Wheels Come Off for Tories. Update: Truss Resigns

British political horse racing is over my pay grade. However, the Tories themselves are broadcasting what an utter shitstorm the Truss government has become. It isn’t just that it will be a miracle if Truss survives this week. It’s that there’s no Conservative remotely credible in the wings, even before factoring in that the UK desperately needs real leadership, something sorely in absence across the entire West.

Without going into a blow-by-blow, Tuesday featured the ouster of Home Secretary Suella Braverman on trumped up grounds, and a shambolic vote on fracking where MPs were accused of roughing up voters in the “No” queue.

Some of the byplay:

And from across the Channel:

The BBC has a live blog on the Truss death watch. AM updates include at least 13 Conservative MPs calling for her to resign and Keir Starmer giving a preview of his call for a general election.

It appears the low bar the Tories are trying to meet is to oust Truss and replace her with someone who might enable them to limp through the next two years to the next general election (under the Fixed Term Parliament Act, it’s much harder to force a general election than in the past). But who is there to rally behind? The twice-rejected and therefore presumed dead Rishi Sunak? Penny Mourdaunt? Jeremy Hunt? Or God forbid, the return of Boris Johnson?

Back in during the 1970s stagflation, the US was deemed ungovernable by some because unions and workers generally allegedly had too much power. Some manufacturing plants were held up as examples, where employees supposedly showed up drunk if at all and regularly defied management. Yet ironically, one of the poster children of this sort of operation was put by GM in a joint venture with Toyota as NUMMI under Toyota management, and Toyota bought it to above Toyota averages for the level of output and product quality. So was the root problem really uppity labor or sclerotic, disconnected management?

We’ve now had roughly 30 years of rule by generalist elites who not only take perilous little interest in details but have a tendency to treat the presumed lower orders who worry about them with quiet contempt. So the UK has hollowed out one of its proud institutions, the NHS, to advance private profits and inequality, and then find it buckling under a pandemic. But any consideration of reversing course?

And more immediately, the UK is in the midst of an inflation/shortages crisis. The famed deficit-blowing mini-budget’s big spending item was two years of energy price subsidies. The officialdom has now determined the most the UK can afford is through April. How many households will default due to the one-two punch of housing and energy costs come mid next year? And how will the UK banking system fare with banks already seeing business failures (if nothing else, all those pub closures?)

So the West has become ungovernable. It has managed to breed out anyone who might be capable of and interested in making the wheels and gears of the system run better. Its soi-disant leaders hollowed out their own jobs, confident that those oh-so-capable private sector types would do what was best for everyone by acting in their own interest. But greed is seldom good for anyone, even the perps, although the trappings are mighty pretty.

Andrei Martyanov’s critique, as recounted at American Affairs by one-time Naked Capitalism writer Phillip Pilkington, captures some key elements of the US pathology, which it has successfully exported to the UK and Europe:

Martyanov’s economic analysis may reflect his Soviet materialist education, but ultimately, he views America’s core problem as being a crisis of leadership. He traces this problem back to the election of Bill Clinton in 1993. Martyanov argues that Clinton represented a new type of American leader: an extreme meritocrat. These new meritocrats believed their personal capacities gave them the ability to do anything imaginable. This megalomaniacal tendency, Martyanov observes, has been latent in the American project since the founding. “Everything American,” he writes, “must be the largest, the fastest, the most efficient or, in general, simply the best.” Yet this character trait has not dominated the personality of either the American people or their leaders, he says. Rather, the Ameri­can people remain today “very nice folks” that “are generally patriotic and have common sense and a good sense of humour.” Yet in recent times, he argues, something has happened in American elite circles that has let the more grandiose and delusional side of the American psyche run amok, and this has happened at the very time when America is most in need of good leadership.

Martyanov believes that America’s extreme meritocrats vastly over­estimate their capabilities. This is because, rather than focusing on the strengths and weaknesses of the country they rule, they have been taught since birth to focus on themselves. They believe that they just need to maximize their own personal accomplishments and the good of the country will emerge as if by magic. This has led inevitably to the rise of what Martyanov characterizes as a classic oligarchy. Such an oligarchy, he argues, purports to be meritocratic but is actually the opposite. A proper meritocracy allows the best and the brightest to climb up its ranks. But an oligarchy with a meritocratic veneer simply allows those who best play the game to rise. Thus, the meritocratic claims become circular: you climb the ladder because you play the game; the game is meritocratic because those who play it are by definition the best and the brightest. Effectively, for Martyanov, the American elite does not select for intelligence and wisdom, but rather for self-assured­ness and self-interestedness.

This creates an echo chamber in the halls of power. The elite incentive structure does not allow for self-correction when error is detected. Rather, when mistakes are made, they are ignored and forgot­ten.

Back to the UK’s political and underlying crises. I trust UK readers will weigh in on the events of the day, since they look likely to be busy, as well as “Whither Tories?” and whether there is much hope of the country pulling itself out of its current nose dive and what measures might alleviate the situation. Not that the US is on a much different trajectory, mind you. It’s just that being big, well endowed with natural resources, and still somewhat rich means it takes pathologies longer to play out.

Update 9:00 AM. Truss has resigned. Sorry be brief but this is after my pumpkin hour. Summary from BBC. Note Jeremy Hunt has already said he will not stand for PM.

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  1. PlutoniumKun

    It is both hilarious and fascinating. It would of course be grand entertainment if it didn’t mean that a lot of people are going to suffer for this.

