Members of the British Conservative Party affectionately refer to their party as “the oldest and most successful party in the world.” In better times then. In fact, there is little to argue with. Since the formation of the Conservative Party in 1834, the Tories have largely held government power in the United Kingdom. Time and again they manage to convince the British of their patriotism in elections, with a kind of unflappable optimism that also characterizes VVD members in the Netherlands. Little of that stature of the Conservative Party is now left. The pace at which party leaders succeed each other in recent years is unprecedented. The resignation of Liz Truss as prime minister on Thursday means the party will become its fifth prime minister in six years, the third since the last national election in 2019. Current Treasury Secretary Jeremy Hunt is even the fourth to hold the post in four months. . Opposition Labor party is seriously preparing to rule, although it is uncertain when elections will be held. Unprecedented implosion “We have seen this government implode like nothing in British history,” said Newcastle University historian Martin Farr. Under pressure from the financial markets, new economic policies had to be radically changed within three weeks. Liz Truss fired her Secretary of the Treasury, while he tried to do exactly what she wanted in terms of content. Less than a week later, she also resigned. Only in the 1920s was the turnover rate of prime ministers higher. Then the UK wore out four in two years. This was partly due to social unrest – Labor came to power for the first time in 1924 – but not entirely; illness of one of the prime ministers helped raise the average. One of the main causes of the chaos in the Conservative Party now, Martin Farr says, has been the referendum on whether the UK should remain a member of the European Union. “For the first time in history, politicians had to implement a direct decision of the population that they themselves opposed in majority. In previous referendums, in 1975 and 1979, the people sided with the government.” Not now, and the assignment was vague. Because the UK should therefore leave the European Union, but how hard should that goodbye be? Farr: “The search for the answer to that question has created a deep division in politics, which has not yet healed.” Factions matter Since that Brexit referendum in 2016, unrest and dissension within the Conservative Party have surfaced. At Labour, Brexit also leads to mutual tensions, but they are not in power. Due to the two-party system in the UK, the Tories have always known factions and sub-groupings, but they will become more vocal and fanatical after 2016. Brexit hardliners, for example, are gathering in the European Research Group, which pressured Prime Minister May to make the separation from the EU as hard as possible. In 2019, party leader Boris Johnson promises to “get it done” after years of difficult negotiations and it will give him a big election win, with a majority of 80 seats in the House of Commons. The Conservative faction then “turns into some sort of Frankenstein monster,” says historian Farr. It is impossible for Johnson to satisfy all those groups of voters, from the wealthy entrepreneurs of the South to frustrated former Labor voters in the North. “Without Brexit, a figure like him would never have come to power.” After Johnson, Liz Truss gives the party’s right wing the opportunity to develop its radical free-market thinking, with low taxes and as much deregulation as possible. Some analysts are calling Truss’s rapid demise to be in favor of those who would have liked to stay in the EU, as the negative effects on the UK economy have now become fully apparent. It should be argued that the bad timing and execution of Truss’ plans played a major role. In the midst of a period of high inflation, announcing tax cuts (which can actually fuel price increases) and that without sound financial backing? Something like this would have gone wrong for the financial markets without Brexit. Eighteen different ministers The turnover rate in Westminster is also high at the layer just below the party top. Since 1997, secretaries of state have been in their posts for an average of almost two years and ministers with a smaller portfolio just over a year, according to research by think tank Institute for Government in 2020. An English Premier League football coach can last about the same amount of time at a year and a half. A top executive of a company in the City of London is on average in his or her place for much longer, more than five years. Since 1997, the UK has had 18 housing ministers and 15 social affairs ministers – not even counting the latest shuffles from the Truss administration. Appointments of secretaries of state and ministers are reserved for the prime minister and therefore they are an important means of power. “Nominating and firing ministers, or threatening to do so, is a critical part of how prime ministers run their parties,” the Institute for Government writes. But “that constant change undermines the quality of governance,” the think tank also notes. “It’s a major weakness of the British system.” Ministers often do not have the relevant expertise, they often do not even get to the implementation of their plans and the House of Commons cannot hold them accountable for it. If officials now stayed in place for a long time, that would have provided some continuity, but that is not the case either. They too often change jobs within a year and a half, because it is the best way to move up the ladder. With regard to the collapse of the Conservative Party, it is certainly also important that the party has been in power continuously since 2010. The first years in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, after 2015 alone. They won elections four times in a row. Winning a fifth time has never happened in the UK. Weariness sets in, citizens consider it time for change after such a long period of time. In order The new party leader and prime minister should call elections by January 2025 at the latest and thus have two years to put things in order in the country and try to bring unity back to the party. He or she will try to resist the pressure to organize elections earlier. A vote now, according to opinion polls , would mean the end of their period as MPs for a large group of Tories. But struggling with the current faction is a difficult task for a new cabinet, says Martin Farr. “They recycle the same people. They must build on existing cracks and frictions, on years of accumulated resentment and disappointment.” A period in the opposition is the only solution for the Conservatives, he thinks. “If I may make a comparison with gardening, sometimes cutting back considerably helps a tree to grow again later.” Succession Still Rishi Sunak or Boris Johnson again? Ex-Prime Minister – or will he soon be ex-Prime Minister? – Boris Johnson manages to redistribute the Conservative Party. He resigned as party leader less than three months ago, but now he would consider a return. Several dozen MPs expressed their support for him, because at least he received a mandate from the British voter in 2019. Others said they would resign immediately if Johnson would win. Johnson had not officially declared himself as a candidate for leadership on Friday night . Party leader Penny Mordaunt did and probably also ex-Finance Minister Rishi Sunak will report. Monday afternoon is the deadline – and the threshold is higher than last time. Candidates need the support of at least 100 of the 357 Conservative House of Commons members to participate. A version of this article also appeared in the newspaper of October 22, 2022