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Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng

Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng. Photo: Andrew Parsons CCHQ / Parsons Media / The Conservative Party / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, license linked below article

The open rows among the Tories at their conference shows that the government and the party are broken, argues Terina Hine

Truss and Kwarteng may have been at the helm for only a month, but it is important to remember this is not ‘a young government’, as the BBC has claimed; we have been suffering twelve long years of Tory misrule, and with each consecutive administration the damage gets worse. It is now so bad that even committed supporters can see the country is being destroyed and their party is imploding.

At a Conservative Party fringe meeting, polling guru John Curtice clarified the position for MPs and activists: Tory support crashed almost as fast as the economy following the mini-budget, and Labour could win a three-figure majority at the next election. The Tories are staring into an abyss.

With the chance of Truss making it to the next election rapidly diminishing, pundits and MPs alike are suggesting she may be gone before Christmas. But Truss is keen to fight on, even if it means bringing the party down with her.

Tuesday’s papers were full of the Chancellor’s U-turn on the 45p tax. The attempts to row back only help illuminate the moral bankruptcy of Kwarteng and Truss; they continue to deny the tax was a mistake (it was abandoned for being a ‘distraction’) and are either oblivious to, or simply don’t care about, the devastation their mini-budget has caused.

Of course, this mini-U-turn will do nothing to help thousands facing crippling mortgage repayments and rent hikes. For millions, the impact will at best cancel out the reduction in energy prices, at worst it will lead to mass repossessions and homelessness. The pound may have recovered, but it is still the lowest it has been for 37 years, 10% down on just four months ago, and 18% down on twelve months ago. The damage is done.

It is also unlikely to calm the markets fully, which are alarmed more by the breath-taking incompetence of the package than a single toxic tax; £43bn of the initial £45bn un-costed tax cuts remain. With them comes savage spending cuts.

The lack of remorse and clear determination to continue with their economically illiterate plan shows how callous this government is. For despite Monday’s U-turn, the richest in society will still gain forty times more from the tax cuts than low earners.

Public services will have to find real-term cuts of up to £18bn a year, having been warned there will be no inflationary increase to their budgets. This will be devastating for the NHS, local council services and schools.

The party unravels

MPs, desperate to save their jobs, or at least the party, are rebelling. Each day another fight breaks out over the Truss/Kwarteng plan. The latest is over welfare payments: will they rise in line with inflation or, as is Truss’s preferred option, in line with earnings? Truss is charging into battle regardless that the rebel numbers outweigh her loyal troops. If she wins, it will mean a real-term cut for the poorest in society, with typical claimants made over £200 worse off.

Next there will be a battle over the hugely unpopular deregulation of fracking and planning rules. A Tory PM unable to get a tax cut through parliament is hardly likely to win the support of MPs on planning deregulation.

The government is facing a complete collapse of discipline: ministers are directly contradicting No.10 and making up policy on the hoof; MPs are furiously briefing against Truss and Kwarteng. Those not attacking the 45p rate tax are attacking the U-turn. The hapless duo has managed to upset all wings of this deeply divided party.

The summer leadership campaign brilliantly showcased the Tory divisions; open warfare has now broken out. The rebels, having tasted blood, will be back for more. Truss will be forced into more U-turns and those defending her further humiliated.

The Truss government has failed in less than a month. The party is so divided it is clear that any replacement leader would face similar hostility from one side or the other, or possibly both. The Tories, who claim to be the natural party of government, are simply unable to govern.

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