    The Tory party has regularly in the past resembled I, Claudius in its occasional moments of fratricidal madness. But there does seem something particularly bad about this moment.

    A key element I think is that the extreme Libertarian/Brexiteer wing has suddenly found itself a party within a party without a purpose. Even though they were always a minority, every Tory with ambition had to at least humour them if they wanted to climb the greasy pole. But as their project collapses around their ears all the other interlinked personality based or ideological factions are breaking up and its every man/woman for themselves. One key element is that because no one faction is dominating, it makes more sense for them to keep Truss in power and instead use her weakness to grab a seat at the table – as Sharps just did in his mini-coup to get himself the Home Office. Every small faction is doing the same thing – those with ambitions for the PM know that they will probably not win the crown if they wield the knife, so its all descended into chaos.

    To build up on Pilkington/Martyonevs model, I don’t think it matters if the leaders are narcissistic idiots if the overall system has some element of meritocracy. In the past, in the US and UK, there were countervailing internal forces that could steady the ship. But in the UK its clear that the civil service as a whole is a shadow of its former self and unable to keep everything steady while Ministers busy themselves with daily Red Wedding slaughters.

    And of course their beloved free market is doing its own thing, and its not favourable for the baseline UK economy.

    1. Basil Pesto

      It is both hilarious and fascinating.

      To that end, I hope this all at least inspires another series of The Thick Of It.

      Incidentally, some wag posted this on twitter the other day which I enjoyed immensely (partly because I’d been trying to track down this clip from Death of Stalin for ages). It’s a few days old but still very much germane.

      As fred below describes, the problems are beyond party politics, and the rot is deep, though I’ve given up on guessing how this all “ends”.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        I think current events has killed British political satire stone dead. How can you top this reality?

        1. Basil Pesto

          I actually posted that clip before I saw Truss had resigned, but it works even better now!

          As you say, if BoJo comes back, you’re right, it would be so sublimely, tragically funny as to make satire redundant

        2. ChrisPacific

          I think the main difference at this point is that the jokes are better in satire. I was watching a video (linked from NC I think) of a reporter summarizing the various Tory opinions of Liz Truss. It was just a stream of invective and cliched metaphors. A lot of them were clearly trying to be witty, but they all failed miserably. Every quote was anonymous, so perhaps they knew it. The spectacle of the reporter reading them all out in a BBC accent with a sober expression was considerably funnier than any of the quotes themselves.

          Johnson may have been awful in almost every respect, but at least he knew how to deliver a punchline.

    2. Tom Bradford

      I think ‘I, Claudius’ is a good parallel. Once upon a time, and constitutionally, the office of Prime Minister was primus inter pares – first among equals. His – and it was always ‘his’ in those days* – job was essentially administrative, to appoint and oversee the Ministers to get the government’s mandated policy effected, with a fall-back responsibility to deal with the unexpected.

      Gradually, tho’, but on an increasing trajectory, Prime Ministers have adopted Imperial pretensions – that the Government is his or her tool to effect their ideas. Truss exemplified what I hope was the zenith of that trajectory when she stood up at the Dispatch Box and announced ‘her vision’ of what Britain should be and how she, personally, intended to implement it. Any pretence of carrying out a mandate agreed by a majority at a General Election, any nod to effecting what the people might want in the current circumstances, had far too obviously become just a screwed up and discarded wrapper at the road-site. She wan’t the first, but she did it badly and inappropriately and so the Emperor’s new clothes were revealed.

      Although I’ve been long absent from the UK the contacts I still have there as well as the community on the Net makes me think that the source of the deep, perhaps still inchoate anger in society now directed at Truss and the Tories that enabled her is a recognition and rejection of this totally unjustified adoption of the Purple by Truss and her ilk.

      Perhaps, just perhaps, MPs might learn the lesson, but I won’t hold my breath.

      *I’d suggest Thatcher – who after all wasn’t one of the boys – lit the fuse on this.

  2. paul

    I would be tempted to use the term; horrific.

    It is the degradation of office holders, who have little qualities beyond stubborn greed, that have destroyed the systemic stabilisers.

    The fact that Therese Coffey found enough voters to assume power makes me unwell.

  3. fred

    Anyone still bleating ‘Tories bad – Labour good’ is going to be in for a shock once Blair Starmmer takes up his anointed position, make no mistake, this is what all this is about (yes the Tories are shit, but that’s nothing new).
    The way is being cleared for Starmmer (and his ACPO handlers) to take power. Not that the guy has a clue what to do when he gets there; his job was only to make sure a left alternative was off the table for the UK.

    Just ask Ian Tomlinson’s family, any of the undercover cops he covered for or anyone in the LP who ‘Sir Kier’ is – the answer is not prity.

    We are so f*cked.

    1. Cristobal

      Starmer is a spook. Simple as that. Wish there was a chance for a Corbyn comeback, but probably not (but then we thought that Brexit was impossible)

      1. crantok

        Is there a PR agency who could get “The Labour Files” to go viral? Anyone watching that should get pretty bloody angry about today’s labor party.

    2. eg

      Starmer’s function as “leader” of UK Labour is to continue in the tradition of Tony Blair to act as the pawl in the Tory ratchet ensuring that policy can only ever tighten rightwards.

      Working people in the UK have nowhere to turn. Everything is going according to plan.

  4. Stephen

    I am not keeping up with the day to day disintegration. It is “noise” amidst the general doom.

