Some of the greatest artists of all time have bravely proclaimed that they have no regrets. Almost everyone who hears a recording of Edith Piaf blasting out “Je ne regrette rien” is captivated by her utter commitment to truth and honesty. There are also plenty of people who have recorded remarkably sincere renderings of Sinatra’s classic line in My Way of “regrets – I’ve had a few, but then again too few to mention”.
Yet there are times when a little regret does seem to be justified. Or in the case of Liz Truss rather a large dose of it.
Liz Truss blames everyone but herself
There aren’t many politicians who get to the top of the greasy pole and then mess up quite so comprehensively and quite so quickly as she did. Up and down the country people are still paying more for their mortgages as a direct result of her ideological obsessions. In only 42 days she managed to tank the value of the pound, increase the cost of the national debt, give an additional kick to the cost of inflation and humiliate the country on the international stage.
Instead of apologising to the nation for being recklessly incompetent and promoted way beyond her own ability she is busy making highly paid speeches telling anyone who will listen that she was prevented from achieving great things by the stubborn reluctance of civil servants and of financial markets to recognise the genius of her ideas.
What actually prevented her from achieving anything but immense harm to the British public were the gaping holes in the extreme-right political theories she spouted. You can’t magic up cure-all growth by rushing to implement unfunded tax cuts. The way to improve an economy is to have a well thought out investment strategy, not to adopt policies that appealed to the party faithful when you were busy winning power on the back of only 81,326 votes.
Playbook of the extreme right
This tendency to mess up but never apologise has become a firm favourite of the modern extreme right. It goes alongside their other key policy of shouting loudly that the opposition is guilty of exactly the things they are very busy doing themselves.
Trump is very loud in his proclamations that the last US election was stolen from him. In fact, he lost it by over seven million votes and then put pressure on the governor of Georgia to find votes that didn’t exist. He likes to talk about fake news, whilst pumping out any falsehood that he finds convenient. He tries to pose as an anti-establishment candidate, whilst promoting the interests of billionaires, fossil fuel companies, property developers and hedge fund managers.
Those bad habits spread across the Atlantic with alarming ease and have done immense harm to both countries.
Broken Brexit promises
In the run up to the suspiciously well-funded Brexit campaign, the people of Britain were given firm promises that many good things would happen once we left the EU. It was going to be the easiest deal in history because we held all the cards and there were going to be no downsides. We are now several years into the experiment and signs of good things happening are remarkably hard to spot.
Our businesses are finding it harder to export. Our lorry drivers are held up for hours at the ports. Instead of prospering, our economy is on its knees. The deprived regions haven’t been levelled up. Their local councils are being driven to the very edge of bankruptcy. Life for farming and fishing communities hasn’t become easier. Northern Ireland is saddled with a mess that is preventing Stormont from functioning. On top of all that is the horrible rise in the cost of living and a very real decline in the standard of living for the majority of the population.
Even Nigel Farage knows he can’t portray this as a success. Yet instead of admitting that he led us into a disastrous mistake he has been busy telling everyone who will listen that the problem wasn’t that losing easy access to our main market was a really stupid thing to do. According to him the problem was that we haven’t had enough of his Brexit.
Time to divorce the extreme right
That is the real danger of the extreme right. They never learn. They never compromise. They just up the stakes and try to convince people that the mess they have created is someone else’s fault. They want the public to believe that the key problem is that their ideas weren’t applied hard enough for long enough.
The big problem with people like Farage, Truss and Trump is not that they weren’t given enough time. It is that they were given too much. Their ideas are completely bonkers and the longer they are allowed to apply them the more harm they will do.
The only thing the public should regret is that people with such off-the-wall crazy ideas ever succeeded in sweet talking any of them.
They say that if you marry in haste then you repent at leisure. The public has had a dangerous dalliance with some deeply dodgy characters. The quicker we all learn to regret it and get a divorce from this poisonous relationship with the extreme right the better.