Liz Truss’s government, at six weeks old, is the size of a baked bean. And yet this new beginning has already been marked by many an end. Kwasi Kwarteng suffered thirty eight days as Chancellor and was sacked by Truss following his disastrous mini-budget, which proved about as palatable as the Durham student housing market. Suella Braverman lasted a week longer, resigning from her position as Home Secretary just yesterday, following two data breaches.
Ms Braverman’s letter of resignation took on a different tone to that of Kwarteng’s. The ex-Chancellor affirmed Truss’s ‘vision of optimism, growth and change’, and promised to continue, ‘supporting you and my successor’. Meanwhile, Ms Braverman took the opportunity to air out her ‘concerns about the direction of this government’, alongside her apologies. In light of accepting responsibility for her own mistake in breaching ministerial conduct, Braverman’s letter seemed to egg Truss on to do the same. The rubric of, ‘I have made a mistake; I accept responsibility; I resign’, perhaps a provocative three-stage plan for her ex-boss.
As the revolving cabinet door continues, so Truss’s power weakens. The backbenches are no longer filled with junior party members, eager to support the party line and bide their time until their promotion. Instead, ex-ministers rattle around, making public their dissent and criticism. Last week it was Michael Gove, former education minister, insisting that the PM’s economic plans were ‘not Conservative’. Grant Shapps, who today replaced Braverman as Home Secretary, similarly accused Truss’s 45p tax rate of ‘muddy[ing] the water’.
Originally Johnson’s appointment for Transport Secretary, Shapps was fired by Truss, in part perhaps because of his support for Rishi Sunak in the leadership contest. Some see Truss’s decision to return Shapps to the cabinet as an attempt to reach out to Sunak’s support base but it is perhaps more likely that this government is simply running out of options. Fractured by multiple leaders, both the real and the hopeful, this government’s time is running out.
Note: This article was written before Truss’s resignation. It appears the government’s time has run out; Truss’s government will never grow past the size of a baked bean; the conservative carousel will no doubt continue.