Sunday 25 Feb 2024
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This article first appeared in Capital, The Edge Malaysia Weekly on October 31, 2022 - November 6, 2022

The UK has had three prime ministers within a short period of three months. That has to be a record unrivalled anywhere else in the world.

Just last week, the Conservative Party announced the appointment of Rishi Sunak as its leader and therefore the prime minister, succeeding Liz Truss whose 44-day tenure is also unmatched — at least in the UK.

Known for their humour, the British likened her tenure to the shelf life of a lettuce, with Truss wilting faster.

As for me, 10 Downing Street looks like the Kardashian mansion in the City of Calabasas, Los Angeles.

Although it is not a universal standard measure of time, the length of Kim Kardashian’s marriage to basketball star Kris Humphries had its own standard measure of time, especially by Hollywood standards.

When Kim and Kris announced that they were calling it quits in October 2011 after just 72 days of marriage, the internet was swamped with memes and listicles of things that lasted longer than their marriage. They included the filming of Titanic, which lasted 160 days, and the total amount of time that Lindsay Lohan has spent in various rehab centres. She spent a total of 249 days in rehab between 2007 and 2014.

Now, I don’t know much about the politics of the UK, but I think it is disastrous that Truss held office for a shorter time than it took Kim to kick Kris to the curb. What did Truss do that was so bad that her Conservative Party could not wait to get rid of her?

Perhaps put another way, what did Kim and Kris do that was “right”, for their marriage to last longer than the premiership of a UK prime minister?

Well, it was Truss’ economic and financial policies that sent the British pound to its lowest level ever. The severe pummelling of the quid led Truss, who had declared so gallantly in parliament that she was not a quitter, to quit soon after.

Yes, I know it is not fair to compare a female politician — especially one operating in an industry dominated by old and stuffy white men — to a show-woman whose greatest contribution to the world is arguably the popularisation of contouring make-up.

But for some, her tenure is now the new standard for measuring time that cannot be standardised. Such time includes the period between the tabling of the national budget on Oct 7 and the dissolution of parliament mere days later. It should be at least one Truss tenure, or 44 days.

I hope that Malaysia is not headed in the same direction when it comes to politics. It would be disastrous for us to have three prime ministers in four months as it was bad enough that we had three prime ministers in four years.

Hence my joy at having the anti-party hopping law in place. At least Malaysian MPs will not be able to jump ship willy-nilly and bring down the government of the day, simply because things have not gone to plan for them.

Whatever it is, I salute Truss. Her bravery in accepting responsibility for failure is something that is very rare among politicians, whether in the UK or her former colonies. One of which is Malaysia, where it is extremely rare that a cabinet member or PM resigns even when major failure is laid at their doorstep.

But I suppose if they do accept responsibility for failure, we may have to reshuffle the cabinet every three months or so, or put up with a new prime minister every year or so. So maybe it is a blessing in disguise that they do not see the need to acknowledge responsibility when they fail.

Talking about the standard measure of time for things that do not have a standard measure of time, I would like to propose that a prime minister in Malaysia be given a minimum tenure of the Pakatan Harapan government, which is 22 months.

A PM should be given the chance to govern for at least 22 months, because apparently the coalition claimed that a lot had been done during its tenure.

Then again, half of the time was spent talking about a sitting duck. Or was it a lame duck? 

So maybe, one PH tenure is still too long a measure of time before politicians start to scheme and plot?

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