Liz Truss resignation: Why this really is the last roll of the dice for the Tories

Even before Wednesday night’s meltdown, conversations amongst Scottish party members were of least worst options.

Was it hunkering down until events took their course, nerves having been steadied after new Chancellor Jeremy Hunt cleared the decks, and hope the Prime Minister would come good?

Or was it better to have a quick defenestration and carry on as if it had all been a bad dream, as one MP put it, like Bobby Ewing walking out of the shower to reveal the previous series of Dallas had been a fantasy.

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At least there was the latest episode of the SNP’s fantasy nation-building serial to take minds off the unfolding mayhem.

New Chancellor Jeremy Hunt. Picture: Getty ImagesNew Chancellor Jeremy Hunt. Picture: Getty Images
New Chancellor Jeremy Hunt. Picture: Getty Images

I wrote in Tuesday’s Scotsman that Ms Truss should resign for the good of the United Kingdom and although that upset one or two colleagues, it turned out more than a few shared that view, even if it took Wednesday’s disintegration of what was left of her authority to persuade enough MPs that enough was irreversibly enough.

For the party, there is very little option, but to indeed suspend some disbelief about recent events.

But the ‘Bobby Ewing’ approach need not be the political equivalent of jumping the shark if it is seen as an interlude, although a cataclysmic one, in a process going back to the mass resignations which brought Boris Johnson’s premiership to a sudden end.

In effect what MPs are being asked to do is find a replacement for Boris Johnson because the Truss tenure has been too short for much she put in place in her 44 days to be regarded as in anyway permanent.

The one exception is Jeremy Hunt’s appointment as Chancellor, because his swift, brutal, but well-managed intervention on Monday did precisely what was intended, to calm the markets and rebuild the stability on which both the country and the Conservative Party’s reputation depends.

Recognising he now represents much-needed continuity and control the markets crave, he has shown real statesmanship and sound judgement by ruling out a bid for the top job.

Perhaps he accepts that two unsuccessful previous tilts means it will never be him, but whatever his motivation he has done the right thing.

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He has also confirmed the two key Truss achievements, the National Insurance reduction and the energy price guarantee, will continue, even if the latter has now been limited to six months, and the Government can still say it has acted to address cost-of-living concerns the vast majority of households still face.

With a deadline of the end of next week to name a successor, at least there will be no re-run of the summer’s divisive leadership contest, the repercussions of which are still being felt, and with preparations for a membership ballot already underway, the presumption must be that party managers expect at least two candidates with more than 100 backers by Monday.

Will it be Rushi Sunak? Will it be Penny Mordaunt?

Maybe, like Robert Harris’s papal novel Conclave, someone no-one has been considering will come through?

Or in the old-fashioned Conservative way, maybe a single leader will emerge, but the only certainty is there will be more horse trading than the Appleby Fair over the weekend.

The last thing the country needs right now is the instability of a general election, but this really is the last roll of the dice.

- John McLellan is a former Conservative councillor for the City of Edinburgh and Scottish Conservative Party media chief



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