The Conservative Party conference, with a new Prime Minister, was a moment the party hoped to mark a fresh start after the many scandals of his predecessor, Boris Johnson. Instead, Truss had to defend the first few weeks of his premiership, already marked by historic economic volatility, a revolt within his party and voters turning away from the Conservatives in droves.
“I’m ready to make tough choices,” she said. She warned of ‘stormy days’ ahead, but insisted Britain needed to ‘do things differently’ and that ‘every time there is change there is disruption “.
“I am determined to take a new approach and get us out of this cycle of high taxation and low growth,” she told party faithful gathered in Birmingham, England.
Referring to the protesters later in her speech, she spoke dismissively of an “anti-growth coalition” made up of a wide range of people in the country, including opposition politicians, “militant trade unions, interest groups disguised as think tanks, talking heads, Brexit deniers, Extinction Rebellion and some of the people we had in the room earlier.
“The fact is that they would rather protest than do. They would rather talk on Twitter than make tough decisions,” she said. “They taxi from North London townhouses to the BBC studio to fire anyone who challenges the status quo. From broadcast to podcast, they peddle the same old answers. It’s always more taxes, more regulation and more interference. Fake, fake, fake.
Truss entered the role with a lot to prove. Although she played a somewhat prominent role as Foreign Secretary during the war in Ukraine, she was not known to the British public as Johnson – a colorful former London mayor and newspaper columnist – had summer before taking the helm.
Truss was propelled not by a general election, but by a leadership race within her party. Even then she was not the first choice of Conservative Party lawmakers, and some of the rank-and-file party members who rallied around her admitted they had already I missed Johnson.
Any momentum that Truss had like incoming prime minister was cut short after two days by the death of Queen Elizabeth II. The new prime minister joined the new king in touring the UK’s four nations, but she played a marginal role.
When the focus finally returned to politics, things got worse. His government’s plan to grow the economy through tax cuts aimed primarily at the wealthy, funded by billions in borrowing, has investors scrambling to get rid of British assets. The pound sank at a historic low against the dollar. The The Bank of England had to intervene to quell a financial market revolt.
It was only after 10 days of economic turbulence and under intense pressure from her party that Truss backtracked, announcing on Monday that she would drop the most controversial element of her economic plan: a proposed rate cut. maximum income tax.
The pound has since bounced back. But divisions within the Conservative Party remain, as the proceedings of this week’s conference made clear. On Tuesday, Interior Minister Suella Braverman blasted those within the party who had “organized a coup” that “unprofessionally undermined the authority of our Prime Minister”.
Meanwhile, public opinion for the Conservative Party has taken a nosedive, dropping 20 to 30 points over the past two weeks.
“This is the most dramatic polling change of my life,” said Chris Curtis, head of political polling at Opinium Research.
The Conservatives have “lost the perception that they are the economically competent party – it’s as simple as that,” Curtis said.
A survey released on Tuesday night showed the opposition Labor leading the Tories by 38 points in the ‘red wall’ areas of northern England that swung behind the Tories in the 2019 election.
If an election were held today, pollsters say Labor would win its biggest majority.
“What this change in the polls shows is that the British electorate is increasingly volatile. It is less and less aligned with party affiliation. said Will Jennings, professor of political science at the University of Southampton.
Politics in Britain is much less polarized than in the United States. That’s partly because of Brexit, which has prompted many people to quit the parties they’ve backed for decades and instead see themselves as ‘leavers’ or ‘remainers’ – labels that cross lines party. Now that Brexit is a done deal, voters are likely to be influenced by other concerns.
This volatility means the pendulum could swing several times before the next election, which could be as far away as January 2025, and so neither the Conservative Party nor Truss are in immediate danger.
Yet conservatives have been known to ruthlessly abandon leaders who no longer appear to be vote winners. Johnson was ousted halfway through his term, following several scandals, even though he led his party to an overwhelming majority in 2019.
If the Tories think Truss will drag them down, she could find herself kicked out just like Johnson.
“She’s in a vulnerable and delicate situation,” Jennings said. “If the Conservatives remain at current levels in the polls, [members of Parliament] will become very worried. One should never assume too much about the political future, but it is certain that she is in a difficult situation. Regaining the support of his MPs and constituents will be a huge challenge.