JEFF PRESTRIDGE: Dear whoever our prime minister is… it’s time to stop this chaos – hopefully we can get someone to focus on getting the economy back on track

Heading for the door: Former Prime Minister Liz Truss

What a mess – a complete mess – our wonderful country is now in. While I’m not a doomsayer, I fear our economy will collapse unless our political masters stop bickering and come together to address the enormous financial problems affecting households.

Tackling rampant inflation – once again above 10 percent – must be an absolute priority for the next prime minister. Double-digit inflation erodes purchasing power and puts extreme pressure on the finances of many households.

The extent of this financial burden was highlighted last week when the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) took time off from its real job (regulation) to tell us that 7.8 million people are struggling to pay their bills, an increase of 2.5 million than in 2020. This is likely an underestimate given that the analysis was conducted between February and June (the regulator is always behind the curve).

Since then, mortgage rates have skyrocketed and the economy has worsened, evidenced by last month’s 1.4 percent drop in retail sales.

Indeed, further upward pressure on mortgage rates is very likely, especially if the Bank of England raises its base rate on the third of next month (which is widely expected).

Higher mortgage rates could be even sooner if Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is forced to delay his Halloween Budget to allow the new Prime Minister to sleep in and review his plans. Financial markets will not take kindly to a delay – they will want evidence as soon as possible that the government’s finances are back under tight control.

In addition to curbing inflation, there are many more tasks that the government needs to address urgently. It is certainly time to help resolve the long-standing dispute between National Rail and the unions over pay. It is unacceptable that the strikes – three more are planned for next month – continue without anyone in government acknowledging the disruption they are causing.

Although one of Liz Truss’ last acts as Prime Minister was to publish plans to ensure minimum service levels are maintained during the transport strike, this will not help commuters caught in the current standoff. A solution to the dispute must be found – it’s time to end political speeches from all sides. The economy cannot function properly without a fully functioning rail network.

It’s also crazy that the government has done little to address the problem of a tight labor market that prevents many businesses, from farmers to retailers, from running efficiently. Rarely does a day go by that I don’t walk past a store that has temporarily closed due to understaffing. The future we face is uncertain, that’s for sure.

Whatever Nicola Sturgeon and Sir Keir Starmer say, now is not the time for a general election. This will lead to even more turmoil and uncertainty – music to the ears of our increasingly belligerent and aggressive political enemies in Russia and China.

I hope that this Friday, or maybe sooner, we will have a prime minister who is fully focused on getting the economy back on track. A unifying leader who between now and January 2025 can remind the public that a Conservative government can act in the country’s best economic interests.

Nothing else will suffice. The alternative is too terrifying to contemplate.