jeremy Hunt from the backbenches to Downing Street, who then proceeded to bin the majority of the promises made by his predecessor at No.11 in his ‘courageous’ mini-budget, has reduced the hapless Truss to little more than a redundant figurehead living on borrowed time. A piece in ‘Spiked’ compared Hunt’s inaugural statement as Chancellor to a broadcast by a general who had just installed himself as President of a banana republic, and Truss’s immediate absence from the Commons following Hunt’s takeover, leaving Penny Mordaunt to do a far better job as an eleventh-hour substitute, prompted further questions as to the PM’s ability to govern.
And then, having lost her Chancellor in record time, Truss loses her Home Secretary, with Suella Braverman quitting after 43 days, apparently in disagreement with Truss over that old Tory chestnut, immigration. Kwasi Kwarteng became the shortest-serving Chancellor of the Exchequer whose term in office wasn’t curtailed by death, and Braverman’s brief run at the Home Office is only outdone in the record books by George Nugent-Temple-Grenville, who held the post for four days in December 1783 – and I looked through the list to confirm this; plenty only did the job for a few months, but nobody else in the past 239 years who wasn’t a caretaker has had so short a stint at Braverman. Yes, it’s sadly inevitable: I’m going to have to paraphrase Lady Bracknell, for to lose one Minister may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness. Just over a month in the job and ‘Team Truss’ has already seen two holders of the Four Great Offices of State gone. With each passing day it seems Liz Truss’s position is weakened even further, and one cannot but wonder how much longer she can cling on to what now is merely the illusion of power.
So, the parcel is passed yet again as one unelected PM essentially makes way for another in all-but name; considering the amount of options flying around social media – Sunak installed as PM, Hunt installed as PM, Boris reinstated as PM etc. – it certainly appears the Conservative Party imagines it can simply keep chopping and changing leaders at will without any recourse to the electorate. Six interminable weeks that felt more like six interminable months of a private leadership contest and they’re not happy with the lame duck they selected; well, tough shit. Most of us who aren’t members of the Conservative Party aren’t happy either, but we didn’t have a say. You chose her; you grin and bear it with her. The way things are going, even the drawn-out tedium of a leadership contest seems poised to be sidestepped if the feverish Westminster gossip is to be believed, which makes the current political system feel even more like that of China; should Truss be ousted and replaced by one more PM the country had no say in the choosing of, why don’t the opposition parties get together and table a motion of No Confidence in His Majesty’s Government? Chances are they’d win with a far bigger majority than the solitary vote that swung it for Thatcher’s Tories in 1979. Or maybe they’re just revelling in the chaos and are anticipating things getting worse – all the better for them, of course.
The last time I can recall a Prime Minister being under such pressure from her own Party to walk the plank wasn’t so much Boris barely a few months ago, but Theresa May in 2019; the difference here is that May had been PM for almost three years at that point, whereas Truss has been in the job for little more than a month. Even if one were to go easy on her and regard this phase as ‘teething troubles’, the absolute unmitigated f***-up of a country she’s spectacularly failing to lead makes the desperate need for someone to act decisively even more urgent. Everywhere one turns at the moment, it’s impossible not to conclude we’re trapped in an irreversible decline. From empty supermarket shelves to soaring prices to public sector strikes to the impossibility of securing a GPs appointment to the police standing by and applauding their ideologically-compatible activist pals disrupting daily life to the prospect of a revival of the Three-Day Week’s candlelit suppers – and then look at the utter shower of shit allegedly running the show. People’s spirits may have been broken by lockdown, but how much more can we take of this?
Naturally, these are great days for Sir Keir Starmer. Because we’re lumbered with a depressing choice between two parties to lead us, the abysmal Labour alternative would probably achieve a landslide were a General Election to be called tomorrow. The man who thinks it’s wrong to state the biological fact that only women have cervixes, who took the knee before George Floyd was cold, and who nominated his despicable old sidekick Tom Watson for a peerage – thus rendering the House of Lords an even more disreputable retirement home for crooked freeloaders than it is already – looks set to be Prime Minister as things stand. Chances are we’ll probably have two or three more Tories in No.10 before we actually get to 2024, but the fact Starmer is closing in on Downing Street and it’s less than three years since the Conservative Party won an outstanding majority that gifted them one hell of a platform just shows how impressively the Tories have squandered their gains of 2019. Boris was given a mandate by the electorate; but Boris is gone now, and that mandate has gone with him.
It goes without saying that it’s not easy attempting to write a post on this subject and get it to you before more shit hits the fan and everything I’ve written is already out of date. News of Suella Braverman’s resignation broke when I was about four paragraphs in, forcing me to backtrack and insert a fresh paragraph including the news. As I write this final paragraph, I see a vote is to be taken this evening on the Government’s energy policy, with a specific reference to reintroducing fracking; from what I can gather, many Tory MPs face losing the whip if they carry out their intentions to vote against the PM’s wishes; and if they lose the whip, their letters to the 1922 Committee demanding the PM’s removal will be rendered null and void, thus giving Truss breathing space. But it’ll still only be a brief pause before what looks like an inevitable exit. Who knows? Maybe by the time you read this, she’ll be gone anyway. A General Election won’t solve all our problems, if any; but if there’s to be another change at the top, the electorate have to decide, not the Tory backbenches.
© The Editor