Liz Truss was a record-breaker. She had the lowest popularity rating of any British political leader ever. She was the briefest-serving PM in UK history, resigning after just 45 catastrophic days in office. In less time than it takes for a carton of oat milk to go off and half the time it takes to win Big Brother, she crashed the market, tanked the pound and lost two key ministers. Never before has a British politician pulverised their own credibility into oblivion in such a magnificent way. That’s quite a legacy.
“I am a fighter not a quitter,” she said yesterday, just before she quit. It was the same day that YouGov polling found that she was almost as unpopular as disgraced Prince Andrew. According to the data, only 10 per cent of Britons hold a favourable opinion of the exiting prime minister while 80 per cent hold an unfavourable view of her. She quit the very next day, announcing her resignation on Thursday outside Downing Street. “I am resigning as leader of the Conservative Party,” she confirmed in her speech. “There will be a leadership election to be completed within the next week.” That’s two Lizzies gone in two months, although one was much more popular.
Under the UK’s parliamentary system, the Tories are entitled to select a leader without calling a general election. The next one is officially scheduled to be held no later than January 2025. But many are questioning if this is morally acceptable, given the catalogue of errors that has left the party plummeting so badly in the polls.
Labour, the Lib Dems and the SNP have all called for a general election to be called immediately. “The Conservative party has shown it no longer has a mandate to govern,” Labour leader Keir Starmer said in a statement. Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, echoed this sentiment, tweeting that “a general election is now a democratic imperative.”
The voting intention polls (which, of course, can often be wrong) say that if a general election took place now, the Tories would be utterly annihilated. According to a Trades Union Congress poll, Boris would be gone, Jacob Rees-Mogg would be gone, so would Jeremy Hunt. They’d all lose their seats.
Democracy is a nuanced concept, and academics can debate the intricacies of it until the cows come home. What we can agree, however, is that it’s a system of governing that depends on the will of the people.
Neither Truss or her successor will have won a mandate from the people. If the polls are to be believed, we have politicians pushing through policies that nobody voted for, for a party that won an election in 2019 but are, apparently, overwhelmingly no longer wanted in power. Going from unelected leader to unelected leader risks stretching the fabric of democracy to breaking point.
“The Tories cannot respond to their latest shambles by yet again simply clicking their fingers and shuffling the people at the top without the consent of the British people,” Starmer continued in his statement. “They do not have a mandate to put the country through yet another experiment; Britain is not their personal fiefdom to run how they wish.”