Who hasn’t resigned yet? It’s politics in Britain

British politics have been so much fun this week that people were rushing home to watch the news because they need a good laugh. Our newly minted prime minister, Liz Truss, is now our ex-prime minister, although she’ll stay in office until her party finds some unfortunate soul to replace her. She should set a record for the shortest-serving prime minister in the country’s history.

She came into office not much more than a month ago. Then the queen died and for ten days history was canceled, so Truss didn’t have much chance to screw up, or not publicly anyway. What she did behind closed doors was between her and Larry the Cat, chief mouser to multiple prime ministers. So she’s done a lot of damage–not all of it to herself, unfortunately–in a remarkably short time. 

Largely irrelevant photo: This isn’t Larry the Cat, just some cat I saw sitting in a window, looking like it would prefer to be someplace else.

So much for the intro. What’s happening?

We’ll start at something vaguely like the beginning. When she became prime minister, Truss appointed Kwasi Kwarteng chancellor and the two of them put together a mini-budget that in hindsight looks like a suicide pact, although I’m sure they saw themselves as bold, courageous, and several other synonyms. 

The mini-budget involved multiple tax cuts that were heavily weighted toward the people with the most money because, you know, they have so much money. And they dress well and they donate so much to political parties. Who can resist them? Besides, they’d invest that money and the economy would grow and all the cash would trickle down to people with less money, who’d be ever so grateful, and the pie would grow.

Yes, Truss did say the pie would grow. Cartoonists had a glorious few days with that before life got so crazy that growing pies started to look sensible.

In addition to the problems inherent in the trickle-down theory–primarily that it doesn’t seem to work–a more immediate problem was that they hadn’t bothered to say where the money was going to come from to fund the tax cuts, and you have to at least pretend you’ve got that piece before you show the world your completed jigsaw puzzle. 

The pound promptly tanked, which raised the cost of government borrowing, and there’d clearly be a lot since they hadn’t figured out how they were going to cover those cuts. It also raised mortgage rates, because some 20% of mortgages in the country are trackers, which go up when the interest rates rise, and interest rates were imitating that imaginary pie.

Truss’s party began to turn on her publicly–first one Member of Parliament, then several, then a few more. It was an iceberg situation. You judge the size of the hidden opposition by the part that’s visible.

So what does a courageous etc. prime minister do when her party doesn’t like her bold etc. plan? She fires her chancellor, that’s what she does, and exempts herself from the suicide pact, and appoints a new chancellor–in this case Jeremy Hunt, leaving Kwarteng holding the record for the chancellor who spent the second shortest length of time in office. But since the absolutely shortest-serving chancellor left his position by dying, that still gives Kwarteng a sort of first place.



I’m condensing the events here. And I’m not necessarily sticking to the sequence. It was all happening too fast to untangle, so in deference to the speed of events we’ll shift to the present tense, even thought it’s all in the past now. 

Don’t think about that too much. No matter which way you turn it, it won’t make much sense. Don’t give me any grief about it. I’ve rewritten this damned thing too many times already.


The press conference

If you want to look prime ministerial, you have to hold a press conference, so that’s what Truss does. Surely that’ll calm the markets, the politicians, and that segment of the populace that’s still searching the fields where pies grow. She’s smart enough to know she’s not popular, so she picks through the assembled journalists like someone who’ll only eat the blue M&Ms. Blue is her party’s color, after all, and she needs Tory-friendly questions. She’s surrounded by enemies. The woods are dark and dangerous. It’s hard to tell Grandma from the wolf.

None of the journalists, it turns out, are her grandmother. One asks, “Can you explain . . . why you should remain as prime minister, given that you’ve dumped a key tax cut that led you to be elected and got rid of your chancellor?”

Another asks how come, given that she and the chancellor designed the budget together, “you get to stay?”

A third asks what credibility she has.

A fourth asks why not even Grandma hasn’t seen fit to show her support.

To each question, she blithers something about being determined to “see through what I’ve promised.” 

After eight painful minutes, she ends the press conference and staggers out of the room.


Larry the Cat

Larry the Cat is reported to have chased a fox away from 10 Downing Street, although I have it on good authority that Larry was only asking if it would like to be the next prime minister, at which point it fled. 


