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  • Tom Lowe

It's Time to Go: A Brief History of Fourteen Years of Tory Rule

By Tom Lowe

For fourteen long years, the Conservatives have held court over the British people from Westminster and Downing Street. From the callous austerity of David Cameron, the feeble factionalism of Theresa May, the pandemic of lies of Boris Johnson, the country-crippling economics of Liz Truss, and the culture wars of Rishi Sunak, the Tories certainly have proved one thing from their time in office; that it’s time to kick them out. 

With Labour’s 1997 election anthem, ‘Things Can Only Get Better’ by D:Ream, drowning out his voice, Rishi Sunak stood on the steps of a very rainy Number 10 to announce that the nation was to go to the polls on July 4. Citing his ‘successes’ as Chancellor during the COVID-19 pandemic and the fact that inflation has finally returned to a stable rate, Sunak claimed that the time was ripe to build upon the ‘achievements’ of the past fourteen years and allow Britain to choose its own future. Bear in mind, his party is (at the time of writing), 22 points behind in the polls to Keir Starmer’s Labour Party.

The Conservatives have had fourteen years to improve the country, and what do they have to show for it? Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? 

David Cameron entered Downing Street in May 2010, in the first coalition government since the Second World War, claiming to provide a safe alternative to the ‘reckless’ spending of Gordon Brown’s Labour that, he claimed, exacerbated the global financial crisis. With his Chancellor, George Osborne, and the complicity of Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats, Cameron embarked on a quest of spending cuts to reduce the deficit, colloquially termed ‘austerity’. These measures have crippled the country’s public services, with NHS waiting times rising steadily since 2010, and over 330,000 excess deaths being attributed to the cuts. To top off Cameron’s six years in office, he called a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU, which he promptly lost, sending the Pound into freefall, before resigning. 

"The Conservative's line that they are the only party that can deliver meaningful change is a sham, their record over the past fourteen years proves that."

Theresa May succeeded Cameron as PM after winning the post-Brexit leadership election unopposed. Her premiership was defined by Brexit and its impact on the division of the Conservative Party. In a gamble to shore up support, she called a snap election in 2017, a gamble that did not pay off. The Conservatives lost their majority, and May’s government was rendered impotent for the next two years. She survived two votes of no confidence, lost three votes on her Brexit withdrawal deal, and resigned in 2019, having fundamentally changed very little about Britain during her years in office. 

Boris Johnson won the Tory leadership election over Jeremy Hunt in 2019. If there were one word to describe his time in office, it would be scandal. Within his first few months as PM, he allegedly lied to the Queen to illegally prorogue parliament in an attempt to try and force his Brexit deal through, before eventually calling an election in December to ‘Get Brexit Done’, in which he comfortably won an 80-seat majority. Johnson’s government’s handling of COVID-19 was nothing short of atrocious, with the UK recording 230,000 deaths (more than any other European country) and the worst decline in living standards of the G7 economies. After the worst of the pandemic was over, it was then revealed that Johnson and his cronies had been engaging in a series of illegal gatherings (which he then deliberately misled parliament about) during lockdown, a scandal known as ‘Partygate’. His government was punctuated by a perpetual lurch from sleaze to scandal, which would eventually lead to Johnson’s downfall after he lied to the press about having no knowledge of Tory Deputy Chief Whip Chris Pincher’s groping of two men at a private members club. In a matter of days, 62 members of his government (including ministers, private secretaries, and trade envoys) resigned, pressuring Johnson himself to announce his intention to step down in July 2022. His legacy was, and still is, one of lies and deceit. 

Liz Truss beat Sunak in the 2022 leadership election and immediately got to work with her plan to stimulate growth in the post-COVID economy. The death of the Queen on September 8 put a pause on these plans, with the nation entering 10 days of mourning that brought the traditional functions of politics to a grinding halt. Following this, Truss and her Chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, were finally able to implement their mini-budget, a series of tax cuts aimed at getting the country going again. We all know how that turned out. The IMF issued a stark warning against implementing the cuts for fear it would increase inequality, yet Truss and Kwarteng persisted. Soon after, it was revealed the budget was £72 billion short of the funding it required, leading to a rapid increase in interest rates and sending the markets into a frenzy, adversely impacting mortgage rates in particular. Truss had failed in her mission to push back against the economic norms that had governed the country since WW2, and resigned 49 days into the job, the shortest of any PM in history. 

Rishi Sunak became the third PM in two months, pledging to restore trust in the government he had inherited. It’s safe to say, as with many of the Conservative pledges over the past fourteen years, Sunak’s promises have ended in abject failure. Under his watch, the government has stoked up culture wars, implemented a cruel deportation policy to Rwanda, and has suffered numerous defections to both Labour and Reform. 

As we approach the election on July 4, we may look at Sunak and his four predecessors, and evaluate the state that they have left the country in. Raw sewage is flowing into Britain’s rivers leading to residents of South Devon being instructed to boil their water before drinking it. Meanwhile, a passenger was recently quoted over £700 for a return train from London to Newcastle, a rate of £5 per mile. Supermarkets have begun putting security tags on goods as basic as a block of cheddar cheese whilst vile rhetoric against minorities continues to fuel hate crimes.

The Conservative's line that they are the only party that can deliver meaningful change is a sham, their record over the past fourteen years proves that. However, we must also remember that freeing the country from the Conservatives and putting it in the hands of Keir Starmer is a less-than-ideal scenario. During this election, we must put pressure on Labour’s leadership to return to their core values of public ownership, worker’s rights, and dignity for all. It is certainly true that Labour is a better alternative to the Conservatives at this point, but that does not mean that we must become complacent in Starmer’s lurch to the right. 

Image: Flickr / Number 10



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