Many British expats in Portugal have been understandably angered and embarrassed by last week’s political and economic anarchy in the United Kingdom.
Respect for Britain’s government has plummeted across Europe, in the United States and elsewhere around the world, with people aghast at the frenzied turmoil within the UK’s Conservative Party.
Some found the recent events to be farcical, even funny. But no, they were deadly serious and fully factual.
Liz Truss was forced out of office as prime minister by her own party just 44 days after being enthusiastically voted in.
The damage was self-inflicted as she had made a total shambles of things by complicating an already dire financial situation in one of the world’s biggest economies.
The friend Truss chose as Chancellor of the Exchequer, Kwasi Kwarteng, released a mini-budget that included the biggest tax cuts in half a century, which would have mainly benefitted the wealthier segments of British society.
Truss sacked him as the financial markets reacted. The pound nosedived in value, leading borrowing costs to shoot up.
Soaring interest rates threatened higher mortgage payments for millions of British citizens.
It took the International Monetary Fund to urgently point out that the planned tax cuts might stoke inflation.
The Bank of England felt obliged to take drastic measures, including buying an unlimited quantity of government bonds to protect the UK economy from crashing further.
Truss sacked her friend after he had been in (not ‘on’) the job for just 38 days and appointed a new chancellor, Jeremy Hunt.
As the fourth chancellor in four months, Hunt calmed the markets somewhat by completely overturning the planned tax cuts of his predecessor, which the PM had supported.
Having just claimed in the House of Commons that she was “a fighter not a quitter”, Truss quit and became by far the shortest serving prime minister in British history.
Aged just 47, Truss is now entitled to an annual public payment of £115,000. Many British pensioners feel outraged because of concerns about their own more modest public payments amid the cost-of-living crisis that has forced many working people into poverty.
Truss’ predecessor, Boris Johnson, who led Britain out of the European Union, was forced to resign in early July after a series of ‘Partygate’ scandals.
It beggared belief that many Conservatives wanted Boris back after Truss resigned.
He flew home from a holiday in the Caribbean in the hope of regaining his position, despite soon to be investigated for misleading members of parliament. He declined to enter the leadership race just the night before this Monday’s deadline.
Meanwhile, the Labour Party, which is holding a big majority of support according to all opinion polls, demanded a general election giving the country, not just the Conservatives, the opportunity to choose the next prime minister. The muddled government ruled that out.
In the absence of any viable contender as leader of the Conservative Party and prime minister, Rishi Sunak will now have to sort out the mess, including a £40 billion black hole in the economy, while the population is facing a booming recession at home plus a great loss to Britain’s reputation internationally.
British expats, for their own futures and those of family and friends here and in their homeland, are hoping for a rapid end to the current tumultuous uncertainly and a return to stability.
By LEN PORT
Len Port is a journalist and author based in the Algarve. Follow Len’s reflections on current affairs in Portugal on his blog: algarvenewswatch.blogspot.pt