Voices: The day Liz Truss went ‘full Trump’ – and embraced the deep state

Liz Truss, the former prime minister, is due to speak at C-PAC, the Washington conservative conference, ahead of Donald Trump   (PA)
Liz Truss, the former prime minister, is due to speak at C-PAC, the Washington conservative conference, ahead of Donald Trump (PA)

Last week, during the ever-excellent Leicester Comedy Festival, the brilliant comedian Nerine Skinner performed her terrifyingly realistic Liz Truss parody routine – and just for a moment, I feared mortgage rates were about to go through the roof again.

Skinner has a vague, blonde (in both senses) resemblance to Truss, and has uncannily captured that inane grin Truss puts on so disconcertingly. As Skinner reflects with a hint of chagrin, when Truss became prime minister, Skinner’s YouTube take-offs of her went viral; for the 49 days Truss lasted in No 10, Skinner prospered – the only person who emerged from that nightmare better off (aside from Truss herself, of course, who gets a retired prime ministerial additional allowance of £115,000 for life).

Skinner nowadays finds making a living a bit harder. But this week, there’s good news. Liz Truss is trying to make a comeback.

Armed with a new script – a borderline fascistic one – it seems Truss is trying to break into the lucrative American market for unhinged extremism. Just as Nerine Skinner has a Truss tribute act, so does Truss have a Margaret Thatcher tribute act, based on a perverted notion of liberty – and with none of her predecessor’s skills or integrity.

Like any stand-up act, Truss’s monologues are becoming quite well honed. We’ve heard elements of these emerging at recent gatherings of the evangelical right, such as last year’s launch of the NatCs (the wittily Third Reich-inspired nickname for the National Conservatives, the loose Tory movement that prefers “NatCons” for short); and again last month at the unveiling of the right-wing “PopCons” movement, short for “Popular Conservatism” and a thoroughly oxymoronic affair.

A personal favourite idea is Truss’s apparently sincere belief that Britain is full of “secret Conservatives”, people who apparently didn’t even realise they were xenophobic, selfish bigots. I can’t help thinking Truss may have the “secret Conservatives” mixed up with the people who are too ashamed to admit they voted for the Conservatives last time round.

One transcendent theme is to convince people – the common term for this is gaslighting – that Truss’s famously brief premiership was actually a success, or would have been if it hadn’t been “sabotaged” by those lefties in the dealing rooms of Wall Street, Singapore and the City of London, who took fright at the way she sent British public finances into freefall with her “mini Budget” (though there was nothing “mini” about the disaster that ensued).

Yes – “sabotaged”! By a woke conspiracy (naturally). Writing this week in the Wall Street Journal, ahead of her appearance at C-PAC, the Conservative Political Action conference in Washington, she claims this: “Because the left doesn’t just fight at the ballot box and seek a mandate for their agenda when it is election time; their agents are only too active in public and private institutions and what we have come to know as the administrative state and the deep state.

“I saw this for myself first hand as they sabotaged my efforts in Britain to cut taxes, reduce the size of government and restore democratic accountability.”

“Democratic accountability” was, in fact, healthily asserted, so far as Truss was concerned, when her own MPs told her the game was up and she had to resign before the she pushed the country into an inflationary boom-let followed by a painful slump. For those Americans only vaguely aware that this odd personality had not so long ago been in charge of this end of the special relationship, Truss also glossed over rather disingenuously just how brief her tenure was – coupled with a plug for her forthcoming book.

“I have come to the conclusion that the West is doomed unless conservatives win again, and are prepared to take on the institutions that have been captured by the left,” she writes. “It’s why my forthcoming book, reflecting on my decade serving in (and latterly presiding over) the British government and setting out the lessons we all need to learn, is called ‘Ten Years to Save the West’”.

Truss makes it sound like she was in Number 10 for as long as Maggie, rather than being outlasted by a lettuce.

Whereas comedians can be forgiven, indeed encouraged, to create surrealistic fantasy worlds, it is much less amusing when a self-serving, self-fantasist such as Truss tries to do the same. She, and those like her, are creating a conspiracist myth of a world controlled by progressive, woke, shadowy forces, the “global left” operating through a “deep state” who are set on destroying civilisation.

Apparently, and absurdly, the businesspeople in the boardrooms along with the Labour Party and other “left-wing elites”, says Truss, “work with their counterparts in nations like the US and the UK – but they will be aided and abetted by our enemies in China, Iran and Russia, all of whom would like nothing more than to see Western societies undermined from within”.

And so we are invited to believe that Keir Starmer is conspiring with Xi, Putin and the ayatollahs to destroy us. It is worryingly feverish – and, bad news for her impersonators, quite beyond parody. However, they will be lapped up by fans of two other C-PAC speaker this week: Nigel Farage, who is set to wow the crowds on Friday, a de facto warm-up act for Donald Trump, who will give a speech on Saturday.

With speakers like these, Truss’s actual words – “I have come to the conclusion that the West is doomed unless conservatives win again and are prepared to take on the institutions that have been captured by the left” – will find an enthusiastic audience.

But this is nuts. Hers is simply a manifesto for an elected dictatorship, and to flirt with fascism; the dismantling of every constitutional safeguard and independent institution in the name of “the will of the people”; a parliamentary majority elected on a minority vote.

Our independent courts that ensure politicians obey the law are derided by this ex-justice secretary “as the left [having] successfully weaponised the courts, as activist lawyers prevent the government from deporting illegal immigrants”. The judiciary, the BBC, Bank of England, Office for Budget Responsibility, independent civil service, Natural England, the RNLI, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, the National Trust, the NHS, the European Union, Toyota, the universities, the IMF, Joe Biden, the Kremlin, the Chinese Communist Party, the World Health Organisation, the RSPB and the South Norfolk Liberal Democrats are, according to Truss logic, apparently all involved in this great global conspiracy to stop her and her allies from saving civilisation.

It’s beyond a joke.