Liz Truss enters Downing Street free of many expectation of success. Even the party that chose her is full of people whose first choice was someone else. Many of them think that she should be the man she is replacing, the one who was dismissed as a venal liar and electoral liability.
Boris Johnson has a stake in the Truss flop. The worse things get in his absence, the fonder he imagines the nation’s heart will grow for him. He says he will support the new government “every step of the way” but says all sorts of things. He once said there were no lockdown parties in Downing Street.
Truss’s authority over her party now has to be negotiated with MPs who think Conservative members chose unwisely, while relying on the loyalty of a faction that thinks there should never have been a contest in the first place.
Non-tory opinion polls they show little confidence in the new prime minister’s ability to rise to the challenge. Supporters of him say that he can confuse low expectations, citing as evidence the fact that she has already surpassed people who thought she was a loser. Whatever his shortcomings, she can be shown to be more politically savvy than many of his detractors.
The Trussians (Trussians?) say that their candidate has the essential quality of effective prime ministers: pragmatism about the means to achieve goals that are set with unwavering conviction.
The creed is summed up by Mark Littlewood, director of the libertarian Institute of Economic Affairs and a friend of the new prime minister, as an intuition “that the state has a greater propensity to do harm than good.” Kwasi Kwarteng, the new foreign minister, He has written that “Liz is committed to a lean state,” as she prepares to launch tens of billions of pounds in the problem of skyrocketing energy bills.
All of that is consistent with my experience of arguing with Truss about politics on a handful of occasions. There is no problem for which she would not prefer a free-market solution, but she sees voters’ demand for government protection as a sad fact of political life. She seems to view that appetite with indulgent frustration, as if the pampered audience needs her hands gently but firmly plucked from the sitter’s skirts.
In that sense, Truss represents an intellectual departure from the last two Conservative prime ministers. Theresa May came to power promising a government that she would deal with spraying”burning of injustice”. She interpreted the result of the Brexit referendum as an expression of anger from people who felt “left behind” by the march of globalization.
Johnson agreed. Their leveling schedule it was conceived as a deployment of state power to pay all the furlough voters clustered in former Labor territories who had lent their votes to the Conservatives in 2019. Truss has a different view of that ticket.
in a short victory speech on Monday, he explained how the result of the last election was due to the natural alignment of traditional British and Conservative values: “freedom, low taxes, personal responsibility.”
In other words, the nation has been clamoring for the very things that Trus herself believes are the foundations of good government. Armed with that convenient belief, the new prime minister will test a proposition that is common among her own MPs but eccentric elsewhere: that the only thing wrong with Conservative governments in the last 12 years is that they have not been Conservative enough.
It is a habit of mind that radical conservatives share with revolutionary communists, who can always excuse the slide of Marxist regimes into bankrupt tyranny with the claim that the theory was not correctly applied or that its proper working was thwarted by unbelievers. and malignant foreign states.
Truss has the support of the Brexit Bolsheviks who are convinced that their revolution is in constant risk of sabotage by those who remain unrepentant in Whitehall. The prime minister’s own analysis of Britain’s economic malaise is based on the idiosyncratic view that policy has been too narrowly focused through a “redistribution lens” and is not interested enough in growth. Apparently the obstacle to a business boom has been a picket line by socialist chancellors who only pretended to be conservative.
Paradoxically, the Trussonomic remedy to stagnation requires an attitude to public debt that has more in common with the Labor left than the fiscally conservative right (although the two sides propose different goals for their borrowed bounty).
The new government’s political strategy appears to be pumping money into the system to induce a growth spurt before too many households and businesses are ruined by inflation and rising interest rates. When Keir Starmer complains, Truss will accuse him of poor patriotism: denigrating the country instead of helping to lift it up. He can subtract parts of Labor politics that seem popular.
The plan involves weathering a winter of industrial strife while public sector wages remain frozen and weathering voter fury when basic services go down. It also depends on the financial markets not deciding it’s all nonsense and dumping the British currency and its debt.
It could work? Truss has been underrated before. It’s a long shot, but swing voters might be more inclined to give an unknown new prime minister the benefit of the doubt than the Westminster malcontents whose contempt has hardened by familiarity. A dogged sense of purpose could earn the respect of people who can see that there are no easy options for a beleaguered leader. But the ideological aversion to government intervention will inhibit the prime minister whenever events call for drastic state action, as they will time and time again.
People who are certain that Truss is the right choice to guide Britain through the coming storm are basing themselves on the one opinion he has that is less suited to the task at hand. His special quality is supposed to be pragmatism in search of conviction, but those two things now pull in opposite directions. It is a government formula that falters on all sides and then falls apart.