Facing the Commons

Since nothing gladdens the heart of a British politician more than making another politician (preferably one from another party) suffer in public, the Labour Party puts forward a question that, under normal circumstances, would bring a prime minister toddling into the House of Commons to answer it personally. 

These aren’t normal times, though, and Truss doesn’t appear, so Penny Mordaunt–a fellow Conservative and at one point a rival for Truss’s current, unenviable position–steps in to answer for her, explaining that the prime minister is not hiding under her desk. 

A new rumor circulates: Liz Truss is hiding under her desk.

Jeremy Hunt–new chancellor, remember–announces that he’s reversing almost all Truss’s tax measures. The pound inches upward. The markets nod dozily.

He reassures us that Truss is still in charge. 

A new rumor circulates. Yes, you guessed it.


Facing the king

Truss is announced to the king for her weekly audience and he says, “Back again?” and then, “Dear, oh dear.”


Facing her own party

In the week before Truss resigned, all you had to do was ask Lord Google, “How long will Li . . .” and he’d finish the sentence with “. . . z Truss be prime minister?” Although, in fairness, he might have suggested something different to you. He knows what you’ve been thinking. He knows when you’re awake. He knew when Truss is in trouble, and so does everyone else.

Okay, that was past tense. Truss resigned twenty minutes ago and I’m rewriting this. Again.  

There were several ways Truss could be dumped, but they boil down to these: 1, Her own party could force her out, or 2, the House of Commons could force her out, triggering a general election.

Or, of course, she could resign and claim it was her own idea.

Her own party was and is somewhere between reluctant and shit-scared to trigger an election right now. Polls suggest that they’re slightly less popular than Covid. One shows ten ministers losing their hind ends, along with the parliamentary seats they sit them on, if an election were to be held now. They include Jacob Rees-Mogg, Jeremy Hunt, and Therese Coffey, the health minister who recently told the world she’d given leftover antibiotics to a friend, enraging the medical establishment, which reminded us all that it’s not only illegal but dangerous. And unbecoming a health secretary, who might ought to maybe at least pretend she knows something about medicine, or at least knows enough to consult people who do.

To make up for it, she ups the ante and suggests that maybe pharmacists should start prescribing antibiotics, because who needs a diagnosis anyway? You just take some little pills and you get better.

But we were talking about polls. Sorry. It’s just so nice to hear that Coffey has an opinion on something other than the series comma. 

That same poll also projects that Boris Johnson would lose his seat and ass and the Conservatives would face a wipeout.

So no, the Conservatives aren’t in the mood for an election right now, and they still have a huge majority, so they’re in a position to block any move in the Commons. This means the first possibility was the one to pay attention to: Her own party forces her out. To do that, they have follow rules the party itself sets, which say the prime minister’s position can’t be challenged until she’s been in office for a year. Unless, of course, the party decides to change its rules, which it can do as soon as enough of the right people are in the mood. 

The last two prime ministers were forced out that way, remember. All it took was a threat to change the rules, although in Boris Johnson’s case most of his cabinet had to resign before he noticed. The point is, though, that they’re getting good at forcing prime ministers out, if not at governing. But rumor has it that they can’t coalesce around an alternative. Or any half dozen likely sounding alternatives. They seem to have poured all the fizz off the top of their beer and now they’re left with–

That metaphor’s not going to work, is it? Never mind They don’t seem to have convinced themselves that any living Conservative politician has what it takes. It’s one of the places where I find common ground with them. The other? That the law of gravity should remain in force.

Some are even talking about bringing Boris Johnson back. 

Nevertheless, speculation about how long Truss will last was so widespread that one paper had a live-streaming lettuce-cam, asking which will last longer, the prime minister or a head of lettuce?

The lettuce had a ten-day shelf life. It won.

Jack Peat, who writes at the London Economic, raised a possibility I hadn’t thought of: A new election doesn’t have to depend on a majority of parliament voting for it. A general strike could force one. We’re already in the midst of multiple strikes, and more are likely, regardless of who follows Truss.

