Our writers found universal anger and alarm across the region. There was a belief that MPs aren’t taking the situation seriously, as well as something more profound – people are beginning to fear that the social contract which binds society together may be beginning to fracture.
A woman in her 60s, who lives in Welwyn Hatfield and usually votes Conservative, describes herself as: “Disillusioned, mistrustful, lied to, not cared for, anxious and angry”.
From Hitchin and Harpenden, another woman declares: “It’s an absolute s**t show. MPs are so desperate to stay in power they’re willing to sacrifice the rest of us to do it. People are seriously suffering and no help is coming. We need a general election.”
“And there’s the damage to our global reputation. We were a laughing stock before the lettuce.”
“Whoever we get next will pretend whatever has happened had nothing to do with them.”
“The Conservatives have no mandate, and we deserve a general election. It would help if Tory MPs found some integrity and resigned and put country before party.”
That theme of shame and embarrassment runs through comments from Essex too. “I feel embarrassed and ashamed that we’re the laughing stock of Europe, and angry they’re messing about while the country’s in crisis,” says a woman in a book group in Brentwood. “I have no faith in them – they’re so naïve. They don’t seem to know what they’re doing, but refuse to listen.”
Another comments: “It’s all about themselves, not making people’s lives better. They’re all rich and don’t understand.”
A man in his 20s remarks: “I despair about the economic chaos, but I’m glad Truss went before her extreme ideas destroyed the country. I’m angry about how undemocratic it is and worried it might give a chance to someone we already know is unfit.”
A man in his 60s says: “I feel helpless. We watch this chaos daily and can’t do anything. It’s not fair it’s decided by Tory MPs and members, who only care about themselves and their survival.
“I’m angry and want to be part of a movement to change things. The possibility of Johnson is the last straw. I want a general election.”
“Whoever gets in should call an immediate general election,” says a Woodbridge woman. “Then we can ensure all the self-serving shysters, fraudsters and wheeler-dealers can take their expenses and golden handshakes away to their castles and islands forever.”
A Needham Market woman observes: “It seems many in positions of power lack the qualities one might hope they would possess, such as honesty, integrity and transparency”. An Ipswich woman says: “Actually, I know several people who admired Thatcher but who are disgusted with Johnson.”
Another admits: “I don’t really expect politicians to be honest and trustworthy, but it’s a bonus when they are. Sadly, many lack the qualities one might hope they would possess, such as honesty, integrity and transparency. I wasn’t a particular fan of Tony Blair, but he had a better understanding of how to run a country than any who have come along since.”
“They don’t seem to realise how serious this is”, says a teacher. “The public seems to have a much greater awareness of what is at stake than the government and its MPs.” “Just listen to them, the things they put on social media!” says his companion. “They have no idea!”
A member of a Broads sailing club remarks: “This is a safe Tory seat, but I wouldn’t put money on it next time!”
From a GP’s surgery in Kings Lynn: “I’ve lost confidence in any of them. They are holding onto their jobs – if they had a shred of decency they would quit now.”
Concern for the future is a regular theme. A retired local government officer is concerned for her grandchildren. “Things are so awful, and nobody seems to have any idea how to make anything better.”
A widow in her 90s, whose husband had been chairman of the local Conservative Association, is shocked at what has become of his party. “They’re appalling! What’s happened to the party since Brexit?” Her daughter blames “Too many egos, too little substance. They aren’t for the people. Frankly it’s disgusting.”
And a businesswoman in Bedford says: “We can’t have an election while the markets are in such a mess. The Tories need to choose a new leader, to settle things down, then he or she has to announce an election in six months.”
Overheard at Bedford bus station whilst waiting for the 905 to Cambridge: “Tory MPs just want their own way. They didn’t pick Liz Truss, the members did, so now they’ve got rid of her to give themselves another go.”
On Cambridge market: “The government hasn’t recovered from the scandals of 2021 and is sleepwalking towards an election, but they don’t want to call it and lose their jobs. The public have had enough.”
A woman in a local Co-op remarked: “I never thought I would look back at all the sleaze and cash for questions and want that mob back”.
A man at a bus stop near March says of Truss: “She wanted to be the new Thatcher, but she wasn’t even close.”
Mistrustful, helpless, not cared for – and a laughing stock
Two issues arise most prominently. However it is expressed, there is fury at the democratic deficit, a feeling our country is being stolen from us. And a sense of humiliation that we are showing ourselves to be so hapless and incompetent as the whole world watches.
Article compiled by Peter Thurlow, with Jenny Rhodes, Kate Vincenzi, JJ Jackson, Anna Damski, Helen Forte, Sarah Patey, Rosemary Mann, Jocelynne Scutt