Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? was like nothing that came before. It became a cultural phenomenon in part because its host, Chris Tarrant, was a master of suspense and blokey repartee. But mostly because of the sheer amount of money on offer.
Rewatch an old episode of Family Fortunes from the same era. The winning troupe might come away with a couple of thousand pounds and even if they didn’t win the Ford Escort, the Fishwicks from Coventry had a lovely day out. But Millionaire was not about fun. There was life-changing cash to be won.
Fast forward to 2022, and ITV’s This Morning is offering to pay callers’ energy bills for four months as a competition prize. Not everything is ‘dystopian’ or Black Mirror, but this comes remarkably close.
And this is the Britain into which Liz Truss is set to become prime minister tomorrow. A nation buffeted by near-constant crises, economic, political and epidemiological – since Tarrant stood down from the hot seat in 2014.
There’s plenty to unpack from today’s result, which at 57-43 per cent was a little closer than expected. A 14-point win in a two-horse race is not close, but it is narrower than the 66 per cent achieved by Boris Johnson in 2019 or the 68 per cent secured by David Cameron in 2005.
Truss’s short victory speech was stilted and laced with unsure applause lines – “from Kyiv to Carlisle“ was a particular low point, I thought. But cadence is the least of her problems right now.
Sterling has fallen to its lowest rate against the US dollar since 1985 as investors reflect on the abysmal state of the British economy. Gas prices soared another 30 per cent following Russia’s decision to indefinitely suspend natural gas flows through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Western Europe on Friday. And then there’s prices.
Inflation is already double-digits and some analysts are predicting 18 or even 22 per cent. But Paul Johnson, director of the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies think tank, told the Today programme that Truss’s plan for tax cuts to boost economic growth is in fact “not a strategy for growth“ and would instead “lead to additional inflationary pressure”.
The Truss premiership may well be defined by what action she and her likely chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, take in the next few days. How generous will the support on energy bills be? How high up the income ladder will it stretch? Will energy generators – set to make £170bn in excess profits – really not face further taxation?
Economically, we all want this to work. I mean, we’ve all got energy bills to pay and most of us don’t hold a US green card. But politically, it is up for grabs. If you look at the cabinet, it may seem like continuity Johnson. But hard-working, ideological and policy-oriented, Truss is nothing like her predecessor. Really anything could happen.
In the comment pages, Rob Rinder says the best friends are there for you through thick and thin, for better just as much as for worse (and they’ll know you better than any algorithm – even TikTok’s.
And finally, it’s back but you need to get planning. Our pick of what to see at the 66th BFI London Film Festival.
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