“As we have seen this summer, workers are more organised than they have been in many years, and the worst is still to come as the cost of living crisis really shows its teeth. Such a large movement could force Truss’s hand, and in doing so, trigger the inevitable capitulation of the Tory Party. “

Truss’s resignation (now forty minutes old) makes that unnecessary but who knows what comes next? The strategy might still be useful.


Meanwhile, addressing the nation from under her desk . . . 

. . . Truss announced that she would lead her party into the next election. Several people near where I live said, “Whatever she’s on, I’d like some.”

Larry the Cat reopened negotiations with the fox, whose name has still not yet been made public.


Also meanwhile, at a committee of the House of Lords

Ai-Da, an ultra-realistic robot who paints, testified about I have no idea what. Someone asked how she produces art and she said, “I produce my paintings by cameras in my eyes, my AI algorithms and the AI robotic arm to paint on canvas, which result in visually appealing images from my poetry using neutral networks.”

Neutral is not my typo. The questions were submitted in advance and Ai-Da was giving a prefabricated answer. So someone of the human persuasion thought that particular set of words answered the question. 

And maybe it does. I’ve seen equally enlightening statements written by flesh-and-blood artists, and understood them just as well. 

In response to the next question, Ai-Da shut down and had to be rebooted, giving Truss a workable strategy for her next press conference–which didn’t happen.


. . . while in what passes for the real world

. . . the new chancellor made noises about a return to austerity. You know what that’s like: They start talking about efficiency and trimming fat, but mysteriously leave fat on the programs they like and take the bones and the meat from ones they don’t, leaving them not only less efficient but in pieces. 

Looking around the country, you might not be able to tell that we left austerity behind, but never mind. If we did, apparently we’re going back. Last I heard, the government needs to come up with £70 billion, and reversing the Truss/Kwarteng tax cuts will only cover half of that. 

Inflation was last clocked breaking the 10% speed limit, but necessities are up more than that. Electricity’s gone up 52%, gas 102.2%, cheese, 23.1%, prefab meals, 19%; milk (that’s low fat), 42%, and so on. People are looking for ways to use less and less fuel when they cook–it’s taking that much of a bite out of the budget.


It couldn’t get any worse, right?

Of course it could. Truss’s acting director of communications and key advisor was suspended for saying–or more likely, for being quoted as having said–that Conservative MP Sajid Javid was “shit”–or as one reporter put it, “excremental.” 

Folks, this is why governments need directors of communications. They know what to say in every situation.

The home secretary launched an attack on the Guardian-reading, tofu-eating wokerati. Tofu immediately started trending on Twitter.

Then she resigned, having held the position for 43 days and setting another record. Why? Well, she sent a secret document from her personal email account (apparently to someone who wasn’t authorized to see it anyway) and since she was on her way out she used her resignation letter to savage the government for not taking responsibility for its mistakes. 

But wait. She hadn’t quit, she was fired. Or she wasn’t fired. Or else she was and she and Truss had a 90-minute shouting match. At this point, no one much cares about the details, or at least the tofu-eating wokerati and I don’t and let’s face it, who else matters? She’s gone. Her replacement praised the new chancellor but managed not to mention the prime minister. 

Journalists began asking who was in charge. From under her desk, Truss sent a note saying, “I am.”

A vote in the House of Commons degenerated into chaos, with accusations of screaming, shouting, bullying, and more to the point pushing and shoving so Conservative MPs would vote the way their party wanted them to. This was possible because MPs vote by walking into one room or another–or in this case, by getting pushed into one of them. Apparently if your body goes through the door, it doesn’t matter how it got there, you voted.

The chief whip resigned–and apparently her deputy did as well. 

What’s a chief whip? The person who keeps MPs in line, threatening them with mayhem if they look like they might vote the wrong way. 

What does it mean when a chief whip resigns? It’s the political equivalent of your underwear spontaneously falling off as you stand at the bus stop on your way to work. Only your underwear’s unlikely to yell, as the deputy is supposed to have at the point where he and his underwear left the voting lobby, “I am fucking furious and I don’t give a fuck anymore.” Except the the site where I found that quotes him as saying “f***ing,” which is hard to pronounce, never mind yell.

