If, like me, you spend your weekdays going about your daily business to the low hum of the BBC News channel playing in the background, last week’s government domino spectacle culminating in more than 50 resignations was a sight to behold.
At the time of writing, Boris Johnson has finally given up on his desperate cling to power. He has reluctantly agreed it is time for him to step down. Where we go next is yet to be decided.
This summer we will watch as the Tories battle it out again in what is expected to be a bitter leadership challenge.
It would be entertaining if it wasn’t so exhausting. The state of the Tory party would be funny if they hadn’t managed to drag the country down with them.
The cabinet ministers and parliamentary secretaries who lined up to hand in their resignations last week didn’t resign when their then-leader missed a string of emergency Cobra meetings in the early days of the pandemic. They didn’t resign over dodgy PPE contracts, the Dominic Cummings scandal, or the lack of financial transparency over the PM’s £112,000 flat refurbishment. Anyone remember Wallpapergate?
They didn’t resign when the government cut the £20 a week uplift to Universal Credit, plunging millions of families deeper into poverty. They didn’t resign over the so-called Partygate scandal, or the subsequent Sue Gray report, which found Downing Street staff partied while the rest of us were told to stay at home.
They didn’t resign when Johnson broke his 2019 manifesto pledge not to raise taxes by announcing that national insurance contributions would rise by 1.25 percentage points from April 2022.
No, they resigned when they realised the gig was up for Johnson, and it was time to look after their own self-interest.
At the very least, all we can hope for of Johnson’s successor is that they are competent and honest – that’s how low the bar has been set.
Whoever inherits the keys to Downing Street has got a lot of work to do. Last week, as scores of Tories signed resignation letters in a desperate bid to save their own skins, consumer group Which? released new research that showed two million households have missed a bill payment every month this year as people struggle to keep their heads above water. That same day, Citizens Advice warned hundreds of thousands of chronically ill and disabled people are missing out on up to £157 a week in benefit payments because of bureaucratic delays. And Lloyds Banking Group reported demand for debt services jumped by 30 per cent in the first six months of this year as the relentless cost of living crisis bites.
While the Conservative Party’s big cheeses launch leadership campaigns and bicker amongst themselves over who is the right fit for the top job, ordinary people are worrying about how they will fill their cars and heat their homes this winter.
Johnson’s exit is a chance for the Conservatives to wipe the slate clean and deliver what they promised voters in 2019. We can only hope that things can only get better from here.