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A pedestrian passes an advertisement for Liz Truss, the UK’s ousted prime minister, on a subway in London on October 24. Photo: Bloomberg

Letters | UK government fiasco shows Hong Kong must chart its own course to democracy

  • Readers discuss the road to Rishi Sunak’s appointment as UK prime minister, and Liz Truss’ channelling of Margaret Thatcher
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All eyes were on Westminster during the Conservative Party’s political fiasco that culminated in Liz Truss’ resignation, making her Britain’s shortest-serving prime minister.
She was forced to quit after the British pound fell to a historic low following her mini-budget and after her warning to members of parliament not to vote against the government on fracking caused chaos. These events triggered the second leadership contest in two months, resulting in Rishi Sunak becoming the United Kingdom’s first prime minister of Indian descent.

The frustration over this political roller coaster has been strongly felt here in London over the past week. Yet another Tory leadership contest meant voters were denied the chance to choose the country’s prime minister a second time. Worse, party members were also denied a choice this time since Sunak won unopposed.

Although he secured the support of his fellow MPs, Sunak suffers from an inherent legitimacy crisis, just as his predecessor did, because he does not have the mandate of the British public.

A recent poll showed the public is in favour of an early general election, which will almost definitely result in a Conservative defeat. To me, it is antithetical to the notion of democracy and representative government for the Tories to rule for another two years despite having apparently lost public trust and the economy being in shambles.
Truss’ downfall exposed another shortcoming of the British system. During the first leadership election this summer, Truss’ campaign focused on large tax cuts to address the energy and cost of living crises. Both her opponent Sunak and experts warned that the proposed cuts would increase government borrowing costs and trigger a drastic response from the market, which is what eventually happened.

Yet, Truss’ policy positions won over Conservative Party members and brought her to Downing Street. Her electorate was not representative of the country’s increasingly diverse population as Tory members are now overwhelmingly white, male and old.

In Hong Kong, democracy is often understood as “one man, one vote”. However, this is not the only form democracy can take. Furthermore, the election-oriented system has not delivered promising results in recent years.

In view of the political drama in Britain, I am increasingly convinced that no one single system fits all. It is not in Hong Kong’s best interests to directly transplant the Western model. We must walk our own path to democracy.

Anfield Tam, London

Truss’ ‘Iron Lady’ aspirations were off the mark

A cheeky tabloid pitted Liz Truss, when she was British prime minister, against a head of lettuce – an easily perishable vegetable – in a contest to see which would last longer. The result was hardly surprising. Truss had been in office for only 45 days when she resigned, but the lettuce the tabloid had placed next to a photo of her had not wilted.

Truss had once been dubbed the new “Iron Lady” and compared to former prime minister Margaret Thatcher. In the run-up to her winning the Conservative Party’s leadership contest and being appointed prime minister, Truss courted this image.

She tried to employ Thatcher’s economic approach, which was to boost the economy by cutting taxes. But Truss failed to recognise the differences in economic environments between the two times.

As a result, her tax-cutting proposal that would benefit the rich infuriated ordinary citizens. Kwasi Kwarteng, her finance minister, took the blame and was fired. Truss did not last much longer. She has distinguished herself as the shortest-serving prime minister in British history.

Long seen as a survivor, Truss presented herself as a fighter. Perhaps if she had not resigned, she could have outlasted the lettuce.

Still, I doubt she could have become the Iron Lady of our times. This might not altogether be her fault. Britain’s political problems did not just happen overnight but have been brewing for a long time.

Randy Lee, Ma On Shan