Then they both unresigned. Or else one of them did. Or neither. Or possibly they never resigned in the first place.

We’re all a bit dizzy and need to sit quietly for a while.

A veteran TV journalist called the Northern Ireland minister–off camera–a cunt and apologized to the world at large, saying it was below the standard he sets for himself. I’m disappointed only that he apologized. Not that I know enough about the Northern Ireland minister, just that–oh, hell, I like a bit of swearing now and then.


Who’s next?

A friend suggested yesterday that we’ve had so many prime ministers lately that we need a collective noun for them. A disappointment of prime ministers? A desperation of prime ministers? Please, help me out here. It’s important and we need the world’s best brains working on it.

I’m writing this on Thursday, October 20. It’s now an hour since Truss resigned. She’ll stay under her desk, pretending to govern, until her party picks a replacement, which is expected to take a week–much less time than it took to choose Truss, but after the MPs narrow down the candidates the final two will be voted on by Conservative Party members, those wise and sober citizens who thought Truss was a good idea. The rest of us will sit on the sidelines.  

[Yet another update: Conservative MPs will narrow the field of candidates down and if two are left standing and unmaimed the choice will go to the members. If only one is still functional, that’s it, the decision will have been made and the members won’t have to bother their little heads.]

As for me, I’ve worn out several of the English language’s verb tenses and refuse to do any more rewriting. I’m posting it early–Thursday evening instead of Friday morning–before anything else changes. For whatever happens next, allow me to refer you to a real newspaper. Even if you’re not a fan, they’ve been a lot of fun lately.

A final word, though: Larry the Cat’s negotiations with the fox are ongoing. The snag, apparently, is that the fox won’t accept the position without a mandate from the voters and the Conservatives are understandably not interested in bringing the voters into the picture right now.

97 thoughts on “Who hasn’t resigned yet? It’s politics in Britain

  1. The only good thing she did was to sack Suella Braverman who is bona fide delusional and demented, but as she put her in the job in the first place that’s how it should be. What a complete fiasco this Government has created. Well done on putting it so succinctly.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. How about “An Incompetence of PMs?”
    I learned of her resignation right here from you. I just spent an enjoyable hour reading about the shop cats in San Francisco without knowing in this Twitter thread— https://twitter.com/chrisarvinsf/status/1582861720300634112?s=21&t=2wc7Sl4j85XY6CtyNXW1ng

    I think I’ll return to the cats. Maybe Larry would like to move to SF. Since the UK seems to be having a very hard time, Covid continues to mutate and rampage, climate change is getting worse, who knows what that evil prick Putin will do next and my advancing years, I just made a decision that makes me very sad: no more trips to dear London or elsewhere. Instead, I’m going to venture 125 miles up CA 1 to the lux Monterey Plaza Hotel for a couple of days each month, sit on my little balcony looking down at the bay and read more about happy cats. For occasional breaks, I’ll toddle a couple of blocks down to the aquarium and admire the otters and other gorgeous sealife and think about how they are spared knowledge of the likes of Truss, Boris, Putin, the Saudis and American Republicans. That’s my plan. It is lovely but I’m still sad. I hope some Brits will still be landing at SFO despite the sinking exchange rate and driving down the coast so I can meet them and chat a bit. Sigh.

    Love your excellent summary of the chaos and cluelessness. Looking forward to additions. Now back to the comforting cats.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m sorry for your change in plans but your new ones do sound good. I don’t think Larry’s looking to move–he’s our only source of stability, but may the cats of the world keep you going.


      • It should definitely have the word “ten” in it.
        Another great post, Ellen – it had me laughing out loud several times. By now, it’s all changed again and we’re ready for Rishi. Or not, as the case may be.

        Liked by 2 people

        • The question is–or should be–whether he’s ready for us. As someone or other (who listens more closely than I did) pointed out, he keeps talking about leading the Conservative Party and the country, putting them in that order. Presumably that tell us something about his priorities.

          It doesn’t have ten in it, but it occurred to me today that a replacement of prime ministers might be workable.

          Liked by 2 people

            • It does point in the direction your mind took without committing to it.

