Truss didn’t win the argument, she’s rewriting history to claw her way back
Liz Truss has defended her go-for-growth tax cuts in her mini-budget last year, but the ideological clothing is a farcical excuse to keep her relevancy in Westminster, writes Will Cooling
Britain has not been blessed with brilliant Prime Ministers in recent years, but even for the worst, there can be dignity in retirement. Last week, we saw Theresa May welcomed in Dublin to continue her advocacy for women’s professional development and equality. Even Boris Johnson won plaudits for taking the fight to Tucker Carlson while advocating for the Ukrainian war effort in Washington DC.
Their successor Liz Truss meanwhile could not have looked smaller with her return to frontline politics. Indeed, her actions suggest her post-premiership might even be worse than her infamously short stay in Downing Street.
In a lengthy article for the Sunday Telegraph, Truss conceded barely an inch to reality. She begrudgingly admitted that maybe she could have timed and communicated things better, but otherwise she was right then and right now about her go-for-growth tax cuts. Despite her attempts to dress her excuses in the clothes of an ideological argument, she was sure to defend everything she did during her premiership, including those decisions – like sacking her Chancellor – forced upon her for political expediency.
While she now trumpets the ruinously expensive energy price guarantee, which Jeremy Hunt swiftly had to cull in scope, during her leadership campaign she refused to promise further fuel subsidies in order to prioritise tax cuts. Now she obsesses about technical issues in the pensions market, exacerbated by interest rate rises and quantitative tightening, and skates over the impact the mini-budget had on government bonds. At the time, her and her outriders openly complained about how loose monetary policy had been for the past twelve years.
This is the fundamental problem at the heart of Trussonomics: if the prize is growth kickstarted by tax cuts then the price you must pay is a combination of lower public spending and higher interest rates.
Indeed, I have a lot of sympathy for the argument that ultra-low interest rates have distorted our economy for the last decades, allowing unproductive or unsustainable companies to drift listlessly across a sea of cheap debt. Contrary to her lengthy defence, it was an argument Liz Triss was unable to win in office and unwilling to make now, instead resorting to fantasies where economic growth miraculously frees the Tory Party from having to make difficult choices. And the only political cause this champion of a smaller state has taken up since leaving the premiership, is campaigning for a new local hospital in her constituency.
The contradictions in her case go further. She both salutes Boris Johnson as the man who won the Tories their majority in the country, then bemoans people’s failure to respect the mandate she won to junk his policies from the much smaller party membership. She complains about encountering resistance from the bureaucrats and policy makers of “the economic establishment”, only to claim she was never warned about the potential damage her policies would cause. She explains that Britain has fallen behind other developed countries only to be outraged when these other, more successful countries think her economic policies are deranged.
But nothing better exposes the hollowness at the heart of the political project, than her attempts to defend sacking her key ideological ally Kwasi Kwarteng, merely for implementing her policies. She admitted the decision “disturbed” her, but claims she had no choice because the very same economic establishment told her the economy was on the brink of meltdown. She even seeks to claim credit for doing her “duty” by preventing economic collapse.
Such attempted self-justification is absurd to the point of being insulting. If she really believes that her policies brought the country to the very brink, why is she continuing to advocate for them? If on the other hand, she thinks that sensible policies were thwarted by the dreaded economic establishment, why is she still congratulating herself for betraying her friend and principles because they demanded it?
Liz Truss believes in nothing but Liz Truss. Her whole career is a ragbag of gimmicks to elevate her to the top of British politics for no reason other than that’s where she feels she belongs. She’s not a radical with a cause, nor a careerist with a competency. She’s just an egotist with an excuse.