    I think there is something in Andrei Martyanov’s comment. The so called political elite seems to have lost all sense of practicality and expertise. But so has most of the wider corporate and public sector “elite” too. It really is all about how to make money for themselves while pretending to be morally virtuous. The fact that “conflict of interest” seems to have been lost as a concept sums it up when civil servants seamlessly move into consulting type roles to help various capitalists sell to government. I do not believe this is a free markets doctrine either: the growth of the corporatist state and regulation has helped big business get even bigger and encouraged monopolies. Has very little to do with what one would traditionally see as a free market. It is a rigged market where political contacts, lobbying and graft count above all else. Climate change virtue signaling is a great example of this at work: just check out Linked In to see how many elite careers it justifies.

    Labour has been no better here than the Tories. Blair strongly pushed a privatization agenda in the NHS, for example. Anyone who knows the story of the Department of Health Commercial Directorate in the early 00s and its recruitment of very non traditional (and deeply controversial) leaders with a “deal making” background will be aware of what happened in that respect.

    So we have “leaders” in all sectors who are deeply into lining their own pockets, but who at the same time are full of themselves that they possess deep moral virtue and capability but who in reality do not have any empathy with the concerns of “ordinary” people. Brexit (for better or for worse) was a reaction to this mentality by people who felt left behind, just as Trump (also for better or worse was) and the Gilets Jaunes in France were too. Ultimately, although the personal bile that politicians direct at each other is far worse than it was a generation ago, there is no deep ideological difference between most of them. Starmer is simply another technocratic globalist, Truss is really the same but just not very good at it. They fight each other over incremental items but on the really big ticket stuff the electorate gets no choice. Corbyn was different but was destroyed.

    Even now, none of them want to confront the reality that their own self destructive sanctions regime is the elephant in the room that is driving the deficit (via the energy subsidy) and fueling the supply shortages plus consequent inflation. Nor do any of them have a plan to unravel the mess that they have created. Many will point to Brexit, as Delors does but in the scheme of all of this it feels a contributor to the mayhem at most. Not the root cause. Evidence for it being the root cause would be useful if people think it is.

    Maybe though a society just gets the leaders it deserves.

    As a final thought: this drama does play into the hands of Nicola Sturgeon. I support Scottish independence (although I am English) but her vision for it feels as globalist as the rest of the UK political class. It simply enables career opportunities and graft for Edinburgh and then Brussels based politicians rather than Westminster based ones.

    1. paul

      Maybe though a society just gets the leaders it deserves.

      An awful amount of money and effort goes against any of us getting the leaders we deserve.

      As for ms sturgeon
      How does it play into her hands?
      Especially as she has spent every available minute sitting on them.

      She and her husband have no interest in anything but the status quo.

      1. Stephen

        If she really wants independence then it does by showing what a mess Westminster is.

        If she is really just keen to make noise and not go for it then I guess it does not.

        I have always assumed that she wants what she says she wants but I do not study her closely.

        The Scots I know cannot stand her and tell stories about her that make one’s hair stand on end, so I do wonder how she gets elected though.

        1. Jams O'Donnell

          Sturgeon has been bought and sold. She is no more interested in independence than shark fishing in the Seychelles. She and her husband just want the privileges they have gained, and to hell with everyone else.

    2. fresno dan

      I agree
      (from the post) Martyanov’s economic analysis may reflect his Soviet materialist education, but ultimately, he views America’s core problem as being a crisis of leadership.
      Yet in recent times, he argues, something has happened in American elite circles that has let the more grandiose and delusional side of the American psyche run amok, and this has happened at the very time when America is most in need of good leadership.

      A proper meritocracy allows the best and the brightest to climb up its ranks. But an oligarchy with a meritocratic veneer simply allows those who best play the game to rise. Thus, the meritocratic claims become circular: you climb the ladder because you play the game; the game is meritocratic because those who play it are by definition the best and the brightest. Effectively, for Martyanov, the American elite does not select for intelligence and wisdom, but rather for self-assured­ness and self-interestedness.
      Just as an example, I read about how long it takes to process rape kits. It takes months and sometimes years. Now this is something government does, and how fast and well it does it is simply a function of political will. Yet somehow, despite the incessant yammering about “law and order” it doesn’t seem to improve.* It is a good example of crime being an issue, but precious little actual policies being implemented. All our politics seem to be sturm und drang but no actual addressing what government has to do.

      *apparently in Chicago this had become an issue and vast improvements have been made.

      1. polar donkey

        Touching upon rape kits and delusion, here in Memphis the lack of rape kit processing and poor/corrupt policing allowed a rapist who should have been arrested a year ago to stay on the streets. Because the woman was black, cops didn’t care she was raped. Fast forward to a couple months ago, a white heiress to a multi-billion dollar fortune is running at 430 am. Rapist attacks and kidnaps her. Massive manhunt. Find heiress’ body and the suspect. Immediately test the rape kit and get results back in 12- 18 hours. People were angered when they found out the guy had been a known suspect in a rape a year before but never followed up. The mayor defends the police.
        Now 2 months later, the state of Tennessee has a large budget surplus. Memphis has asked the state for $350 million in cash to give the professional basketball team to rebuild their sports arena (to make more luxury boxes and reduce cheap seats) and another $300 million to build a soccer stadium, a sports complex, and upgrade the football and baseball stadiums. Citizens were kind of dumbfounded. Our city has broken water system in a little better shape than Jackson Mississippi’s, our electrical grid is constantly falling during every thunderstorm, and social cohesion is collapsing. Aside from local elites, no one asked for any of this and the vast majority of the population would just like basics fixed at this point. Or as one person commented, “$650 million will test a lot of rape kits.”
        These meritocrats are just as Martyanov describes, whether it is at the local level or national/international level. Grifters convincing themselves they are “good” people while their societies fall apart.

