The Gist: The Death March

The UK Prime Minister decided to call an election. Then he stepped outside to tell everyone about it and it all went downhill from there. This is the Gist.

The Gist: The Death March

Rishi Sunak is not an admirable man. It is worth pointing that out as we watch his extended humiliation over the last week and the next five (five!) more weeks to come. Because if he was even a slightly sympathetic person, it might be painful to watch what is happening to him.

But he not an admirable man. He is an unprincipled technocrat without the basic competence that tag would suggest. He is the management consultant brought in by failing management, because they know he won't make them look bad in comparison. In terms of annoyances, he's not even the man at the party with a guitar who plays Wonderwall when nobody asked him. He's the guy who stands next to that guy, nodding his head.

It's not painful to watch this guy and his party fail. This is going to be great.

We are in the unusual position of being gifted the spectacle of an election campaign where the people who chose to call it do so in a state of despair. In my lifetime, we've only been gifted two such moments- the Blair landside of 1997 and the 2011 election after Cowen's Fianna Fáil sank the economy. The first was at a time of rising economic possibilities in the UK. The second was characterised by a rage for revenge that not even the Government TDs fully understood.

Clearly, it is the FF collapse which we can use as our template for this election. The Tories haven't merely got tired and corrupt during their long stint in power, like John Major's Tory regime. Over the last fourteen years, the UK's most electorally successful political movement went insane and dragged everyone else through its various political psychoses.

And now Britain's voters are ready to get them for it. Unlike the 2011 FF implosion, the Tories don't have the protection of the PR-STV system to scrape in on the fourth and fifth seats. First Past The Post presents election options as a binary choice to the unfortunate voters forced to function inside its limitations.

Immediately after the election was called a spate of reports came out on the emotional state of the ruling party.

Tory MPs, pictured today

“It’s so crazy”, "A gamble of huge proportions. I don’t understand it.”, "Yeah, we're fucked, pardon my French", "I am sad" and, most movingly, “emotionally this is a lot to digest”.

It could hardly happen to a more deserving set of people.

The UK Tory party, in its membership and its elected representatives, has landed a series of utterly avoidable disasters upon those it has ruled over for fourteen years. The Tory MPs who have rushed to tell us how hard the possibility of impending political oblivion has been on their feelings literally killed people with their shenanigans over the past 14 years.

From the fecklessness of Cameron's Brexit referendum to the humourless authoritarian self-delusion of May's assertion she could deliver the square circle, to the dead that Boris Johnson imagined piling up during COVID as a consequence of his promise that he already had a square circle and it was all so easy. Each turn of the screw-ups was worse than the one that went before, in exactly the ways a party filled with reactionary and very stupid people who were used to getting their own way would go.

Until at last, the party's members decided to vote to make Liz Truss their Prime Minister. Truss, a person with the permanently glassy thousand-yard stare of a castaway who wasn't rescued quite soon enough, promptly killed the Queen. (It is possible she merely induced such despair at her first encounter with the monarch that death seemed like the better option.)

What all of this rogues' gallery have in common is that they were each willing to deny reality to pander to the prejudices of their voters and the press, even as it pressed in and crushed their predecessor. May insisted on Britain's negotiating strength while being squeezed into a box by the actual power of the EU. Then Johnson asserted that he could Get Brexit Done without having to accept any of the downsides of the deal that May had struggled not to make, before events suddenly threw him into the role of his nation's most reluctant social distancer. Finally, Liz Truss simply denied how money worked only to see everyone else's money disagree with her.

And now, in the final five weeks of this long walk off the shortest of piers, their caretaker leader continues to respond to the evolutionary demands that made him and deny what is clear to everyone. He has called an election, in the face of likely wipe-out, while refusing to accept that things are bad for the voters who are to pass judgement on him and his predecessors. His MPs are forced to face the possibility of consequences flowing from their actions. No wonder they're feeling overwhelmed.

This weekend, Sunak suddenly remembered he had a signature policy he'd forgotten to mention, to bring back National Service. Next week- who knows? Hanging? Flogging? Warm beer at school dinners? I suppose we'll have to see what his crack team of policy experts, The Daily Mail Below The Line Comment-leavers, come up with next.

They won't get better after they lose this vote. In fact, they'll probably get worse. But if the UK's voters do their job properly, they will stop mattering.

And, no matter what comes next, that will be a relief for everyone.