This fantasy government is now the stuff of nightmares

When we were children, we played games of fantasy. Believing we were nurses, fire fighters, astronauts. As adults we still play games, not always acting like we are grown up. The Conservative Party has become adept at this. It previously appointed a prime minister who fanaticised that rules didn’t apply to him. Its current fantasy prime minister claims she is running the country. And too many the party fanaticises that no matter what it does, people will still vote it into power.

Yesterday, the Conservative fantasy turned into farce. A pantomime. Party managers’ attempted to whip Tory MPs into voting in favour of fracking by turning it into a vote of confidence on Liz Truss. That failed big time, with around 40 Tory MPs failing to vote. Fracking is a contentious issue but for a prime minister to stake her job as prime minister on it when it was known that many Tory MPs will not support it was one of the most ill-considered decisions of modern government. And, as it proved, the stuff of nightmares.

Tim Farron raised the whipping with the Speaker early in the day, asking what the consequences would be if the government lost the vote. Sir Lindsay Hoyle refused to be drawn on the matter.

Labour yesterday tabled a motion to bring an end to fracking during its opposition day debate. It was a motion that stood no hope of succeeding but that was never the point. The aim was to show that the government is in disarray and in that, Kier Starmer spectacularly succeeded.

Everyone will now have heard of the desperate attempts to get Tories through the no lobby yesterday. The rumours that the whips had resigned after the debacle were swiftly rebutted. After all, Liz Truss had just lost her second minister in days and could not afford to lose anyone else.

Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng left the government to save Truss’s skin, despite his only sin being to implement the prime minister’s abysmal policies. A second senior cabinet member, Home Secretary Suella Braverman resigned yesterday after a clumsy mistake of using the wrong email account. But after nearly wrecking the trade deal with India, she was on the way out anyway.

Meanwhile, the government is on hold. It has stalled. No one knows who the prime minister will be next week. No one knows if any policy in place today, will still apply tomorrow. No one knows if Liz Truss will still be prime minister tomorrow.

We need to snap the Tories out of the dreams and nightmares with a snap general election. We can’t go on with this government trashing our country and the reputation of this country worldwide.

The Conservatives have no authority to govern. They should ask the country whether they are fit to continue struggling and whether there should be a better way of governing this country.

And Liz Truss should enter the record books for being the shortest serving prime minister in history.

* Andy Boddington is a Lib Dem councillor in Shropshire. He blogs at andybodders.co.uk. He is Thursday editor of Lib Dem Voice.

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26 Comments

  • James Fowler 20th Oct '22 - 9:34am

    Just a case of too weak to govern, too strong to die for another few years I think. We might get an early election, but it would be an extraordinary case of voluntary suicide.

    Meanwhile, responsible austerity means another lost decade of wage decline and impoverishment for much of the population. Don’t underestimate how many other people are fine with this though, as long as their pension is safely triple-locked and their house is protected.

  • Helen Dudden 20th Oct '22 - 9:37am

    Is that how a Whips job works? Jacob Rees Mogg is the MP for my area, I can’t put any confidence in his ability or even consider his help.

  • Graham Jeffs 20th Oct '22 - 10:39am

    An election? How many PPCs do we have or do we intend to parachute in unknowns in order to minimise our vote?

  • Although I maybe a triplelocker! it does not necessarily make me content with the dire situation we find ourselves in at this moment in time and although we need to rid ourselves of this government and punish the Tories, part of me worries about the disruption of a GE in the middle of this present economic downturn, but what is the alternative?????

  • I wonder if Conservatives ever think about a fair voting system. A lot of the current shambles can be traced back to First Past the Post. There are people in the current Parliamentary Conservative Party who in other European countries would have no place in an established centre-right party. The Tories have been on this trajectory since well before Brexit but in 2019 they gobbled up the UKIP legacy. So long as they tolerate members at Westminster who associate with and applaud racist and homophobic extra-parliamentary groupings there will be continuing barriers to party unity.

  • Barry makes a fair point about whether a general election taking 4-6 weeks can do anything other than make the economic crisis even worse. The public could rightly ask why the MPs they have elected can’t sort out the crisis rather than passing the parcel back to the electorate. It looks like the opposition parties are just using the crisis to play politics which is exactly what has got us into the mess we are in. For example Labour and LDs actually supported the unfunded basic rate income tax so are they really any better? If either of them actually had a credible economic plan, which needs to include rejoining the single market and the customs union, then maybe an election would be worth it.

  • Geoff also makes a good point. Our economic crisis is caused by our political system. It is FPTP that enables the 2 largest parties to be held hostage by extremists (Corbyn or ERG). With a fair voting system they would both be able to split without it being terminal. It is FPTP that incentivises the parties to appeal to a narrow band of swing voters in certain parts of the country, accentuating short termism and failing to address the real underlying issues. The shame is that the LDs have a unique opportunity to make the case for fundamental change in both our political and economic circumstances but are not doing it.

