‘I did not come into politics to be a member of the Kamikaze Pilots’ Association.’
Yes, that is a Tory MP responding to the disastrous political impact of an unpopular and destabilising budget announcement from a Conservative government.
No, it’s not from September 2022.
It’s from March 1981.
Those are the words of liberal Conservative MP Cyril Townsend, making clear his opposition to chancellor Geoffrey Howe’s economy-shrinking, austerity budget. Inflation was running at 15 percent; energy prices were rising; unemployment had increased by a million over the previous year. Times were hard – and the government was hurting, not helping.
Townsend was not alone in his anger. Several Conservative MPs actually walked out as Howe was delivering his budget speech.
After furious uprisings in Brixton (London) and Toxteth (Liverpool) in April and July, polls found that Margaret Thatcher had become the most hated prime minister on record.
Plotting within the Conservative party against the prime minister worsened as the year went on.
However, Thatcher’s position was saved the following year by a war, after Argentina invaded the Falklands/Malvinas.
The ‘Falklands Factor’ was the major reason for Thatcher’s landslide election victory in 1983, which gave her a thumping majority of 144 seats.
What’s the relevance of this story to today?
Let’s put aside the fact that the Thatcher/Howe budget in 1981 was completely different from (almost a mirror image of) the Liz Truss/Kwasi Kwarteng ‘fiscal event’ on 23 September.
We know that prime minister Liz Truss models herself on Margaret Thatcher. It is a painful truth that Thatcher went on to become a highly-successful leader (in many people’s eyes) only because a war rescued her from the consequences of her own brutal financial and economic policies.
Truss, whose opinion poll ratings are plummeting down towards those of Thatcher in late 1981, may be tempted at some point to try to rally her party and the country in a military crusade against an evil enemy.
That possibility must be resisted.
If the crusade was against Russia (over Ukraine) or China (over Taiwan) the consequences for the world could be unthinkable.