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Artillery Row

Liz Truss was right but naive

She grasped the scale of Britain’s plight but misunderstood the nature of power

With the release of her memoir, Ten Years To Save the West: Lessons from the only conservative in the room, Britain’s shortest serving Prime Minister, Liz Truss, has moved through newsrooms faster than Michael Gove on an Aberdeen club dancefloor. Discontented social conservatives may remain sceptical as to the swiftness of Liz’s conversion. But as details emerge, Truss’ deposing from Downing Street reads like a tragic tale of Liz having good instincts on many issues, but lacking any awareness of how power really works. It was a faith in the Liberal promise of neutral institutions, not her economic policies, which seems to have ensured her downfall.

Some may be concerned that Truss — as former Liberal Democrat colleague Neil Fawcett once said — is “playing to the gallery, rather than putting forward a genuine belief.” After all, she campaigned for Remain in the Brexit referendum. She sought counsel on increasing immigration before her lone Party Conference as Prime Minister. Foreign policy realists, or those more concerned with crumbling infrastructure and public services at home than wars abroad, may object to her continued support for billions paid to the Ukrainian public servants; or her declaration that she is “a huge Zionist”, amidst Israel’s war against Hamas. However, if ever there were circumstances calling for a reassessment of everything you believed about politics, it would be suffering a coup d’état and being immortalised as the shortest serving Prime Minister in British history. Truss’ gradual realisation that Britain’s political institutions were working against her, and the interests of the British people, has all the markers of a sincere and vengeful conversion.

As Truss told audiences at leadership hustings, she’s been on a lifelong political journey. Her Leftist parents brought her to nuclear disarmament rallies at the height of the Cold War. Aged 19, she called to abolish the monarchy at the Liberal Democrat conference. That same year, Truss made forays into challenging intersectional orthodoxy: calling Oxford University women’s officers “patronising and sexist”, and migrating from the Lib Dems to the Tories. (Though you’d be forgiven for confusing the two these days.) She credits walking this road out of intellectual serfdom to joining the Oxford Hayek Society — though this commitment to post-War neoliberalism appears to be the reason Truss couldn’t have foreseen the establishment moving against her. 

By the time she was Foreign Secretary, Truss was one of few politicians fighting the magical thinking of transgenderism, and has since presented a private members bill to Parliament to prevent children from being chemically castrated and men from accessing women’s-only spaces and sports. The bill lost its allotted time for discussion on the Commons floor, as Labour MPs colluded to filibuster about the names of ferrets for hours. (Much to the likes of Pink News’ delight.) Though she may be inarticulate on the topic of cheese imports, Truss has shown commendable courage on safeguarding the innocence and bodily integrity of abused, confused children. Save Miriam Cates, Nick Fletcher, and Kemi Badenoch, scarce few of her colleagues have been quite so brave. 

As she formed her Cabinet, opposition parties warned that the “Truss government is probably most rightwing in modern UK history”. However, despite her opposition to gender ideology, Truss’s personal conduct, and parties with groups on progressive wing of the party, hardly paint her as the second coming of Mary Whitehouse. This scaremongering was premised on conflating libertarian economics with “the Far Right”. Perhaps her greatest sin is in allowing that perception to grow, Truss has enabled any talk of tax cuts to be taken off the table. With her forty-four days blamed for runaway inflation, the highest tax burden since the Second World War is insisted on the fiscally-responsible response by the grown-ups returning to the room

As conventional commentariat wisdom goes, “Liz Truss crashed the economy!” Truss calls those reciting this line “either very stupid or very malevolent.” Unpopular though it is to say: she’s right. The UK’s Liability-Driven Investment (LDI) fund is how it meets its pension spending commitments. Since Rishi Sunak’s expensive plan to pay people to sit at home during the COVID pandemic, the Bank of England has simultaneously sold off gilts and raised interest rates, in the hopes that quantitative tightening would control inflation. It is of note that no other nation in the world is doing this; and that it did not avert a recession either. Since Truss, the Treasury Select Committee have released a report chastising the Bank for this reckless “leap in the dark”, and its failure to “fully consider the broader economic consequences.” Two days prior to Truss & Kwarteng’s fatal mini-budget, the Bank had leveraged its LDIs to the extent that it had run out of fiscal headroom. The day before the budget, the Bank sold billions of gilts; meaning the instability in the market was reported the following day, coinciding with Kwarteng’s announcement.

Before the Chancellor could announce his plans to the Commons, a leak from the OBR warned there was a £70 billion shortcoming in his calculations. The source of this leak has yet to be investigated. The blame for the Bank of England’s irresponsible monetary policy was thus shifted from unaccountable bureaucrats, like Andrew Bailey, onto Truss. Yet when Liz resigned, Rishi Sunak was installed against the will of party members, and he and Jeremy Hunt immediately increased spending, the markets didn’t so much as grumble. One feels that a marginal tax rate proposed by Truss was a landmine she hadn’t realised she had stepped on; whereas Sunak’s pledging billions more in “climate reparations” to Pakistan was seen as business as usual. 

Essentially, if Liz Truss were more right-wing, and less liberal, she might have seen the coup coming

Since leaving No. 10, Liz has admitted to labouring beneath the delusion that institutions would do as they were told. Truss’ greatest flaw was not knowing more political philosophy. Had she gone beyond rote-learning the Hayekian principles of her hero, Margaret Thatcher, she might have encountered the insights of the likes of Joseph De Maistre, Carl Schmitt, and Robert Conquest. She might have understood that those staffing avowedly-neutral institutions have their own agendas; and interpreted their behaviour as being controlled by a cabal of enemies to their stated purpose. That the law matters less than the ethics transcribed in the hearts and minds of men applying it. That, unless your friends are installed in positions of power, then upsetting the status quo comes at a high price. Essentially, if Liz Truss were more right-wing, and less liberal, she might have seen the coup coming, and acted accordingly.

Truss has intuited this after being betrayed. She has called for the abolition of the UN’s Security Council and Tony Blair’s Supreme Court; repealing the Human Rights Act, Climate Change Act, Constitutional Reform Act, and Equality Act; to leave the ECHR; and to abandon Net Zero commitments. Her Popular Conservatives movement was suspected to be a vehicle for a hostile takeover of the Conservative Party, after their impending historic election loss. Now, Liz more or less admits that it’s a Trojan Horse for her and co-founder Mark Littlewood’s mutual friend, Nigel Farage, to join and lead the deracinated Tory Party

Listening to this Liz Truss, many of us may lament that the Prime Minister most likely to listen to establishment dissidents was never given a chance. The tragic truth appears to be that Liz had a decent moral compass, but no awareness of just how strong the currents she would be swimming against are. 

Like former Home Secretary Suella Braverman, Liz says that she can “say what [she] really think[s]” only now that she is outside government. This is a damning indictment of the Parliamentary system as doing nothing by design. But complaining from outside the tent only gets us so far. We can perhaps now only hope that her appetite for revenge, and contempt of the “dinner party” circuit, goes beyond sentiments expressed to sell a few copies of her political autobiography. If we want a political revolution in Britain, then Liz Truss may well need to be a part of it.

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