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Liz Truss honeymoon of horror

The death of the Queen was the best thing that has happened for Liz Truss in her 25-day premiership. Truss became Prime Minister on September 6. Before she could announce her plans, the beloved British Monarch, Elizabeth II, passed away. The 11 days of mourning that followed meant that Truss had to be reticent about her plans. Since then it has been a total dismal show.

Once the flag was hauled up to full mast again, Truss laid out her tax slashing plans. Her Chancellor of the Exchequer, Kwasi Kwarteng, is a low-tax ideologue. They have ended the 45p rate for those earning north of GBP 120,000 per annum. That is about 5% of the UK population. Truss said she will prevent the 'typical' household from paying over GBP 2,500 per month for energy. She has not defined typical. The devil is in the detail! How is she going to pay for those as revenue shrinks? The diminution of revenue shall be offset by the growth we are assured of. In the meantime, the United Kingdom is going to borrow a cool GBP 100 billion.

The Truss Administration does not intend to pare back any spending. The UK's national debt is already 100% of GDP. The party is no longer the party of fiscal discipline. Truss is behaving like a crackhead with a credit card.

The markets were close to panic when all this was announced. There was no ideological plan. The government refused to announce its cost for all this. Is there one? The market does not like uncertainty. The Pound Sterling has fallen to its lowest level against the USD for 230 years! It has since recouped a little of its value.

The notion that cutting taxes automatically leads to economic growth is a notorious right-wing mythos. The evidence for it is slender, to say the least. Even if growth follows, this may well be a formal logical fallacy: ex hoc ergo propter hoc. Moreover, the growth might not be sufficient or soon enough to compensate from the drop in revenue.

It became blatant in August 2022 that Truss was going to win the Conservative leadership and therefore become Prime Minister. Her tax-cutting plans were her flagship policy. One would have thought that the market had priced this in.

The Conservative Party was 10% behind in the opinion polls the day that Truss was appointed PM. It fell to 17% the day the tax cut was announced. Tax cuts are usually popular. Within a week, the Tory Party was 33% behind Labour in the opinion polls. Remind yourselves that this is the honeymoon for Truss. So what is the rest of her premiership going to be like.

Labour feign outrage in public at Truss' ineptitude. But secretly they are gleeful. For Labour, Truss is the gift that keeps on giving. She is bereft of all charisma or empathy.

A year ago the Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer was dead in the water. The Conservatives had a small lead in the polls. The UK had gotten through the worst of coronavirus. The vaccine rollout was one of the world's first. Furloughs had saved the economy. Brexit was done. There was muttering of a coup against Starmer in the Labour Party. A year on, Labour is riding high in the polls. Starmer's personal standing is sky high. He is the safe pair of hands that the United Kingdom is crying out for after being roiled by years of Conservative crisis.

The Labour Party Conference in Liverpool in September 2022 seemed like a victory parade. The Shadow Cabinet appeared to be a government in waiting. The divisions over Iraq and Brexit are far behind them. Even right-wingers are obliged to acknowledge that Labour's plans are more cogent and credible than those of the Conservative and Unionist Party.

Labour sang 'God Save the King' at their conference. They had not sung the national anthem for decades. It is reassuring to float voters. They have eschewed anti-monarchism as being at best a diversion from their central mission which is delivering economic growth and excellent public services.

Tory MPs are not just jittery. In the mid-term, they expect to be behind. But no miles behind. They have won four elections on the trot. You cannot win them all. For the Tories to win a fifth consecutive election might degrade democracy. The Conservatives know they could turn around from being 5% or 10% behind. But you cannot turn around being 33% behind even with over two years to go to the election. The Conservative Parliamentary Party is close to panic stations. They expect to not just lose the elections (a party loses sometimes) but to face a total meltdown. This would be a defeat to eclipse 1997. Notice, that the declension in Tory support has only just started.

How can the Conservatives regain the trust of the electorate? A change of leader? Truss is the fourth Tory leader in six years. This is beginning to look like an existential crisis. The idea that booting out the leader is the solution has been tested to destruction and beyond. Should Truss then sack the Chancellor of the Exchequer? It is no good scapegoating him. That would be cowardly. Slashing tax bills was Truss' brainchild more than his.

Truss' ideological soulmate is the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Kwasi Kwarteng was born in London to Ghanaian parents. His mother was one of the first black women to qualify as a barrister in England. His pater was an economist. Kwarteng won a King's Scholarship to Eton and a scholarship to Cambridge University. There he took top place in history in two out of his three years. He was a Kennedy scholar at Harvard.

Returning to Cambridge he took a PhD with a thesis on the coinage crisis of 1696. He was then snapped up by a merchant bank. After earning several million GBP it was time to turn his hand to politics. He was the first non-white person elected for the ultra-safe Conservative seat of Spelthorne. He dated fellow Conservative MP Amber Rudd. Dr Kwarteng finally married someone else at the age of 46 and has been blessed with a child. Some see him as a disaster capitalist.

Dr Kwarteng is urbane, intellectual, self-restrained and equable. He is on the bland side and there are no skeletons in his cupboard. The 6'5'' child of immigrant parents should be a poster boy for Conservative aspiration. He is the sort of person one would not expect to have seen on the Tory benches 20 years ago. And yet he does not resonate with the public.

The redoubtable Liz Truss says she is sticking to her guns. But no pundit believes that her economic masterplan will come right. Her tax cuts help the already affluent and do precious little for the majority. But she seems unfazed. She is closed-minded without being iron-willed. She tries to be Maggie Thatcher. But Truss does not have the gravitas or hinterland of the Iron Lady. She is more Hitchcock blonde than Maggie Mark II.

There are many other chickens coming home to roost. There is a rail strike. The economy was probably going into recession anyway. Truss wanted to shred the Northern Ireland Protocol. The USA has refused to discuss another trade deal. Energy prices are skyrocketing. There is a housing shortage. The National Health Service is close to collapse. Crime is on the rise. The Scottish National Party is demanding the breakup of the UK.

Truss may well limp on until the end of 2024. Being Tory PM now is a poisoned chalice. But her party faces a very heavy defeat then even if Truss is replaced as PM first.

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TAGS:UK Prime Minister Liss Truss British Economy 
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