Liz Truss’s riotous romp of a memoir proves she never stood a chance

'Fundamentally right': former prime minister Liz Truss
'Fundamentally right': former prime minister Liz Truss - Andrew Crowley

Most PMs’ memoirs are a multi-volume snoozefest. Liz Truss has published the first in history that could be accurately described as a “romp”.

Having served just 49 days in No10 – she notes that she was evicted before her furniture could be delivered – Truss details with speed and good humour the cock-ups and back-stabbing that destroyed her mini-budget and pushed her from office. It’s one of those farces in which the very set collapses; and the hero, so un-self-aware she’s practically an innocent, brushes the dust from her shoulders and says, “I did nothing wrong!”

The author describes her “usual style” as “full frontal”. The audio book should have a Yakety Sax soundtrack. For all the laughs, however (Dominic Raab, when vacating his Chevening residence, left behind protein drinks in the fridge with “Raab” written on them), there’s much for historians to pick over. If you think Truss was simply a libertarian nutter then the only lesson is that she should never have been elected Tory leader. If, like me, you think she was fundamentally right – that Britain is getting poorer because we’ve forgotten how to generate wealth – then how and why she failed demands some serious thought. There were bigger forces at play than mere eccentricity.

The Truss Thesis is that Left-wing ideas birthed in the 1960s have become the values of the establishment – from civil servants to businessmen, charities to teachers – with the result that whoever is in government, the same ideology remains in power. Detailing her pre-PM career via agriculture, education, justice and trade, she demonstrates how wacky educational theories (no to facts, yes to feelings) have been baked in, alongside environmental policies that ballooned the cost of expanding one of her local roads to provide a “bat bridge” (to her knowledge, no bat has ever used it).

Liz Truss's Ten Years to Save the West reads like a farce
Liz Truss's Ten Years to Save the West reads like a romp - Shutterstock

The Tories have failed to push back against this nonsense because many of their MPs believe in it, as demonstrated by their reluctance to tear-up our regulatory framework after Brexit. Truss’s colleagues were inclined to retain EU rules, including a “Meursing table” of commodity codes that lists “504 different classifications of biscuit”.

The eagle-eyed will spot a contradiction on spending: I always wanted to save money, writes Liz, yet when at justice she argued for more investment in prisons and at the foreign office rushed to prevent the sale of an attractive embassy in Tokyo. (“The whole exercise in selling off the family silver was driven by the Treasury’s pettifogging attitude.”) Indeed, Rishi Sunak’s strongest argument against Truss is that she is the fake conservative, willing to unbalance the books and blow up the economy in an orgy of unfunded tax cuts – unleashing a wild budget in September 2022 that was opposed by those loony-lefties at the Bank of England and the IMF.

But whether Trussonomics was sound or not isn’t the interesting point. It’s that she stood no chance of implementing even a relatively mild fiscal reform because of the “sheer power of the administrative state and its influence on the markets and the wider polity”. Truss had certainly “not anticipated how ruthless they would be in pushing back by all means at their disposal.” The men in grey suits who once ensured that socialism was unimaginable in Britain now exist to do the same for conservatism, and Karl Marx will be amused to learn that it was the Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, who ultimately told Truss she had to resign – explaining that “my going was now ‘the price the markets wanted’”.

It was a coup. One of the most pro-capitalist governments in memory was thus ended by a cabal of capitalists, which suggests that capitalism hasn’t got much of a future.

Liz Truss with Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt, who told her she had to resign
Liz Truss with Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt, who told her she had to resign - AFP

The job of prime minister comes across as near-impossible, down to the bare essentials. Truss had to do her own hair and makeup (which probably took up half the day). There was no on-site doctor to care for her health. And the inhabitant of No 10 is kept awake by the Horse Guards clock that chimes every quarter hour. This might seem trivial, but Ten Years to Save the West – a brilliantly presumptive title from someone who spent 10 minutes in office – makes the powerful point that a modern PM “is treated like a President but has nothing like the kind of institutional support for the office that we would expect in a presidential system”.

Apparently her husband, Hugh, predicted that her time in office would “end in tears”, and “helpfully” reminded her of it when she quit. Yet for all the laughter at Truss, I truly admire her ability to rise above it, roll up those gorgeous Chanel sleeves and return to making the argument for freedom. If anything, humiliation has bolstered her ego.

Ten Years to Save the West is published by Biteback at £20. To order your copy for £16.99, call 0808 196 6794 or visit Telegraph Books