        1. fresno dan

          The mayor defends the police.
          my point about the political culture exactly – talking about more, more, MORE police, gets you further than pointing out the police have to do actual competent efficient effective policing…and assuring that police (and the politicians over them) that do not are fired.
          Who was disciplined, demoted, fired, or prosecuted for maladroit administration for simply not doing an obvious part of the job? of course not

  5. Tom Pfotzer

    To all our friends in the U.K. and E.U. : We’re in the same boat you are. And not lovin’ it.

    Best wishes from U.S. citizens.

    1. OIFVet

      Will there be a Western Chinua Achebe to write the Western version of ‘Things Fall Apart?’ It feels like the West is falling apart internally and that the gloom, while gathering strength, can’t quite keep up with the events. I find Martyanov’s take very interesting because it does fit with my belief that the West inflicted all of this upon itself by the sheer arrogance and stupidity of its ruling class. Take Germany, for example, where Scholz and the Greens are doing their level best to destroy German economy and the EU economy along with it. It’s hard to watch what is happening and know that it is not a nightmare, that crazy things are happening because crazy people are in charge. It’s madness.

      1. Novus

        It’s beyond madness!

        The West is run by EISI fools who live in a parallel universe.

        EISI : Exceptional, Infallible, Superior & Indispensable!!!

      2. c_heale

        Achebe’s novel was about the arrival of colonialism in Nigeria. The colonialists were energy rich (coal) and the Nigerians energy poor.

        The current fall of the West is driven by a reduction in energy available to the West, a process which they have caused themselves by overuse of available energy sources (oil in the main) and more immediately by the sanctions against Russia.

        1. OIFVet

          My point is that the arrival of a colonizing specie of technocrats/meritocrats/identitarians, call them what you will, as our new rulers has brought about this situation in the West where things really do appear to be falling apart. They do appear to be alien to regular people and they don’t give a rat’s rear end about regular people. Speaking from my perch in the hinterlands of the EU von der Leyer, Scholz, Macron, and company are an alien other and their policies are making lives miserable continentwide.

      3. Eric Blair Kagwa

        “No longer at Ease” may be more apposite. Basically corruption and how it warps duty to self, family, community, tribe/nation, state, etc. Then of course the handmaiden of corruption – incompetence – which is what is unfolding live. Satire writes itself.

  6. jackiebass63

    You reap what you sow. They elected these people so now they have to live with their decision.It amuses me how the promise of lower taxes get people to vote against their personal interest.An important thing people seem to not realize is taxes pay for services.Lowering taxes will result in reducing services.If people want services then taxes are needed to pay for them. The real issue is how pays the taxes.

    1. Michaelmas

      You reap what you sow. They elected these people so now they have to live with their decision.

      You’re promulgating a falsehood — a lie. ‘They’ — the UK’s public — explicitly ‘ did not elect these people.

      In 2019, the Tories got back in — and, critically, gained from Labour a large number of former ‘red wall’ working-class constituencies — on the basis of Boris Johnson’s promises to: –

      [1] Deliver Brexit;

      [2] “Level up,” which meant increased government spending on communities outside London, and especially up North.

      There was no banging on about ‘tax cuts’ and Johnson had enough sense to explicitly acknowledge to those ‘red wall’ voters that they were people who in their former lives would never have contemplated voting Tory. As we know, Brexit was done — and for the first time in forty years working-class wages are rising and nationwide industrial strike actions are again plausible — and government spending was increased, to the extent that there was wailing and gnashing of teeth from the Labour party that Johnson’s Tories were ‘stealing’ Labour policies by spending as they were.

      In 2022, those same ‘red wall’ constituencies — and the MPs who represented them — now had foisted on them in Liz Truss (and Kwarteng) precisely the extreme Thatcherite policies (or Thatcherite cosplay) of ‘free market’ handouts to the rich and austerity for the rest that was the reason they’d never previously voted Tory and wouldn’t have voted thysly in 2019.

      The UK’s population explicitly did not elect Truss. It was the Conservative party’s 160,000 dues-paying party members, and beyond them Truss had no mandate from anybody to support any of her idiot policies.

      Which is why she’s now gone.


      1. Oh

        I don’t see any difference between the voters electing the Tories (i.e. Boris Johnson) and electing Truss. It’s much like the US voters electing democrats vs. Republicans. It’s only fair to blame the voters when they believe election ads and promises.

        1. ambrit

          That’s a bit disingenuous. It’s a lot like blaming the lab rats for succumbing to the pathogen involved in the experiment. As someone recently quoted him, Stalin is supposed to have said: “I don’t care who the people vote for al long as I get to chose the candidates.”

          1. Cas

            Perhaps you are thinking of Boss Tweed?
            “I don’t care who does the electing, as long as I get to do the nominating.”
            Or one can say selecting the candidates as a way to control the govt (and thus the nation) is a truism of politics regardless of country.

            1. ambrit

              Ah, good old Boss Tweed. As his Tammany Hall associate G W Plunkitt said of it: “That’s honest graft.” Like how Nancy and Company are profiting off of foreknowledge of Federal actions.
              As for the question of Stalin or Tweed getting the credit, well, “great” minds do think alike.
              Stay safe! Adopt a low profile. (It will be an optimal survival strategy.)

