Liz Truss: A new era, or the end of the Tories?
By JAMIE SPRATT
‘We import two thirds of our cheese. That. Is. A. Disgrace.’
These are the words spoken by our new Prime Minister, Liz Truss, at a Conservative party conference in 2014. An intellectual titan, to say the least. Although it is perhaps a little unfair to nit-pick the most embarrassing moment from a political career, I believe her appointment to be the twilight of the Tories’ 12 years in power.
It has become something of a cliché in 21st century western politics to be handed the choice between two sub-par candidates for leader. The Americans have had it worst; with Donald Trump being the Republican candidate for the past two elections, whilst the Democrats have only provided Hillary Clinton and the senile Joe Biden.
The 150,000 or so Tory party members, after some whittling down by Members of Parliament, were offered Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss. Sunak, an elitist technocrat – although having some worrying ambitions regarding Central Bank Digital Currency’s – showed soundness on the economic issues the UK faces. Instead, Tory members went for the fervent Boris Johnson-loyalist Truss.
So, who exactly is our new Prime Minister? She was not met with the media excitement of Johnson, whose public familiarity from his time as Mayor of London and as a newspaper columnist lent to his electoral success. Truss is far less well known outside of political circles, and clearly lacks the (debatably) likeable characteristics of Johnson.
Truss becomes the fourth Prime Minister with a degree in PPE from the University of Oxford. Remarkably, there have been only three PMs since 1945 who have not graduated from Oxford. British elections are coming more to resemble a magnified version of the Oxford Union rather than a real discussion over the issues and desires of the country.
She is supposedly a libertarian, believing in as minimal a state role as possible in daily life. (I say supposedly because I believed Johnson to also be a libertarian – before he enacted the most draconian peacetime policies the UK has ever seen during the pandemic). She has stated publicly that austerity will not be returning and has also promised to scrap the planned National Insurance and Corporation tax rises.
Truss appears to be hawkish regarding China – a good thing. It is long overdue that Western political elites wake up to the threat of the Chinese Communist Party. She would do well to listen to the cross-party group of MPs on China; she should ban Hikvision, a surveillance company, and publicly acknowledge and condemn the atrocities being committed in Xinjiang.
What about the cost-of-living crisis, the issue at the front of most Britons’ minds? A cap on household bills appears to be all that Truss has announced. Whether more follows remains to be seen.
POLITICO summed her up best as a ‘pragmatic shape-shifter’. No ideology guides her, and her principles are rather hard to discern, as I have discovered writing this article. Does the leader of the opposition present a better option? Unfortunately not. To me, Sir Keir Starmer is akin to a political jellyfish – again, he has no discernible principles or backbone, and appears to drift wherever the media cycle will take him. If he finds the courage to stand up to the small but loud and radical fringe within his own party, Labour will be in far better stead come the next election.
I wager that Liz Truss will be the last Conservative Prime Minister for a while. The lockdown party scandals, and general ill-favour with the media, appear to have been the final nail in the coffin for the Tories’ public image. A Labour-SNP coalition is looking increasingly likely. It is a bad thing for democracy when one party remains in power for too long; they become complacent, and policies become baked in the assumption that no one can challenge their power. A change is clearly needed in the UK.
Image: Flickr / Number 10