              When it looked like Johnson made come back on us, like some kind of food that doesn’t agree with our systems, I wondered about “a repetition of prime ministers” wouldn’t work. “An impermanence” is also tempting.


  3. What a great piece summing up the mess in the UK. Isn’t it horrible to watch the inability of politicians again and again? Same here in Germany, Austria is not much better, or look at Italy … I could kick their collective butts from here to … where they can’t do any more damage

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I do so enjoy knowing we are not the only country facing more uproar politically. It really warms my heart to see others screw up. I am also so very thankful you cleared up that whole lettuce thing. Honestly I don’t (didn’t) care enough about Liz to read what was behind the mysterious lettuce headlines but feel truly satisfied to now know. Ellen, you have done a great service to those of us immersed in our own social problems while trying to pretend that we just don’t care.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. It’s an utterly embarrassing shambles. My expectations for Truss and her cabinet were abysmally low and yet she still managed to be even more atrocious than I expected. The best thing to come out of her premiership was all the lettuce-based humour, which my kids and I have been enjoying. It is an absolute joke of democracy that the Tories can remain in power when this is the state of their leadership.

    Of course, given I live in America where democracy itself is on the ballot in a few weeks’ time, I am in no position to feel haughty about what is going on in the UK.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I just had a post pop up on my sidebar announcing that today is National Sloth Day. That explains a few things, at least.

    Brava Diane Clement !

    In a bid to avoid some of the US news I have been watching BBC America, so I have gotten a bit of a view of what you speak. Proving that the US and GB are very closely related countries. If you want to borrow though, the world wide inflation is Joe Biden’s fault. Never would have happened if Trump had been reelcted.

    “Effing” is how you pronounce “f***ing”

    Larry and the Fox is a very good idea.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Damn. I thought I was pretty good a swearing but all this time I’ve been trying to pronounce the asterisks. How embarrassing.

      I’m going to pass up National Sloth Day. It’s too closely related to Boris Johnson’s premiership.


      • It’s true. But what’s all the noise about lettuce? I’m seeing cartoons everywhere but I must have missed the event on which they’re based. And this continues to be a very good blog. Glad to have it. Be well.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Ah. A tabloid, the Star, set up a live-feed lettuce cam, asking who’d last longer, a head of iceberg lettuce (shelf life, ten days) or Liz Truss. I think they even put eyes on the lettuce. The lettuce won.

          Inspired idea.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. The King’s initial greeting now seems remarkably prescient.

    I was discussing this with friends yesterday about an hour after it happened and we were saddened to think that her name will forever be linked with Churchill’s in that they were the Queen’s first and final prime ministers.

    It looks like they’ve decided to try and avoid allowing members to vote this time, which seems very sensible to me. Mind you, it’s become a poisoned chalice now, so who knows what will happen. There must surely be someone in the Commons capable of forming a government that might do something useful like, well, govern.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I take my hat off to you for the continual edits, I’d have probably thrown my hands up crossly as I believe Mock the Week may have done ;)

    A Twitter friend said they were tired of living in interesting times. I’m not – well not quite yet – as this one has surely been hilarious. Unless it allows Bojo back in, obviously.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Nicely said. Just the right amount of world weary despondency coupled with the nagging knowledge that this Tragicom is not yet done, though Truss is.
    As for a term for ex PMs; a prattfall of PMs? A poverty of PMs? A pox of PMs? A pisstake of PMs?

    Liked by 2 people

      • Given Truss’s rapid-fire exit you will probably get a surfeit of coming and goers in/out of the PMs position. But if Johnson gets the nod again I won’t be reaching for bottle of champagne, thats for sure. Do the Blue Party membershits have the collective memory of a gnat or do they think that he can park his massive ego second time around? Noooo, a dotard can’t change its spots.

        Liked by 2 people

        • When people vote for politicians because they think they’d be fun to have a beer with, or someone I know wouldn’t vote for another one because of the way he dressed–. Honestly, I have no idea what goes on in people’s heads.

          Liked by 2 people

  10. Just got back from Cornwall a few weeks ago. Wonderful place, enjoyed every bit of it.

    My wife’s family is from there, up the hill from Penzance. So we spent a few hours stumbling around old graveyards until we found the headstone of her great-great-grandfather. In the process, we befriended an old guy giving tours of the church.