          1. Carla

            Sometimes the choices aren’t even rigged. I’m thinking of certain instances at the very local level. Nevertheless, incompetents are elected because more competent people won’t be bothered to stand for election.

            We tend to forget that in order to elect good people, good people have to be convinced to run. Everybody thinks someone else will do it, and when nobody decently suited to the job does, we wind up with unqualified oafs and worse.

        2. Revenant

          I think you are missing the crucial point that BoJo was elected by a national vote and Truss elected by the equivalent of a Dem/Repub primary.

  7. SocalJimObjects

    The UK just needs to hold on till Zelensky relocates to London. I might be wrong on this, but I think one does not have to be born on the British Isles to be PM, after all Boris Johnson was born in New York. Zelensky has got a British passport and I can’t think of a better person to complete the UK’s full turn to fascism than Z. So one has to first be a Member of Parliament to be PM? I am sure that can be arranged for someone of Z’s caliber.

    Ridiculous? Well have you seen the state of the UK? Zelensky can play the role of young Winston Churchill, screaming “we shall fight on the beaches” against the Russian “threat” from the Westminster pulpit. Perfection.

    1. Novus

      I think the monarch has the power to select some Lords/MPs…

      Conrad Black (Canadian) became UK Lord by decree. He only had to renounce his Canadian citizenship.

      1. Revenant

        I don’t think Black had to cease being Canadian, it is a commonwealth territory. I think he ceased to be Canadian for other reaaons. Tax? Media law? Actively participating in government / state security, rather than legislature?

        1. Novus

          That’s not the way the Commonwealth works,
          unless they’ve just changed it. At the time, the UK didn’t allow dual-citizenship.
          If I (Canadian) want to work/immigrate in the UK, NZ, Australia, I still have go through the immigration process like other immigrants.

          If it worked the way you think, Conrad Black would have come back to Canada after his Jail term in the US where he was extradited as British citizen (At the time there was no extradition treaty between the US and Canada and he had renounced his Canadian citizenship!). He had to apply for immigration to Canada like anybody else! Sounds weird but that’s how it happened in his case.

  8. timotheus

    But didn’t Truss merely put into practice what Tory orthodoxy has long said what is best for any economy, i.e., cut taxes and let the Magic Market rule? IIRC, her plan when announced drew praise from the same people whose knickers are now in huge knots as if they had nothing to do with it. Is Truss is taking the hit for decades of rehashed Reaganism that finally crashed and burned in plain sight? What alternatives do her sudden enemies propose? Are there any? (Taking off the table a deal with Russia, which of course cannot be suggested)

    Would love to see mixtape of the top Tory pooh-bags pre- and post- the bond market meltdown.

  9. paul

    The IFS says that the overall tax rate has increased since 1990.

    Under current (ha ha)government plans, UK tax revenue is forecast to increase to 35% of GDP
    by 2025–26. This would take the UK slightly above the 2019 OECD
    average of 34%. It should be noted, however, that other governments may also raise taxes following the COVID-19 pandemic, which could mean that the UK continues to raise a below-average level of tax.

    Looks like elizabeth truss has got her jotters.

  10. Eclair

    Charles Walker interview: “There is nothing as ‘ex’ as an ‘ex-MP.’

    What, no lobbying firm or NGO or corporate board position waiting in the wings?

    1. JohnA

      Charles Walker was merely a backbencher, had been for I think he said 17 years. They are dime a dozen. Little power, merely voting fodder for the government. If they keep their noses clean, they get a K for their loyal service, or if even more loyal, a peerage.

      1. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you, both.

        On a commute soon after the 1997 election, a fellow commuter from the City explained how a former Tory MP he knew was struggling for work and even a sense of direction. No one wanted to know what a former (and undistinguished) backbencher / cannon fodder thought. Said backbencher had no connections with the new Labour government to leverage on behalf of (potential) clients. The former MP tried to set up a business to train people in public speaking, but that went nowhere.

        1. Joe Well

          So they don’t have strong ties to local politics and institutions like members of Congress in the US?

          For instance, one member of Congress became president of a state university even though he only held a master’s degree. Another recently joined a law firm as “public affairs director” and got some kind of professorship.

  11. fred

    > The Tory party has regularly in the past resembled I, Claudius in its occasional moments of fratricidal madness. But there does seem something particularly bad about this moment.

    Graves to the fore!

    I knew there must be a reason I read this stuff.

    1. ambrit

      Graves was a classically trained WW-1 trench fighter. He understood leadership, both bad and good. He had seen both in a venue where life and death were the ‘prizes.’ Let life in the West become a matter of ‘Life and Death’ for a sufficiently large proportion of the population and we’ll see the rise of those street fighters.
      The future leadership of the Western governments will come from the street fighting cadres.

      1. Stephen

        Worth bearing in mind too that Graves was not unique and that 1914 era elites of military age pretty much all served in the war. Prime Minister Asquith, for example, lost a son serving on the Western Front. The memorials in English Public Schools and Oxbridge Colleges attest to that too.

        Zero evidence that the scions of Ukrainian elites are serving in the front lines and our own western war mongers have no intention of doing any real fighting or having their own children do so. That is the whole point of the proxy war.

        Your comment is spot on. Being truly involved in a life or death struggle concentrates the mind.

