They may deserve it, but a Tory wipeout is a dangerous prospect
I needn’t go over yesterday’s events in Westminster. All that need be said is that Liz Truss can’t go on. Britain needs a new Prime Minister and a new Cabinet; but do we also need a general election?
Various Labour MPs have called for one — as has the SNP leader, Nicola Sturgeon, and the Lib Dem leader, Sir Ed Davey. But the calls aren’t just coming from the Left. On the Right, commentators like Calvin Robinson are also demanding that the Tories submit to the voters’ verdict. Andrew Lilico argues that unless Tory MPs can agree on a new leader without delay, then Sir Keir Starmer should be asked to form a new government — which would mean him going to the country within weeks.
There’s also the implied threat of a general election when Truss supporters insist (wrongly) that changing Prime Ministers for a second time would be unprecedented or unconstitutional.
In any case, an election now would be barking mad. Firstly, there’d be at least a month of political uncertainty — and interruption to the normal business of government. It is the last thing we need this winter.
Of course, one thing would be certain: a cataclysmic defeat for the Tories. Richly deserved, you might think. But what has Starmer done to merit an overwhelming victory? This is the man who pulled out every stop to overturn the Brexit referendum result and who then campaigned to get Jeremy Corbyn into Downing Street.
Further, a parliamentary Labour Party with more that 400 MPs would be a very different beast from the poodle currently curled-up at its leader’s feet. And don’t forget, there’d only be the weakest of oppositions to exercise restraint. As things stand, the Tory seat total would be pushed to reach three figures. It’s not even guaranteed that they’d be the second largest party. Imagine the SNP as the Official Opposition.
Some might argue that the money markets would act as the real constraint on a Labour government. After all, that’s what caused Liz Truss’ embarrassing U-turn. But if the thumping Labour majority can’t follow its economic instincts, it will push its social agenda. Weak Tory resistance to the progressive takeover of our institutions will be replaced by active Labour assistance.
As for Brexit, Starmer may have belatedly accepted the result of the referendum, but what’s to stop him from changing his mind? Or, failing that, what’s to stop his party from replacing him with a Rejoiner? When you’ve got 400+ MPs you can afford to push your luck.
However, the best argument against an immediate election is rooted not in fear, but duty. The Tories made this mess — and so the Tories must clean it up. With a majority of more than seventy and the mandate of the 2019 manifesto, they have what they need to make a start.
More than this, they have an alternative Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, who not only guided his country through the last crisis; but who also warned against the policies responsible for this one. He has the experience. He has the credibility. All he needs now is an ounce of common sense from his colleagues — but that, of course, is the tricky bit.