  • Jenny Barnes 20th Oct '22 - 11:25am

    ” whether a general election taking 4-6 weeks can do anything other than make the economic crisis even worse.”

    Leaving this set of incompetent, stupid ideologues in charge will also make the economic crisis worse. It’s their economic crisis, no-one else’s. They are just mad.

  • Calling for a general election is political posturing unless you have a mechanism for actually ensuring there is a general election. That would require the support of a large number of Tory MPs – which given their poll ratings is unlikely. The alternative way of getting rid of this government, would be to call for a government of national unity. This might not happen either, but it is more plausible that some Tory MPs could support it. This has happened before when the country was at war but also in response to the 1929 economic crash.

  • 1. The Tories aren’t going to deliberately cut two years off their time in power.

    2. PR is a massive vote loser. Build the LD campaign around it and we will end up with a pitiful number of seats. It will mark us out as utterly irrelevant to nearly all voters.

    3. Build the LD campaign around rejoining Europe now and we will end up with a pitiful number of seats.

    Only a tiny minority of people – who are already LD supporters or members – want to re-open the Brexit debate.

    Be patient. Get a good wedge of LD MPs back and we will have some leverage. Demonstrate zero capacity for political strategy – as in 2019 – and we will be nowhere.

  • This is not an original thought, I know, but it seems to me that government has been chaotic since the Brexit referendum. It cost Cameron his job, May never really got on with governing because she was too busy fighting the hard line Brexiteers, Johnson was there to “get Brexit done” and was a disaster. And now Truss, who was clearly not up to the job but seemed to have some strange appeal for 100,00 right wingers in the constituencies. I therefore conclude the whole mess is Cameron’s fault for calling the bl**dy referendum !

  • Nick Collins 20th Oct '22 - 3:58pm

    @ Chris Cory

    The LibDems must share in that culpability. Without the coalition from 2010 to 2015, it is unlikely that Cameron would have been in power in 2016.

  • Barry Lofty 20th Oct '22 - 4:21pm

    And yet without the coalition government might the country have found itself in a similar position as we are having to endure at the moment?

  • Alex Macfie 20th Oct '22 - 4:43pm

    @Nick Collins: And maybe if someone more charismatic than Gordon Brown had been Labour leader in 2010 there wouldn’t have been a Coalition. And maybe if …

    Political counterfactuals are impossible to prove, so any argument built around one is going to be incredibly weak. It certainly won’t resonate with ordinary voters, who are mostly not the sort of political nerds who are interested in counterfactual scenarios, so the “Lib Dems were responsible for Brexit” argument will stay where it belongs, in the social media echo chambers of our partisan enemies.

  • Peter Watson 20th Oct '22 - 4:51pm

    @Chris Cory “I therefore conclude the whole mess is Cameron’s fault for calling the bl**dy referendum”
    I don’t disagree, but a certain party not far from this website had previously believed that such a referendum would be a good idea! 🙁
    Ultimately, blame for Brexit can be shared (though perhaps not equally! 🙂 ) between politicians on both sides of the divide. Remainers seemed to believe that the obvious benefits of EU membership, combined with a reluctance to change the status quo when push came to shove, would overcome a few anti-Brussels grumbles and draw a line under the matter. Unfortunately though, they were too out-of-touch to realise the extent to which people (however wrongly, we might believe) were dissatisfied.

  • Nick Collins 20th Oct '22 - 6:19pm

    @ Alex Macfie

    If your last sentence was aimed at me, I’m afraid it missed its mark. I am not your partisan enemy and , unless you count LibDem Voice as such, I do not use social media.
    I first joined the Liberal Party in 1962. I voted at the Birmingham Conference in 2010 against going into coalition and resigned in 2011. Everything I predicted in my letter to my Local Party Chair in relinquishing my position as Local Party secretary subsequently came to pass.

    I have recently rejoined the Liberal Democrats because, where I live, the LibDem candidate is the one with the best chance of removing a Tory MP. That does not alter my view that the coalition and Brexit were both unmitigated disasters and, possibly, parts of the same disaster. But I say that, now,more in sorrow than anger.

  • Alex Macfie 20th Oct '22 - 9:23pm

    @Nick Collins: You may not be an enemy, but you are someone who is pointlessly exercised by an unprovable counterfactual narrative which will be of no interest at all to the vast majority of voters. I’m not disputing that the Coalition (or at any rate the way it was conducted by our leadership) was a mistake. But to blame the Lib Dems for enabling Cameron to form a future majority government which inter alia ran an unwise advisory Brexit referendum? Why not go back further, and blame Gordon Brown for bottling out of the snap election he planned to call when he became PM in 2007? Or the Lib Dems for deposing Charles Kennedy (RIP) thus enabling Clegg to become leader? You could probably contrive a narrative in whcih the current crisis is all Tony Blair’s fault. That’s the trouble with these counterfactual narratives, anyone can make them up and there’s no way of proving them right or wrong, so anyone who does that probably has an agenda. And the electorate isn’t interested.

