'The Country Is On Its Knees' – Will A New Tory PM Actually Be Able To Fix Anything?

The UK does seem to be facing a large pile of crises right now.
Protesters against rising energy prices hold placards outside Downing Street on October 19, 2022
Protesters against rising energy prices hold placards outside Downing Street on October 19, 2022
Rob Pinney via Getty Images

Can the UK be fixed?

That’s the question many cynics are asking at the moment, especially as the problems we face appearing to keep multiplying.

It’s no surprise that Labour MP Jess Phillips declared that the “country is on its knees” following 12 years of Conservative leadership during BBC Question Time, and hours after the fourth Tory leader in six years resigned.

And there’s certainly a lot of pressure riding on whoever becomes No.10′s next resident, as the UK faces many of the problems its European neighbours are having to endure – and more.

Here are the primary crises which need urgent attention.

1. Economy, energy and the cost of living crisis

This is the most pressing matter right now. Though the value of the pound briefly rebounded after Jeremy Hunt became chancellor and ripped up all but two of the mini-budget’s policies, it fell again after Truss resigned.

The uncertainty in UK politics is clearly spooking the markets, and having a knock-on effect for the entire economy.

To make matters worse, the current inflation rate is 10.1%, a 40-year-high, leaving more people out of pocket as prices everywhere rise.

This cost of living crisis is affecting every part of life, from mortgages and international travel to the cost of groceries and heating.

Much of the cost of living crisis can be traced back to the increased energy bills due to the war in Ukraine. Truss tried to tackle this with the energy freeze for two-years – but this has already been rowed back to just six-months of support.

The UK’s growth is lagging behind its G7 partners too, as the only country with a smaller economy than before the Covid pandemic began.

And, while the UK is not technically in recession yet, it is teetering dangerously close to it.

2. The NHS (and Covid)

The NHS has been floundering for years and its problems were only exacerbated by the Covid pandemic.

There is expected to be another Covid wave this winter as well, more likely to be made up of several different variants rather than one dominant strain.

Again, this puts more pressure on an already overstretched NHS, struggling with internal vacancies, a struggling social care sector and an ageing and growing, population.

Amid ongoing fears about it becoming privatised, waiting times are getting worse, and nurses are considering striking for the first time.

After two winters of decreased social contact, flu numbers are expected to soar as temperatures drop, especially among children.

Without a functioning NHS, the UK’s entire workforce is affected too. Since the pandemic, more people have been withdrawing from employment altogether, which is why it seems like unemployment numbers have dropped – there are just fewer people eligible for work, as many now suffer from long-term illness.

3. Climate crisis

There were two heatwaves which hit Europe this summer, one in July and another in August – historically high temperatures were reached with 40.3 degrees reported in some parts.

Both caused a wave of premature deaths, as noted by the Office for National Statistics, as the UK is not adapted for such extreme weather and most homes do not have air conditioning.

The risk of flooding and land erosion is soaring too, which is not ideal for an island nation.

Meanwhile, the government has tried to lift a ban on fracking, leading to more fossil fuel use and more carbon emissions in the atmosphere at a time when the world is supposedly looking to stop global warming.

Flooding has become more common too, another weather phenomenon the UK is not equipped for
Flooding has become more common too, another weather phenomenon the UK is not equipped for
Leon Neal via Getty Images

4. Brexit fallout

Much of the European press blamed the UK’s departure from the EU as responsible for its struggles, despite the government’s repeated claims that Brexit has not had a negative impact.

But, the fallout from Brexit continues to haunt parts of the UK. The Northern Ireland Protocol, for instance, has created substantial tension between Northern Ireland and Britain, due to the trading delays prompting unionists’ backlash. There are fears that violence could return to the region, too, as the its devolved government is still not sitting.

But, Westminster is locked into a legal agreement with the EU to keep up the NI Protocol – meaning there is no feasible way to fix it right now.

There was further chaos on the UK borders due to Brexit-related checks after it was reportedly taking around six hours for passengers just to reach the port of Dover back in July. This triggered further tensions with one of the UK’s closest neighbours, France.

The government has not yet set up any trade deals which rival the single market the bloc enjoys, either.

5. Asylum seekers

This is allegedly the topic which allegedly caused home secretary Suella Braverman to leave government this week after rowing with Truss.

Truss supposedly wanted to relax immigration restrictions in a bid to encourage growth; Braverman didn’t. She said it was her “dream” was to see a plane full of asylum seekers leaving the UK and heading to Rwanda.

However, not only has this plan to deport “illegal” asylum seekers arriving to the UK to East Africa caused huge backlash, and triggered intervention from the European Court of Human Rights, but the plane company which was going to carry the refugees has now pulled out of the scheme.

Meanwhile, the influx of asylum seekers arriving to the UK via boats crossing the channel continues – sparking ongoing division within the Tory party.

The BBC reported that more than 33,500 have crossed via the dangerous channel this year alone, the highest figures since these numbers began being collected.

Migrants being helped ashore from a packed lifeboat by the border force and police officers are taken to Dungeness beach in Kent
Migrants being helped ashore from a packed lifeboat by the border force and police officers are taken to Dungeness beach in Kent
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

6. Strikers – and wages

This is linked to the economy, as workers from a range of sectors are considering industrial action which could (once again) bring the country to a standstill.

Rail workers’ repeated strikes brought the entire train network to a halt across the summer, with more walkouts on the way unless they reach a compromise with their employers over pay, job security and working conditions.

After years of austerity and wages not rising in line with inflation, workers from across the board are facing the same problems – signalling a major problem for the UK’s economy in general. And, with inflation at 10.1%, it’s not clear if this is going to resolve itself any time soon.

7. Ukraine and the fear of nuclear war

Russian president Vladimir Putin has been piling on the nuclear threats recently. Defence secretary Ben Wallace even made a hasty trip to Washington DC to discuss the severity of Moscow’s claims earlier this week.

Since Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine in February this year, the West has been piling on the investments and support for Kyiv.

But, if it can be avoided, the West do not want to be pulled into direct conflict with Russia because of the substantial bloodshed that would likely ensue.

Now Ukraine looks like it has a fighting chance of winning the war, Putin seems to have already retaliated with greater violence in Ukraine.

If he goes nuclear, or attempts to seize other parts of Europe, the rest of the West may have no choice but to get involved.

8. Conservative Party

Unless a general election is held, the Tories will continue to hold a majority in the Commons – and therefore whoever they elect as leader will govern.

But, many pundits (and some Tory MPs) believe the frictions within the party are so deep, they can’t be fixed with any of the candidates available (at the moment, Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt are said to be running).

It is divided between the European Research Group, made up of Eurosceptics, the One Nation Tories, who want to preserve institutions and traditions, and those who fit into neither group.

As former diplomat Andrew Levi pointed out: “That means any attempt to get a King’s Speech or Finance Bill through will cause infighting and chaos.”

There are of course, smaller problems, too – overseas aid, internet regulation and declining public services in general – which are further issues that the Conservative Party cannot seem to agree on.

For instance, former culture secretary Nadine Dorries attempted to champion the Online Safety Bill regulation, only for it to be watered down by her successor Michelle Donelan.


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