It only took 49 days for Liz Truss to tank the British economy. Imagine what a decade could do? Ms Truss is shamelessly thinking about just that. She is now working on a book, Ten Years to Save the West, to be published in April next year. The west had better watch out. Ms Truss’s tome is unlikely to deliver the mea culpa the public deserves for crashing the pound and sending interest rates spiralling upwards a year ago. The shortest-serving prime minister in British history is likely to double down on her misjudgments.
Ms Truss blames her downfall on a Trump-esque conspiracy involving a leftwing economic establishment of British business, the International Monetary Fund and US president, Joe Biden. Good luck with that on the doorstep. She should not be able to recommend new peers or give gongs to those involved in her catastrophic time in No 10. Amazingly, Trussonomics is attempting a comeback via the pages of The Daily Telegraph and under the auspices of the Heritage Foundation, a powerful conservative thinktank based in Washington. It’s not hard to see why, given the ideological preferences of most Tory MPs. Ms Truss wanted lower taxes, especially those levied on the wealthy, and less regulation. At the same time, she was more than happy to bang the drum on culture war issues, claiming Brexit was failing because it had not been properly tried.
As a politician she believed in burning rather than building bridges. This was a problem as her rival in last summer’s leadership race, Rishi Sunak, won the greatest share of support among Tory MPs. Market speculators, correctly, assessed her government to be weak and divided. Investors didn’t share Ms Truss’s confidence that her pro-rich tax cuts would generate the economic results she hoped for. Crucially, Ms Truss failed to prepare the ground for her dash for growth with the Bank of England or the Treasury. Her downfall began with a pensions crisis and was sealed by the sacking of her chancellor. The irony was that Ms Truss was felled by the markets she so fervently admires. Whatever reputation for economic competence the Tories had was lost.
Ms Truss is not the exception but the rule in the Conservative party. Her low-tax, deregulatory agenda sends thrills up the spines of many Tory MPs. Her hawkishness on China may irritate the Foreign Office, but it is cheered on the backbenches. While Mr Sunak criticised her plans as “fairytales”, it’s magical thinking that the Tories want. The Conservative Growth Group, run by former Truss cabinet ministers, wows rightwing audiences with calls to abolish inheritance tax. When he took over as prime minister, Mr Sunak suggested that he would lead his party out of the hole it had dug. With the number of small-boat crossings rising, NHS waiting lists going up and the economy contracting, the Tories have not stopped digging.
For most Britons, politics is of only passing interest between big votes. Ms Truss feels for many like a fever dream. One pollster reported that a focus group participant insisted the former chancellor Sajid Javid – not Ms Truss – was prime minister “for a month and ‘screwed it all up’”. Mr Sunak lags Labour in the polls because of the legacy of 13 years of Tory rule extending beyond the brief Trussite term. But those who argue Ms Truss’s time in office was not all that bad for Britain must think that the Titanic’s voyage was a success because some people survived on life rafts.