  • Nick Collins 21st Oct '22 - 12:00am

    @ Alex Macfie

    “You may not be an enemy, but you are someone who is pointlessly exercised by an unprovable counterfactual narrative which will be of no interest at all to the vast majority of voters”

    Not so. This site is called “Liberal Democrat Voice”. It is not read by “the majority of voters” I make no apology for expressing a view thereon which you find unpalatable. and I reject your unwarranted ad hominem aspersions

    I can’t be bothered to rebut every point in your response (by the way, it is not my job to defend Gordon Brown since I have never been a member of his Party), but if you are suggesting that the LibDems made two terrible mistakes in electing Clegg as leader and following him into coalition, then I would have to agree with you.

  • Alex Macfie 21st Oct '22 - 8:01am

    Nick Collins: Don’t worry, I didn’t introduce Gordon Brown’s 2007 non-election as a serious talking point. I was only pointing out the absurdity of relying on counterfactual scenarios. One could as well say James Callaghan was responsible for Thatcher’ becoming PM because he didn’t call a GE earlier when he might have won. And no, I’m not putting that forward as a serious debating point either.

    The only realistic possibility apart from the Coalition after 2010 GE was the Tories forming a minority administration. If they had done that, in my opinion the most likely scenario would be Cameron calling a GE at the earliest opportunity, and (in my opinion) he would probably have won outright. So we might have had the referendum, Brexit and the rest of this farce 5 years earlier. But that’s just another countercfactual scenario. The simplest narrative, and one grounded in the real world, is to say that the Tories are wholy responsible for Brexit and the rest of the mess because they were in power for the whole time, either outright or propped up by the DUP. We were in opposition the whole time. We need to make sure the Tories own it not worry about what might have happened over a decade ago had our then leader done things differently.

  • Nick Collins 21st Oct '22 - 10:35am

    Martin,

    Are you seriously suggesting that to “make the most of” the LibDem performance in the coalition should be an element in their campaign strategy for the next general election? As the King said in a recent meeting with our about to depart Prime Minister, ” Dear, oh dear”.

  • Whatever the repercussions of the Coalition were they are insignificant compared to the omnishambles we have all witnessed since 2019 ,and if a certain person becomes our PM again it just highlights how far our once respected country has fallen in the quality of our politicians and would be leaders!

  • Martin 21st Oct ’22 – 9:20am……..Alex Macfie is right about pointless counterfactuals. Nevertheless inferring to the best explanation on the basis of available data would suggest that without the coalition there would have been another election within months, which Lib Dems would have been blamed for and Cameron (backed by much more money than other parties) would have won..

    If you disagree with the use of ‘pointless counterfactuals’ why use one?

  • Alex Macfie,

    Here is a different counterfactual scenario on the Liberal Democrats not entering coalition. For the Conservatives to win their opinion poll rating would have to be better than it was. Perhaps to stay popular they wouldn’t have cut public spending so much for 2011. There is a general election in May 2011 which gives the Conservatives a small majority, we lose seats – down to 28 because the Tories have not discovered they can deliver leaflets in our held seats without a candidate name which are not counted as election expenses for the constituency yet. UKIP have not had their increase in popularity and they are still under 5% in the opinion polls (just as happened). Therefore there is no need for Cameron to promise a referendum on our EU membership. After the election Ed Miliband is replaced as Labour leader. Jeremy Corbyn becomes Labour leader much earlier.

    In the 2015 general election we make a few gains, and just as in 2019 the Tories lose their majority and end up worse off with fewer than 299 MPs and the number of Labour and Lib Dem MPs is within two or three of the Conservatives. There is no referendum on EU membership as there is no majority in Parliament for one. Cameron continues as Prime Minister until replaced by Theresa May. May holds a general election in 2017 which she loses but Labour still don’t have a majority but are clearly the largest party. Jeremy Corbyn become Prime Minister of a minority Labour government!

  • Alex Macfie 22nd Oct '22 - 7:08pm

    @Michael BG: Very good, but, like all counterfactual scenarios, somewhat speculative. Hence I’m not going to bust a gut defending the counterfactual scenario that I and Martin put forward earlier. And there’s no need — as I said most voters don’t deal in the counterfactual. Governments get blamed for bad things that happen under their watch, simple as that. And Brexit happened on this Tory administration’s watch.

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