Without a candid audit of what has gone wrong, Rishi Sunak will struggle to develop a meaningful programme for the future
The Conservative party that
gathers in Manchester
for its annual conference this week is exhausted, divided and intellectually bankrupt. The constitutional basis on which Rishi Sunak governs is solid, but his electoral mandate is the flimsiest of any prime minister in modern times. The parliamentary majority that keeps Mr Sunak in Downing Street was won by Boris Johnson nearly four years ago on a platform that has subsequently fallen apart. Mr Johnson’s mendacious character rendered his promises worthless. His successor, Liz Truss, was chosen by a ballot of Tory members representing a tiny fraction of the electorate. She then imposed policies derived more from her own ideological fantasies than any published manifesto.
That operation had to be swiftly reversed by the current prime minister, who was elected by no one. He was
installed by his parliamentary colleagues
to restore financial stability and professional credibility to a country that looked absurd. That duty has been discharged, leaving Mr Sunak without a more coherent governing purpose.
indicate a substantial appetite for regime change. A shift in that position is technically possible before an election next year, but few Tories believe it is likely. Some don’t even think it is desirable. After 13 years in power, the party needs to admit its failures and resolve profound questions about its identity.