Publicly shamed, denounced in the press, defended only by cranks on Twitter and fringe TV channels, it was time to get on stage and put the case for the defence. Everything you’d heard in the mainstream media was a lie. Powerful forces were at work. Key information had been withheld, only to be released at the most damaging moment. The real truth would be revealed soon.
Liz Truss was fighting back.
She was doing so with a speech to the Institute for Government that promised to take no prisoners in its exposure of the powerful network of people that are holding Britain back. She was going to lift the lid.
Readers may have missed Truss’s time as prime minister. Perhaps you went on a cruise last September, or were reading a longish book. The short version – as it turns out, the only version – is that she and her chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng announced plans to test some interesting economic theories they’d found on the internet, the bond market went nuts, mortgage rates soared and she was thrown overboard.
But perhaps that’s just what the media wants you to think. Truss had come to pull back the curtain, to give us the red pill, to bring us enlightenment. With a bit of luck she would also sell us some brain-boosting vitamin supplements that big pharmaceutical companies didn’t want us to know about.
Her delivery was as awkward as ever. But that didn’t matter. She had, she explained, been vindicated in her view that economic growth was important. Before she said it last year, she implied, no one had ever said or thought this. “Since then, we’ve heard a lot of people say that right across the political spectrum.”
The UK, she explained in what is now a familiar refrain from the people who have been in government for over a decade, is in a right old mess. She quoted a poll showing three-quarters of voters “agree that Britain is broken, people are getting poorer, nothing seems to work”. A politician burdened with self-awareness might have paused at that point. Truss marched on. There was a reason everything was awful.
The problem, she explained, was left-wing academics. Not the five Tory prime ministers who sat in Downing Street, but a PhD candidate marking history papers in Keele. Truly, none of us had grasped just how deep this conspiracy went.
It wasn’t just academics, of course. That would be silly. The Treasury and the Office for Budget Responsibility (founded by notorious socialist firebrand George Osborne) were also in on it. They had thwarted her policies with their forecasts! She had alternative forecasts, proving she was right, but these had been suppressed by Big Spreadsheet.
How come, she asked, no one had warned her about Liability Driven Investments, the instruments that exploded in the week after Kwarteng’s mini-budget? “We were completely blindsided.” Clearly the Bank of England and the bond markets were in on the plot, too.
Like any decent truth-bomb, her argument was confusing, the bits of string on the corkboard crossing each other and knotting up. She thought that getting rid of Boris Johnson was a mistake, but also, on taking over from Johnson, she’d thought Britain needed an urgent and radical change of economic direction.
Voters had wanted what she offered, she explained. “They voted for change in 2016. And they voted for change again in 2019. I wanted to deliver that change.” You have to squint pretty hard to interpret the Brexit referendum, whose most famous promise was more cash for the NHS, or the 2019 election, in which Johnson promised more spending on everything, as votes for a smaller state. Perhaps in a future speech she’ll explain that it’s possible if you analyse letter sequences in Johnson’s speeches: The Boris Code.
Back to the Big Conspiracy
Back to the Big Conspiracy. Who are the shadowy forces bent on destroying Britain? The media is covering things up, obviously – what else is the media for? – but that’s entry-level stuff. We expected more than that from Truss.
She began talking about planning reform, thwarted, she said, by the Treasury, and fracking, blocked by Net Zero fanatics. Could that be right, we wondered? Wasn’t there some other group of people opposed to these moves?
Last year, in the first of her speeches of revelation, Truss memorably told us that she was being held back by podcasters and the Lib Dems. While an appealing thought, this always felt like an incomplete explanation for why a prime minister with a comfortable majority in parliament couldn’t get her way. There must, we had thought, have been more to it: a second political gunman on a socioeconomic grassy knoll. We were right.
“The Anti-Growth Coalition,” she explained, “is now a powerful force comprising the economic and political elite, corporatists, parts of the media and even…” was she going to say it? She was! “…a section of the Conservative Parliamentary Party.”
It was a blinding moment of insight. It was like putting on X-ray glasses. Austerity, Brexit, the dementia tax, the meaningful votes, the lockdown parties, the wine fridge, the gold wallpaper, the helicopter rides: suddenly they all made sense.
Because no one else was so well-placed to do it. No one else had the access, the power, the connections. That’s right: the people plotting to sabotage the Tory government are… the Tories!
It does, you have to admit, explain a hell of a lot about the last few years. Wake up, sheeple.
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