The Malta Independent 11 August 2022, Thursday

Rushi versus Liz

Ivan Grixti Saturday, 30 July 2022, 07:13 Last update: about 12 days ago

So the heat is on within the UK both literally and metaphorically. Just when the nation was about to embrace itself for abnormal temperatures mirroring the effects of climate change it became clear who the final two contenders to replace Boris Johnson are. The next leader of the British Conservative Party and Prime Minister will either be Rushi Sunak or Lis Truss.

Given the current unhealthy economic situation Britain has landed itself in, such a leadership contest is possibly a waste of precious time! Yet, there is the valid argument that the harm Boris Johnson has inflicted not only to himself but also to his Conservative Party necessitated a change of the guard. The root cause of this mess is Boris’s proclivity to ignore the rules his government obliged fellow citizens to follow during the pandemic.

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Ironically, just three years ago it was the same Boris who managed to convince an overwhelming majority of British voters giving the Conservative Party a comfortable parliamentary majority. Doing so after ousting Theresa May to get BREXIT done and dusted. Only time will tell to what extent such a decision proved fruitful or not. The recent chaotic scenes at Dover Port are just an indication of the negative or rather unintended consequences of BREXIT! However, the impasse over Northern Ireland and the so-called protocol presents an immediate area of concern for whoever replaces Boris Johnson. It would be a significant setback for the peace process achieved by Tony Blair thanks to significant EU funding programmes in the area.

So what about the two current contenders? Academically, both have read for the would-be-politicians designated course at Oxford University; namely, Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE). Rishi Sunak, who until recently served as Chancellor of the Exchequer, read PPE at Lincoln College followed by an MBA at Stanford University in the US. Liz Truss, the current Foreign Secretary, read PPE at Merton College. Although, she did not pursue any management degree education yet she has worked for Shell and Cable & Wireless before joining Reform, the think tank institution. So, in this aspect both tick the box unlike Theresa May who studied Geography at Cambridge University!

Both contenders differ significantly in their proposed economic reforms that should, in their opinion, produce the much need economic growth. Rishi is totally against tax cuts (indeed, during his time as Chancellor he increased the NICs by British employees to make good for the furlough scheme introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic). Liz, on the other hand is proposing immediate tax cuts to boost local demand that could possibly generate long term economic growth. However, such tax cuts could rather alleviate the current hardship British families are having to put up with increased fuel and energy prices.

Although Rishi is a better communicator than Liz his wealthy status will not blend nicely with the common British citizen who depends on the monthly disposable income to make ends meet. In that aspect it is more likely that British citizens will be more likely to connect with Liz. From her performance thus far she is one of those unique politicians that does not fetch any personal glory but is more of a doer. Just until Boris declared his resignation, Liz was still in Indonesia attending the G20 meeting in her capacity as foreign secretary.

All in all, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Once this parochial leadership contest is over it only stands to reason that the chosen leader should put him/herself to the scrutiny of the British public. Whoever is chosen has no democratic mandate to govern and power. Hate him or love him Boris called a snap election. It has yet to be seen whether his successor will do likewise. However, this time round the Labour Party has a stronger leader – Sir Keir Starmer. So, if the current Tory Party members are grinding their minds as to who can actually give Sir Keir a good challenge, in my humble opinion Liz Truss is the right choice!

 

Ivan Grixti is a senior lecturer in Financial Accounting at the University of Malta

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