Many people have seriously underestimated Liz Truss. They thought that no one could be a worse prime minister than Boris Johnson. In just a few short days she has proved them wrong. It takes real talent to make tough decisions. Making the wrong ones merely requires an addiction to bonkers far-right political theories.
Rewards for the rich
The daft ideas have come thick and fast. The country is short of decent teachers and nurses and the ones that remain are seriously demotivated. So, their tax bills are to go up whilst investment bankers are to get hefty new rewards. Apparently, taking home more pay motivates people to do better at gambling with other people’s money but discourages them from running trains, tending sick beds or teaching children.
In their book about how lazy British workers have become, Britannia Unchained, Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng make much of the danger of a bloated state providing handouts and the damage this causes. They tell us in no uncertain terms that they think: “The state has made Britons idle”(p5). Yet Liz Truss seems quite happy to provide large landowners with state handouts simply in return for continuing to own land.
Cancel ELMS and let’s get fracking
The Johnson government took a decision to change the payment scheme for farmers. They told them that they would only get subsidies if they invested in improving the environment on their land and as a result many farmers have spent a great deal of time and money-making changes in the expectation of financial compensation via an environmental land management scheme (ELMS).
Truss is planning to casually advise them that they shouldn’t have bothered as they will get their money for free. Or rather the large farmers will whilst the smaller ones go bankrupt in the face of new post Brexit competition and lost post Brexit markets. Once again there is doublethink, as she assumes that rich landowners will remain motivated if they get state handouts whereas people on welfare will suddenly become feckless if they receive some much needed support.
If that wasn’t bad enough then fracking is back on the agenda. Despite all the evidence that it is unlikely to work in Britain’s complex geology, risks exhausting and polluting water supplies and would take years to have even a marginal impact on the cost of living. By which time better home insultation and increased use of solar panels could have achieved much more at lower costs and lower risks.
Growth choked off by increased costs (and don’t mention levelling up)
A dash for growth has been launched which relies on the idea that removing environmental protection, planning laws and workers’ rights will attract businesses to locate in Britain in order to take advantage of lower costs. Unfortunately, that unfunded attempt at growth has already been smashed apart by a serious loss of confidence amongst the very foreign investors the government is trying to attract. They have heavily sold the pound and demanded higher interest rates. That will increase business costs so significantly that it is likely to choke off growth and drive many firms into bankruptcy. A strange way to promote successful business.
Interest rate rises on mortgages will also hit first time buyers far harder than any cut in stamp duty could possibly save them. An equally strange way to support home buyers.
The national debt has been a real concern for the Conservative government for 12 years. The new government has both decided to massively increase it and to recklessly force up interest rates, making it much more expensive to service. Hardly a model of fiscal responsibility.
People in the poorer regions have listened for close on a decade to Conservative politicians telling them how serious they are about levelling up neglected communities. Whilst huge parts of those communities have continued to decline. Now the pretence of levelling up has transformed into a set of tax cuts designed to benefit far more people in the richer parts of the country than the poor.
Elected by a minority and governing without a mandate
A sickening stream of radical new policies has already emerged from this new cabinet, which has taken to speaking as if it was a completely new government. Something that requires a general election. Whereas a coup launched by a narrow faction of ideologues only requires victory in an internal Conservative Party election.
Only 81,326 people voted to make Truss the leader of the Conservative Party. She won despite most of the party’s MPs thinking she was the wrong choice and only 57% of members who bothered to vote backing her. Instead of trying to build an alliance even within the narrow confines of her own party’s MPs, she immediately proceeded to kick out all opposition and appoint only the most far right MPs to her cabinet. She is embarking on a high-risk gamble and ruling as if she is entitled to absolute power without any mandate from the electorate.
Her party came to power despite right wing parties winning only 47% of the votes whilst the left won 53% in the last general election. Every recent opinion poll shows that even more people now want a left of centre government.
No right to remain in power
The Conservatives fought the 2019 election on the promise that it would put a hold on fracking, use Brexit to support farmers to make improvements to the environment, level up the country and responsibly manage the nation’s finances. Now that they have dumped every single one of these policies, what right do they have to remain in power?
They aren’t strong and stable. They aren’t fixing the roof whilst the sun shines. They are simply spooking the markets. Their only achievement so far has been to prove most political commentators wrong.
Because, apparently, it really is possible to have a prime minister who is even worse than Boris Johnson.