Avoid thinking about British Conservative Parliament members.
The UK ruling party thought it was bad with him Boris Johnson scandal Smash their poll numbers and turn what was once called the natural party of government into an exploding clown car.
But after spending a huge amount of energy removing a reluctant Johnson from office this summer, weary MPs say his replacement, Liz Truss – after just 37 days in the job – appears bent on making the bad situation worse.
After its mini-budget — which proposed unfunded tax cuts, massive government borrowing and allowing energy companies to forgo an unexpected tax — caused the pound to collapse and caused all sorts of broader economic chaos, it faces the grim reality of having a leader. It is considered more harmful than Johnson but will be more difficult to replace.
On Friday morning, Truss Finance Minister Kwasi Quarting returned from the United States earlier than expected, fueling speculation that the government is prepared to make a humiliating turn in the tax cuts and that Quarting is at grave risk of losing his job.
“Even if you think she’s horrible, we can’t replace her soon enough,” a former cabinet minister and supporter of Truss told CNN. “I’m not optimistic about the future, but we need to try to move past this and learn from the mistakes.”
Most MPs agree that the errors mentioned were, terrible communications from the government and an attempt to do many things too quickly, without sufficient funding.
“They committed huge spending, and rightly so, to help people with their energy bills, and then immediately started talking about tax cuts,” says one senior conservative. As a result, they “don’t even get credit for spending a lot of money. When you announce a policy like that, you have to roll the field like crazy. Why haven’t they rolled around the field?”
In a meeting with her deputies on Wednesday night, Truss was urged to reverse some elements or in some cases reject the controversial mini-budget Kwarteng presented just three weeks ago.
The government was forced to change one of the most controversial aspects of the mini-budget, lowering the highest tax rate, just over a week after it was announced, although Truss defended the policy just hours before the announcement.
She defended her economic policy, which made the room feel “like an awakening” and “terrifying” according to one of the members of Parliament present.
“No one cared what she said because they didn’t think she could do anything enough to fix the problems she now embodies. However, she managed to make it worse,” said another deputy who was at the meeting.
Truss has defended her government’s policies as the best way to promote growth and investment in the UK economy. She believes that cautious economic orthodoxy has held back growth for years and that tax cuts will lead to a surge in inward investment.
This argument may seem strange to those who have followed Bank of England actions, who had to buy huge amounts of government debt in order to stabilize the markets. The debt-buying program is set to end on Friday, but there is speculation that the program will continue and that the government may turn on its own economic policies.
The misery among the Conservatives has worsened for many, who now feel that losing their seats and the upcoming general election is the most likely outcome.
“Anyone who thinks Truss can unite the party is completely delusional,” says one of the party’s top advisers. An influential former government aide told CNN that even large majority lawmakers are beginning to approach them for professional advice.
While shedding Truss – the Conservatives’ fourth leader in just over six years – seems unlikely in the short term, it is being discussed as a real possibility in the medium term. Minds are currently focused on October 31, when Kwarteng will present a financial plan, showing how he intends to balance the measures announced in the mini-budget.
“Ignoring the crazy optics of doing this on Halloween, if they can provide something coherent that calms the markets I think we have a little bit of breathing space and we can try to shake it off,” a senior Conservative member told CNN.
But if Kwarteng fails to calm the nerves, things could turn very quickly. It is possible that the deputies demanded his dismissal. However, doing so would also be dangerous for Truss, who is so ideologically attached to her chancellor that his dismissal would be a tacit acceptance that she too has failed.
If the chaos continues, MPs will have to make some very difficult choices. They know that the optics of removing Truss soon after taking office won’t look good to voters. The calculations they face is whether another leader can upset the ballot and make electoral prospects less bleak.
There is still time before the next general election, which does not constitutionally need to be held until January 2025. So there is time for the ballot to roll back. The question is when and how can they remove gears. Conservative MPs could try to manipulate party rules and provoke a leadership contest, although it would be very chaotic. And there is no guarantee that a new leader can overturn the two-digit ballot deficit that currently plagues Truss.
When discussing the removal of Truss, it should be noted that MPs did not talk about a new leader who could win the election. This, as almost all agree, is still a long way off. Instead, they are talking about a new leader who can soften the blow and provide as many seats as possible when the elections come.
One Conservative even suggested that a good outcome would be just a new leader changing things up enough that the opposition Labor Party can still win the next election, but be denied a majority. That, in theory, could force a deal with smaller parties that would undermine Labor and possibly lead to another election that the resurgent Conservatives could win.
This may all seem exciting to viewers, since there is plenty of time to improve things.
This is perhaps the best indication of how miserable the Conservative MPs are. Exhausted from the battles of the Brexit years and the painful process of removing Johnson, they are now led by someone they think is getting things wrong but too stubborn to change.
And as things stand, no one in the party seems to have the potential to put in much of a fight — now, or anytime in the near future.