        1. ambrit

          It is also appropriate to mention the demise of the draft in America after the Indochina Debacle. The Ruling Elites figured that the best way to avoid mutinous actions by those pesky deplorable recruits was to go to an all volunteer army. Thus, the public became disconnected from the foreign policy of the nation even more than usual. This unfettered “privatized” military became prone to adventurism, with predictable and calamitous results.
          As you say, “Being truly involved in a life or death struggle concentrates the mind.” When involuntarily in the military, such mental focus can intensify both support and opposition to the campaign in progress. Your life is literally on the line. When in an abandoned public, such focus will generally intensify opposition to the policies that brought about the adverse conditions against which the ‘lower orders’ struggle.
          As the article at the beginning states, a sense of noblesse oblige is conspicuously lacking in today’s elites. This will be their downfall.
          The unfortunate fact is that most of us will suffer for the Sins of the Elites.

        2. Dave in Austin

          Read Winston Churchill’s “My Early Years” to see what a half-crazy, rich Victorian youth’s sporting and military life was like.

    2. Synoia

      Every one I knew at School (’50s and 60’s boarding school) had family members killed in WW2

      Mine was my mother’s oldest brother, shot down over Holland in MY 1945.

      I asked my Father about a general once, and his thoughtful response was “Yes, he killed as many people as the others”

  12. PlutoniumKun

    Looks like I spoke too soon. She’s just resigned. As one wag put it, when in the future someone asks her the highlight of being PM, she will have to say ‘the Queen died’.

    Now the fun really starts.

    1. OIFVet

      The British pound looks unwell, too. It’s quite a legacy given the few short weeks she occupied 10 Downing Street. Hope Larry the Mouser will dish the inside dirt soon, people slow down and gawk at wrecks precisely because they are fascinating to behold.

        1. ambrit

          Absolutely wonderful news. I gleefully welcome our new feline overlords! It looks like the Brain Slug Party has finally lost control.

  13. Russell Davies

    You mention The Fixed Term Parliament Act but this Act is no longer operative. It was repealed by The Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Act, given royal assent in March this year. This means that the Prime Minister’s former power to dissolve parliament by asking the sovereign to do so has now been restored. All Liz Truss has to do is ask King Charles to dissolve parliament and, if he agrees, she can pick a date for a general election. There’s no need for a vote of confidence nor for a two thirds majority vote in the House of Commons for a general election. If Liz Truss is sacked and replaced as PM, this power will pass to her Tory successor. If parliament is not dissolved beforehand then it will automatically dissolve five years after it first met, so constitutionally Truss or her replacement could hang on for another two years. Whether this is politically acceptable is another matter.

    1. fresno dan

      “The lettuce might as well be running the country”
      Oh, if only in this country we had a leader as brave, true, and competent as lettuce. Can anyone really say that any of the current crop of politicians is more altruistic than a head of lettuce?
      Let us elect lettuce in 2024!!!

        1. Pat

          That is an insult to vegetables.

          Our current President may resemble the slime that occurs as vegetables rot and break down, but he has never had as much integrity or value as squash or lettuce.

  14. Petter

    I checked in to Sky News last night and they were interviewing Rees-Mogg, he of the double breasted suits and I thought “you’ve got to be kidding.” He still has credibility?

    1. TheMog

      I didn’t think the member from the Victorian Age had any credibility outside the ESG/rabid Brexiteer faction to begin with.

  15. HastalaVictoria

    Labour will be immediately facing immense economic problems yet not veer from a neo-lib approach.This is a party after all that supported Cameron/Osbourne and austerity.

    Strong tests are likely to come from unions and a population facing financial pressures not seen since the 30’s. whom are not likely to show any respect to another hollowed out entity.i.e Parliament.Interesting times.

    1. The Rev Kev

      I don’t think that he will. I believe that it was really him that pushed Liz Truss to become Prime Minister so why would they invite back the architect of their present troubles?

      1. Russell Davies

        The Times is reporting that Johnson will run ‘in the public interest’. I too believe that Johnson’s supporters got her onto the ballot for the run-off with Sunak, but on the basis that she was a ticking timebomb bound to explode disastrously, thereby allowing Johnson to return from exile as the saviour of the nation.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          I think he actually has a chance. The chaos over the last few days has done serious damage to the likes of Sunak and Gove.

          One of the key features I think that is driving the insanity within the party is that the one genuine ideological group is the Brexiteer/libertarian one. They have essentially lost their raison d’etre and credibility, so they know that they are finished if anyone even vaguely pragmatic gets PM as his or her first priority will be to sideline them and try to get some grown-ups into key positions. Without Brexit to complain about, they don’t have anything to fight back with. So I think they’ll see Johnson as the last chance for any influence.

          Plus, despite everything, he is still one hell of a good campaigner and retails popularity with core Tories.

      2. Anonymous 2

        Daily Telegraph apparently reporting that Johnson expected to run. Bookies make him favourite. Talk of some Tory MPs defecting to Labour.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          If he ran again, it would kill political satire in the UK stone dead. How could any comedian or satirist top this?

          1. The Rev Kev

            For Boris, it’s always about Boris. If he becomes PM again, we should all make book on how many days pass before he makes his first trip to visit Kiev.

      1. Basil Pesto

        I’m not sure they’d listen to Blyth, though it’d be nice. There are quite a few austerian or at least austerity-adjacent “sound money” types in Labour’s shadow treasury, from what I gather.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          Nearly all are sound money types. Even the far left in Labour are very suspicious of MMT, those that have heard of it.

          The reality is that the UK is a very open economy and very dependent on finance which in turn is closely linked to the status of sterling. This puts far more monetary and fiscal constraints on a London government than for the US or even for smaller non-Euro continental European states. As Yves has pointed out before, the structural weakness of UK manufacturing means that it doesn’t even have the potential benefit in competitiveness of a weak sterling.