    My wife chatted about her relatives and the old guy said, “Hey, I know one of your distant cousin’s. He’s down at the pub.”

    Needless to say, the reunion was a blast.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh, now that’s magical. I love Penzance and that whole area around it, with all its ancient monuments. I live at the other end of the county, almost to the Devon border. Also beautiful, but not in quite the same way.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Bwhahahahahaha:D … wot a wunnerful shit-show, innit? … we all gotta line up wif the crazies now. They’re runnin the bloody asylum.

    Actually are there any Tories who are taking time out at a funny farm somewhere? Could be the ideal choice for a PM.

    Love the bit in the comments about being ‘tired of living in interesting times’.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. I don’t know where all the decent politicians have gone. Apart from Zelenskyy and Jacinta Ardern, there aren’t really any decent politicians anywhere in the world. When I was growing up, we had people like Nelson Mandela, Lech Walesa, Vaclav Havel and Mikhail Gorbachev. And Maggie Thatcher who, despite being unpopular in many areas, was very much in charge and knew what she was doing. Now who is there? The new German Chancellor’s so anonymous that I keep forgetting his name.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’ll have to part company on Maggie Thatcher. She knew what she was doing, but it was horrendous. But we really have reached a point where I look back at the politicians hated when I was younger and they’ve begun to look like statespeople. Not because I’ve reconsidered their politics or think better of them but because the politicians we have now are so much worse. I do think that to a large extent the times create the leaders, and these are times when our certainties are collapsing. The climate, for one thing. A globalized economy in which a few companies are larger and more powerful than governments. Jobs people could once count on to provide a living. And except for the ultra-right, who’ve found ways to galvanize people around blame, anger, and hate, no really knows how to deal with it. Hence the useless leaders we have no–they don’t know what to do any more than we do.

      I won’t go on. You know the picture as well as I do.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Reagan and Thatcher . . . the special relationship between the US and Great Britain . . . the damage not only to those two countries but the world . . . they have much to answer for . . . but they’re dead . . . the beginning of a long decline and an era of lack of empathy . . .

        Liked by 2 people

        • Being dead does exempt them from answering for that. Or anything else. If I were religious, I’d add “at least to us,” but I really don’t think anyone else is out there keeping score. If they were, surely they’d have fixed this mess by now. Or given it up as a bad job and walked away.

          Liked by 1 person

    • I so understand that zombie state. Occasionally I wonder if we should be laughing (as opposed to going out and throwing things, I guess), but on the theory that it just might help….

      And given then mess they’re making over here, it’s hard not to.

      Liked by 1 person

        • I’m quite far to the left of them, so I’m not inclined to think they’ll come riding in as saviors, but yes, I do think they’d do better. They’d be hard put to do worse. Marginal competence would be a huge improvement. As would some shred of compassion and a commitment to bailing out the most vulnerable, not the richest. And to rebuilding the NHS.

          Having said that, I think the problems the country is facing are massive and systemic, so I don’t think anyone would have an easy time of it. But yes, I do think they’d do better.

          Liked by 1 person

    • How anybody, from any political viewpoint, thinks that’s a good idea is beyond me. In other words, it’ll probably happen.

      Actually, I think there’s a real possibility he won’t get enough MPs behind him to qualify, but these days it’s probably smart politics not to rule anything out.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hmm. I wouldn’t rule the suggestion out, especially since they get pretty homicidal when the prime minister’s position opens up.

      Sunak is fairly modelish, and the first PM in a while to project at least the illusion of competence. All of which was undermined when he appointed his cabinet of recycles, including one who’d been dumped for a security breach. Never mind. The last few have set the bar so low that we’re not likely to ask much of him–except possibly to dig us out of this mess, which he’s unlikely to do.

      Does that fill your optimism quotient for the day?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Optimism? Nope but I’m sure it’s gonna make for many great stories from you. — To be fair, our chancellor is a joke and only got the position because Germany didn’t want to vote conservative/ or was ready for a green female chancellorette. So now we’ve got this sleeping tablet of a coward (who I’m sure has a few skeletons in the closet).

        Liked by 2 people

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