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libbyelliott
28th October 2022

The Only Way is Westminster: Politics or reality TV? We need a general election now

The British people deserve a general election after all this chaos and here’s why
The Only Way is Westminster: Politics or reality TV? We need a general election now
“Liz Truss VS Daily Star Lettuce” Photo: Di @ Openverse

I started celebrating my 21st birthday on Thursday (October 20), giving myself the weekend off uni work. Truss quite literally quit as I was fake tanning for my party, Johnson rushed to top contender while I was recovering from my hangover, and now I’ve opened my laptop to start working again to see Sunak is the new PM. It’s been three days. My fake tan is still pretty fresh.

Our generation is so accustomed to chaos that I think we’re almost numb to how deranged the state of Westminster is. I know I, for one, often choose to laugh at the state of affairs to make it bearable. To be fair, it’s not my fault every time I turn on the news I’m met with monotonous pseudo-reality TV. ­The Only Way is Westminster has managed to stay both unpredictable yet still exhaustingly cyclical.

But it’s not really funny, is it? Not only has the UK assumed the role of an international laughing stock, but these last few weeks will also leave astronomical disillusionment amongst the British public – especially students.

Perhaps most significantly, this episode has – yet again – acted as a huge distraction from the mysteries of the mini-budget and further complications caused by its almost immediate U-turn. It is still unclear as to how or even whether individuals and businesses will be able to pay their bills this winter. This article itself actually evolved out of a draft on what Jeremy Hunt’s appointment as Chancellor meant for the cost-of-living crisis. Now it’s a piece about the new Prime Minister.

Photo: Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Govt

This “rotating door of chaos”, as Labour leader Keir Starmer described it, has also left a resounding attitude of cynicism towards the democratic process. Truss picked up 57% of valid votes cast by the 83% of Tory members who turned out to vote. There were 172,000 Conservative party members as of September 2022, compared to 47.6 million people registered to vote in the UK. Not exactly the example your lecturer gets up on the board to describe democracy.

Sunak has now won the ‘Prime Minister’ medal at what can only be described as the ongoing Tory egg-and-spoon race for the top job. We can’t accept three leadership races in the last three years and five Tory Prime Ministers in the last six years as things of normality. Hence, it’s easier to engage with the meme about a wet lettuce lasting longer than Liz Truss’ premiership than fully consider the damage this will have on British politics.

As historian Peter Hennessy puts it, with a little more professionalism: “If the shoutiness, coarseness and malice of the Brexit era continues to be the normality of politics, the 2020s will be seen as a wasted decade and the pessimism will deepen.”

Young people simply won’t want to vote. Actually, care is a far better word to deploy here than want. Fallowfield saw the lowest voter turnout across Manchester earlier this year, just 15.22%. What could possibly incentivise us to go out and vote for our new PM when we’ve had three just this year?

Now, this might all sound drastically snowflake-esque. The Only Way is Woke is perceived to be just as diabolical as The Only Way is Westminster for many in this country. The question of whether Starmer is ready for the job still looms large.

However, it goes without question that the British public deserves more than a last-resort Prime Minister. The best of a bad bunch has hardly restored confidence in a slightly knackered, frankly anxious British public. Particularly one who has boasted of redirecting public funding away from deprived urban areas. Not the warmest hand to hold going into November during a cost-of-living crisis.

It’s not only the leaders of Labour, the SNP, and the Lib Dems who want a general election. Those hoping for a return to stability within the Tory Party may benefit from one also. The Guardian’s Martin Kettle has prophesised a party split on the horizon for the Conservative Party if they continue on as they are.

In fact, some significant Tories have called for the public to go to the polls. Zac Goldsmith, who ran against Sadiq Khan for London Mayor, Christopher Chope, MP for Christchurch, and staunch Johnson loyalist Nadine Dorries have all spoken of a lack of a mandate. Dorries even declared it “impossible to avoid a general election”.

A parliamentary petition calling for a general election has, at the time of writing, 869,597 signatures. However, faith in numbers and the predictable are hardly the pinnacles of British politics at the moment. The time for a general election is now, Labour supporter or not. The Conservatives have continually proved themselves more fit for reality TV than government. We deserve a general election.

Libby Elliott

Libby Elliott

Co-Investigations Editor | Shortlisted for the SPA2022 Rising Star Award | Voted Best Mancunion Newcomer at the MMG Awards 2022

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