Three prime ministers in a year: Is Britain ungovernable? | John Rentoul


My favourite subject in history is the origins of the English Civil War, which I remember dividing into “conditions, causes and triggers”. The same categories can be used for trying to explain most things, and I look forward to reading the two new books published this week to see how they can be applied to the fall of Boris Johnson and the even quicker fall of Liz Truss.

The two premierships are now part of what Professor Jon Davis and I called ultra-contemporary history, when we launched a course on the Blair government at Queen Mary, University of London, in 2008, the year after it ended. (The course is about to start its 13th year – there was a gap when we transferred to King’s College London – and now feels more like actual history, not least because most of its postgraduate students were not born when Tony Blair became prime minister.)

If we were setting up a new module on “The fall of the two prime ministers in 2022”, we could take these two books, by Sebastian Payne of the Financial Times on the fall of Boris Johnson, and by Harry Cole and James Heale of The Sun and The Spectator on the seven weeks of Liz Truss, as our starting point – although we would have nothing equivalent to Alastair Campbell’s diaries as a high-quality primary source.



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