          So the reality is that any Labour government of whatever hue will come in wearing shackles. It would require either an iron resolve or a very subtle hand on the tiller to get around the hard constraints. Corbyns Chancellor in waiting, O’Donnell, knew his stuff and even he acknowledged that there were serious limits on what could be done.

          1. Basil Pesto

            Thank you, I had actually been wondering when I wrote that post whether there were other economic constraints that might make things impossibly difficult for a successor labour government and keep their hands tied even if money creation per se wasn’t one of them, so that goes some way towards clearing that up.

            1. Failed Intellectual (Emeritus)

              The UK’s current account is nearly 10% in the red, and is set to explode even further if energy prices keep going up and the pound sinks.

              It’s been mentioned before, but what really bailed out the UK in the 1980s was the North Sea oil discoveries, and now it seems they are in an even worse mess today, but minus the energy independence.

              1. skippy

                Yep energy and food scarce with most of GDP due to the FIRE sector whilst aspects of that are getting devalued or worse moving to greener pastures.

                Meanwhile the entire political system has been groomed for decades and has a most profound ideological path dependency problem because the narrative must be maintained or all is lost – !!!!!!

          2. skippy

            Oh PK …. you don’t even know the white washing going on right now on some econ blogs … many are saying its – all – MMTs fault – !!!!!

            Been banging heads with some AMI sound money sorts and even more surreal is some that have presented in the past as Keynesian/Tobin sorts, now waving the paleo Keynesian flag [rational agent model intact and claims of empiricism] that the whole thing is the result of MMT.

            In all my years [decades] I have never seen reality bent so hard to shape a narrative and the emotion on display by these people is epic.

    1. Pokhara

      Thank you Colonel.

      Danny Kruger MP is an interesting if rather sinister character. As I’m sure you know, he was a speechwriter for David Cameron, and one of the architects of the ‘Big Society’ gimmick. He is very close to Paul Marshall, the hedge fund manager & philanthropist, who was once an Orange Book Lib Dem, but who has now dropped the social liberalism for ‘national populism’. Marshall put money into Brexit (Legatum, Prosperity UK), and also bankrolls Unherd and GB News. Kruger once ran something called the West London Zone for Marshall. This was a philanthropic project which was test-running ‘social impact’ debt instruments in education and social work. Kruger and Marshall are both Christians, and the former has a lot to say about that.

      1. Pokhara

        UK readers may be interested in the following snippet from Private Eye, which throws a bit of light on the English version of ‘Christian conservatism’:

        Paul Marshall, a hedge fund manager worth 680m, ‘is a prominent member of Holy Trinity, Brompton, the wealthy and entrepreneurial charismatic church that dominates the Church of England. He is also a trustee of the Church Revitalisation Trust, the charity through which Holy Trinity funds and “plants” churches in its image across the UK.’

  16. c_heale

    What I don’t understand is why the Conservatives don’t just call a general election. The problems the UK faces are in my opinion almost insurmountable. Forty years of neoliberalism and decades before that of underinvestment in industry and manufacturing have come home to roost. The UK has also alienated many other countries with it’s inept Brexit.

    Starmer as others have pointed out, is also a neoliberal. There are no neoliberal solutions to the current problems the UK faces.

    So the Conservatives should call a general election, let Labour try to deal with the UKs problems, and then hope to capitalise on Labour’s failure to turn the country around.

    1. TheMog

      My guess is that they know that based on current polls, their political clout will implode if they call a GE. And like the Republicans in the US, they’re mostly interested in staying in power and governing, consequences be darned.

      Not to mention that by now they seem to resemble a doomsday cult that’s hell bent on taking the ship down with them as long as their mates can make a few quid on the way down.

    2. PlutoniumKun

      If they called an election, they would be destroyed. They are aware of what happened a few years ago to the Canadian conservatives.

      Their best bet electorally is to limp on for 2 years and hope to retain enough seats to challenge again later.

      1. OnceWereVirologist

        Yes, polling figures are so bad at present that if they held an election now it’s an even money bet whether they would ever come back or be overtaken by some new political formation as the official opposition.

      2. Failed Intellectual (Emeritus)

        For context, the 1993 Canadian federal election had the governing Progressive Conservative party go from a parliamentary majority to a whole two, that’s TWO seats in parliament! They never recovered.

    3. Stephen

      For most individual MPs this not a good idea so they will not vote for it or support a leader who wants to go down that path.

      My own local MP is the former Deputy PM, Dominic Raab. Even Esher and Walton, his seat, is not safe if an election were held tomorrow. No one wants to be an ex MP. They like their jobs. The Conservatives will cling on and hope that something comes along.

  17. NotTimothyGeithner

    Some of you are making fun, but Truss lasted longer than William Henry Harrison and the Chevy Chase show. The Magic Johnson talk show did beat her, but c’mon, it’s Magic. Those were a crazy eight weeks.

    1. ambrit

      Yeah, but William Henry Harrison had the good sense to die while in office. Truss was DOA at #10 Downing Street. She just didn’t know it at the time. England seems to be suffering from a strong case of Zombie Politician Syndrome. Time to get the Archbishop of Canterbury to exorcise the Houses of Parliament. Decades of Voodoo Economics have established haints in the House.

    1. ambrit

      Are you suggesting that he be exiled to Lapland? I’ve been told that for a half of the year, the sun don’t shine there.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Barnier did not decide to Brexit. And the data shows UK has worse inflation and growth than the EU, as we’ve pointed out occasionally in Links.

