Written by Jeff Keay, Executive Consultant and Strategic Leadership and Media Consultant for Curious Public. Jeff is one of Canada’s leading media relations, communications and issues management professionals. 


Well, I guess we can all agree it was a great day for heads of wilting lettuce in Britain and those who bet on them.

Prime Minister Liz Truss, to no one’s surprise, went down in flames on Thursday (queue the sounds of a Spitfire plunging toward the English Channel). What comes next is anyone’s guess and we can leave that to the political pundits. We’ll assume the financial markets will be among the first to weigh in. Will it be in a good way, suggesting that the loss of a financially illiterate ideologue will be a positive for the UK’s dubious post-Brexit future? Or will it be another multi-billion pound backslap, indicating a lack of confidence that anyone– anyone– in the party can step up and apply firefighting foam to this spectacular dumpster fire? We can only speculate. 

From the sidelines, the Conservative government’s predicament presents an interesting situation from a strictly communications and branding point of view. What do you try to communicate when your brand (in fact, your whole country’s reputation as a beacon of sturdy and steady democracy) has just been reduced to a smoking crater? 

Probably nothing, for the time being. Best to let the leaping flames burn down, if not to glowing embers, at least to thoughtful, marshmallow-toasting levels. Because at this point, no one is going to care what you say. You should focus on what you’re going to do. There’s already talk from senior British Tories of “getting the adults in a room” to make some executive decisions on new leadership. Perhaps that’s not a very democratic thing for a political party to do, but the crisis is simply that urgent. But let’s assume there’s a consensus among party MPs to close ranks, put away their worst partisan tendencies and ambitions and agree to something resembling a unified front to put on the benches of the Commons. A big first step, but without that, they’ll remain about where they are: in a car, on fire, with no brakes and careening towards the white cliffs of Dover. In the best-case scenario, they’ll still be savaged by the opposition and a gleeful British media — because no one comes down from the hills after a battle to shoot the wounded like a British newspaper columnist. 

Is this enough to cause the government to fall? I make no predictions. But here’s a thought: Why not call a general election? The Tories would probably lose (although you never know what an electorate will put up with), but it might be a reasonable option if one was to take the long view. It could give the party an opportunity to get its act together, no small task, and would hand over to another party the unenviable and utterly thankless job of hauling the UK out of its most serious economic, social and political crises since the end of the war (more Spitfire noises). 

A lengthy period out of government could be just the thing to set the stage for a rebrand. Start from the smoking crater and build up slowly, credibly, even honourably. Only then would they be in a position to start talking about themselves again.


Image source: https://twitter.com/trussliz/status/1583089419824730112/photo/1