Few people rock Westminster like Boris Johnson. From Brexit to covid and finally his comeuppance on the privileges committee, Johnson’s headline-grabbing antics are a trap for Britain’s commentary class. Still today, the scum of Johnson’s psychodrama sends Westminster into a frenzy: he ruined the government’s understanding of the “good guys,” denounces revolving door watchman ACOBA; His allies such as Jacob Rees-Mogg and Nadine Dorries could now be found in contempt of parliament for labeling the privileges committee a “kangaroo court”.
In the end, Johnson’s decline and fall, complete with an agitated barrage on his successor, once ousted, was as irresistible as his rise. And despite self-imposed exile, Johnson’s parting gift through three by-elections will ensure he remains in the headlines through the summer.
But for all the attention Johnson’s misadventures have drawn in recent weeks, her legacy is likely to be far less electorally significant than that of Rishi Sunak’s immediate predecessor, Liz Truss. This is not to say that Johnson’s soap opera will not harm Sunak, particularly in and around his party, but the former prime minister’s froth of sleaze now masks Truss’s more potent political presence. Tellingly, when it comes to his key lines of attack, Labor’s senior in Truss’s fiscal antics rather than Johnson’s impropriety.
Having overtaken Sunak in the summer, Truss’ central mission in taking the reins of No 10 was simple: no more concessions would be made to fears about public finances or concerns about opinion polls; there would be no more conservatism of apologies and compromise.
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In an attempt to create a new roadmap for post-Brexit Britain, in the form of an unprecedented and exciting set of reforms, then-Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng appeared before Parliament on 23 September 2022 to announce sweeping cuts. of taxes. desperate for trigger britannia after a decade of anemic growth, time was not given for an independent assessment of its economic and fiscal impacts.
Investors were scared. The pound slumped against the dollar, pension funds were on the brink of collapse, mortgage costs soared and government borrowing costs soared. Never before has a tax program been so widely rejected. In the end, the sheer brevity of Truss’s tenure as prime minister was a consequence of the audacity and stubbornness of his tax regime. She began a swift and uneven retreat that continued under Rishi Sunak, her successor after only 49 days.
But what an impact those 49 days had.
When Truss first entered No. 10 as a PM, according to politicalBy the “Poll of Polls” metric, Labor led the Conservatives in the polls by 42 percent to 31. But after the mini-budget had taken its political toll, the distance between the two main parties remained at 30 points. The scandals under Johnson (Patersongate, the Pincher affair and Partygate) had given Labor a useful 10-point lead. But it was Truss who led the way for a Starmer majority.
Today, the Conservatives’ mini-budget poll sanction remains difficult to exorcise. As it is, the difference between the Sunak and Starmer parties is 20 points and it looks set to diverge further as the public digests the news of the interest rate hikes. Under Johnson, conservatives sometimes showed signs of recovery, even amid bouts of psychodramatic mayhem. But after Truss, the party languishes in electoral deadlock.
The recent local elections further demonstrated how the Trussonomics disaster had crushed both the base of the Conservative voter base in central England and the “Red Wall” of former Labor voters absorbed by Boris Johnson in 2019. Indeed, during her brief time at number 10, Truss showed that not only could she not compete with Johnson in terms of her appeal in historically unlikely areas, but she was a major motivator in bringing voters back to Labor. Now, even though Truss is gone, this dynamic persists.
The ‘Tory Mortgage Penalty’
With traders pricing in an interest rate hike of at least 5.75 percent, Keir Starmer and his team talk about Liz Truss as much as possible.
Last Tuesday, during an Urgent Question on Mortgage Market Developments, Shadow Treasury Chief Secretary Pat McFadden said: “Britain’s homeowners continue to suffer thanks to reckless economic gambles by the Conservatives.” referring to the minibudget. In normal times, the independent Bank of England might be expected to bear the brunt of the blame for rate hikes and homeowner woes. But the current market gyrations, the Labor Party attests, are intimately connected to the Trusite implosion of September.
To be sure, the Truss mini-budget remains indelibly linked to panicked markets and rising mortgage rates. In fact, according to Labor’s analysis, homeowners still receive a “conservative mortgage penalty” of an extra £150 each week, or £7,000 a year. The rhetoric reflects the view of some unimpressed financial analysts back in October: “moron risk premium” was the phrase Britain’s exasperated financial class used to quantify Truss’s impact on markets. (One wonders if Labor strategists will be so willing to slap this £7,000 a year figure on the side of a red bus at the next by-election.)
In an opposition debate on Tuesday, Rachel Reeves referred to the “conservative mortgage bomb”, a slightly altered slogan, a total of eight times. Backbenchers also repeated the phrase obediently. Starmer’s team believes they can undermine Sunak’s repair operation with strict messaging discipline, linking the current prime minister’s financial woes to the actions of his fallen predecessor.
It raises the possibility that, ahead of the next election, the Truss mini-budget catastrophe will weigh heavily on voters’ minds as it did last Wednesday and Britain’s exit from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism in the run-up to the elections. 1997 elections.
Black Wednesday, which occurred almost 30 years ago, the day the mini-budget was announced, essentially sealed the fate of the Mayor Government. By unleashing a crisis in the currency and bond markets, he shattered the party’s reputation for economic competence for more than a decade. It now appears that the collapse of Trussonomics will have an equally dire impact on the Conservative Party’s electoral fortunes.
Ultimately, in next year’s general election, I suspect the Johnsonian chaos will reduce rate hikes to something less than crippling. In fact, it has often been said that it is a focus on “The economy, stupid” that wins elections for opposition parties. And here’s Liz Truss and her economic legacy looking set to lose it to conservatives in 2024.
Johnsonian sleaze and the ex-PM’s legacy of lax standards will, of course, be significant in the upcoming election, as Labor highlights the scandals of past and present Conservative PMs. But it is mortgages and financial incompetence that Sir Keir will focus on as Sunak slowly succumbs to Major’s fate.