Britain’s Conservative Party suffers from a talent shortage – POLITICO

James Fitzgerald is a financial journalist and chief reporter at Citywire.

As UK Prime Ministerial candidates Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak struggle to chart a cohesive direction for the country, it has become increasingly clear that the Prime Minister’s cleansing of Tory moderates outgoing Boris Johnson in 2019 left the party suffering from a lack of talent and a vacuum of political ideas.

Johnson’s wild turn to populism just after winning an 80-seat majority marked the beginning of the end for moderate conservative ideals and political platforms.

His cabinet’s lack of experience, and indeed the potential policies put forward by leadership candidates Truss and Sunak, underscores that the government is out of ideas, which doesn’t bode well for the government. country as it enters a period of uncertainty. and a crisis in the cost of living not seen since the end of the Second World War.

Truss and Sunak have spent weeks on their respective campaigns, enthusiastically tossing around policy proposals: tax cuts benefiting the rich, while inflation is in double digits and the poor are suffering the most? Sure. Cut the civil service and attack its “woke” ideology? Why not? It was even recently revealed that the Treasury is considering giving already strained GPs the responsibility of deciding whether people deserve further cost-of-living relief.

The fundamental problem with Truss and Sunak’s politics is that none of this is cohesive or very well thought out, and it is purely targeted at the more than 160,000 Conservative members who are going to decide who becomes the next Prime Minister. This week’s YouGov poll, putting Labor ahead by 15 points, shows that large swaths of the country aren’t exactly convinced these ideas will help them through this crisis.

Foreign Secretary Truss, for example, with her promise of a boom in growth and tax cuts across the board, does not seem to realize – or simply does not care – that these policies will likely lead to a massive inflationary spiral beyond the double-digit price rises the UK is already suffering from. Former Tory Chancellor Nigel Lawson warned that could be the case earlier this month, saying similar policies of former Prime Minister Edward Heath in the 1970s crippled Britain’s economy and put millions of unemployed people.

And while it’s not necessarily surprising that consistent economic policy isn’t the forte of either candidate, it’s just a little shocking considering that Sunak served as Chancellor. for the better part of two years.

What is becoming clear, however, is that the exodus of moderate conservatives in 2019 – due to Johnson’s desire to veer to the right and promote his supporters – has created a vacuum. There are currently very few experienced ministers left in the Cabinet, and particularly in the Treasury.

Ken Clarke, who was Home Secretary from 1992 to 1993 and Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1993 to 1997, retired from the Commons in 2019 after losing the Tory whip, after voting to block a Brexit « without agreement ». Phillip Hammond, former Prime Minister Theresa May’s right-hand man in Number 11, is also gone. So is 2019 leadership hopeful Rory Stewart, the former secretary of state for international development and minister of state at the Department of Justice who spent years in Iraq and Afghanistan with the department. Foreign Affairs. He now spends his days hosting a political podcast. Even Winston Churchill’s grandson and Tory great Nicholas Soames had had enough, walking away from government after clashing with Johnson over Brexit in 2019.

Instead, Truss and Sunak trumpeted Margaret Thatcher as inspiration for their policy ideas, and they even grudgingly accepted some of former Labor Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s recent proposals to fix a broken economy. – like stopping the impending increase in energy price caps.

The only problem with that, however, is that Thatcher was prime minister 30 years ago, when the economy was in a very different state than it is now, and has been dead for 10 years. Meanwhile, Brown was obviously a progressive who wanted to spread money around the country — especially for the less fortunate — which isn’t exactly popular with conservative voters.

Things might have been different had Hammond or Clarke always been present in the back benches, ready to tap Truss and Sunak on the shoulder to provide advice to guide the UK through the current crisis, and to have a word. quiet when their ideas are sweet. But that’s no longer a possibility. It seems like moderate ideas are old news, and coming up with inconsistent policy to appease conservative loyalists is all the rage.

Put simply, the populist policies of the now outgoing Johnson have left the UK in a dangerous place. Frankly, there is no longer anyone in the Conservative Party to make balanced policy proposals, because no one has the experience to do so.

instead, the UK is left with just two candidates for Prime Minister who are tossing ideas against a wall and hoping something will stick – which will only hurt their electoral hopes in 2024 and plunge the country in a more serious crisis.

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