  18. Patrick Donnelly

    What happens when a Gang extorts or kills serious people into allowing policy madness?

    Epstein, Saville and so many others are mere symptoms of the rot identified for 5 decades by that superb mag ‘Private Eye’.

  19. orlbucfan

    “Martyanov’s economic analysis may reflect his Soviet materialist education, but ultimately, he views America’s core problem as being a crisis of leadership. He traces this problem back to the election of Bill Clinton in 1993.”
    Wrong. This core problem existed before Bubba Clinton. Go all the way back to the shellacking of Barry Goldwater in 1964. That’s when Big Craporate Biz started making very friendly noize with the Far Righties and Fundie Christian nuts. I’ve been following Brexit on here, and I am still just shaking my head.

    1. JBird4049

      The current mess in the United States did start before then, but Bill Clinton and the DLC (Democratic Leadership Council) was the start of the coup that removed the remnants of the old Liberal leadership; the new neoliberal leadership replacing the previous Democratic Party members with their own neoliberal ilk in Congress and the rest of the country and the coup is a good breaking to choose.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Disagree. Corporate America is anti-intellectual. Reagan was derided for not being smart. Reagan has a lot of capable guys in his cabinet (Baker, Nicholas Brady) who were most assuredly not of the “I got here because I am so fucking smart” mold. Most were high on EQ, not IQ, good temperaments, good judges of the people around them, became good administrators. Even if they went to Ivies, they would not be the types who got summas or PhDs. The smart ones in those days went to elite law school. Industry was for the intellectually pedestrian.

  20. chuck roast

    Back in the voracious reading days of my heterodox youth I remembered admiring Christopher Lasch as one of the coterie of revisionist historians and political economists assaulting the ivory towers. For many years I lost sight of him and his contemporaries. Several years ago, one of the fellow travelers here at NC mentioned The Revolt of the Elites, Lasch’s 1996 book about the abandonment of the American middle and lower classes by the new meritocratic class. Lasch couldn’t have been more prescient. Read it and weep.

  21. skk

    Financiers 1, politics 0. That 3 day ultimatum to “get your books in order or else” from the Bank of England wasn’t to the insurance companies but to the govt. And the rest is… history. Greece, then Italy now the UK.

    Liz Truss’ statement says it well:” ….I recognise however that, given the situation, I cannot deliver the mandate on which I was elected by the Conservative Party. …” .

    “situation” indeed. The gnomes from Zurich ( cf Harold Wilson ) strike again. Against the Tories !

    She’s right – she did indeed have a mandate from the rank-and-file of the Conservative Party. Just as Jeremy Corbyn had one from the Labour Party. Look what happened to him.

  22. begob

    An election during winter blackouts is an interesting prospect: “Putin-crazed pensioners storm polling booth to seize single-bar electric heater.”

    Perhaps Charles III is clearing his throat for the next arrival at Buckingham Palace. An opportunity to claw back some royal prerogatives, as the political parties crumble?

    1. David

      This is more or less what we had in 1974, when Heath put the country on a three-day week during the Miners’ strike. He then called a snap election on the theme of “who runs the country?” The voters replied, “not you mate.”

  23. Lexx

    Clinton got into the White House because of his story, a story crafted for the voters because it was a reflection of their needs, the voter’s dreams and ambitions. A bootstrapping rags to riches story. It’s been working for 2000 years and longer, the hero with a thousand faces. Our absolute faith in the merit of ‘the best of us’.

    Hilary’s bid was purely meritocratic; if only she too had been born in a manger. Some candidate cred just can’t be bought, earned, or married. Power grasped and a fortune can be made of unluckiness with the right campaign manager and marketing team.

    Before I read this excellent (battery acid level of funny) article, I read this piece from Rebecca Solnit at The Guardian. To my mind these articles are related, one shining light on the other, but with the victimhood removed and a lot more assertive agency rigorously applied to one’s situation.


    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Clinton got into the White House because 41 was perceived as unassailable and the hick from Arkansas had competition like Moonbeam and his deranged flat tax while stronger potential candidates like Mario Cuomo and Paul Kirk sat out. Bill himself dropped over 20 points in favorability, getting in with 42% of the popular vote. Perot and the recession are part of the story that wasn’t really there in 1991 when 41 was at 70%+ approval. That doofus Hillary did better than him in popular votes.

      I wouldn’t put too much stock into Bill’s storied political acumen. Timing and luck were probably his most important assets.

      Bill deserves the most credit for creating the idea that selling out to corporations and holding onto nostalgic and “where are you going to go” voters is some kind of political brilliance. I figure Team Blue partisans were simply traumatized by how bad he was and held onto anything to explain 1994.

  24. Otis B Driftwood

    From my limited and cynical American POV, this is just desserts for what the UK elites did to Jeremy Corbyn.

  25. David

    Somewhat late to this, but it’s worth stressing that the Tory Party is in this mess at least partly because its collective appetite for power has now been fractured into individual ambition. There were people in Thatcher’s Cabinet who could hardly bear to be in the same room as her, but, in a party driven by power rather than ideology, they were prepared to bury differences in order to stay in power, as long as they thought Thatcher was an asset. We know what happened later. Here, there seems to be no collective hunger for power at all in the Tory Party, just endlessly colliding ambitions and ideological squabbles about nothing. A party like that will not live long.

  26. The Rev Kev

    Somebody was saying in a tweet that in her three weeks, that Liz Truss managed to bury the Queen, the Pound and the Tory Party.

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