In a week that’s seen reports that return tickets are to be scrapped on the railways, I couldn’t help but wonder: could we extend the same principle to prime ministers? Liz Truss, former PM and legend in her own salad drawer, is back just three months after being forced to resign. Admittedly, three months is twice as long as her shelf-life in office, so perhaps it seems like a long time to her.
In an interview for The Spectator, Truss was first asked, “Why now?”
Like a misfiring Google chatbot, Truss immediately demonstrated the same level of understanding that had characterised her premiership, replying that she had “needed to take a bit of time to look at what had happened”. A bit of time? Fawlty Towers waited 43 years before John Cleese decided a comeback was in order. At least Fawlty Towers was good the first time.
Truss had preceded the interview with a 4,000 word essay for the Sunday Telegraph that should have been titled I Was Right Really It’s Just That No-One Gave Me A Chance To Do What I Wanted Despite Me Literally Being Prime Minister.
Please don’t worry: in a noble act of self-sacrifice, I’ve read Truss’s twaddle so you don’t have to. That’s half an hour of my life I’ll never get back, when I could have been doing something more useful, like staring blankly out of a window.
Liz Truss: agent calamiteur
Pictured in her parliamentary office, Truss seems, bizarrely, to have a portrait of Che Guevara dressed as Horatio Nelson on her wall. Is it some kind of metaphor? Does she see herself as some kind of radical revolutionary dressed in traditional guise? Maybe the conspiracy theories are true: she really is a sleeper agent for the Liberal Democrats, working to overthrow the Conservatives from within. Honestly, that would make as much sense as some of the guff that she came out with.
The Telegraph had headlined the article ‘Truss: I was brought down by the left-wing economic establishment’. To be fair to Truss – though I don’t see any reason why I should be – she didn’t actually name the ‘left-wing establishment’ as being to blame. That’s just the Telegraph’s own special interpretation. She did, however, blame everyone else.
She writes that she didn’t take advice from the Office for Budget Responsibility and didn’t listen to anyone in the Treasury, seeing them as part of the “wider orthodox economic ecosystem”. She was then surprised when the markets and pensions started tanking after her mini-budget, complaining that no one had warned her this might happen and that no-one had mentioned anything to her about LDIs (Lettuce-Driven Investments. Or something like that anyway. I was getting a bit tired by this point).
It makes you proud of our educational and political establishments, eh? Truss spent three years reading politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford; she even had two years as chief secretary to the Treasury; and she still knew nothing about the economy. Her lack of knowledge cost the economy about £60bn, which would have been enough to fund a pay rise for all the nurses, or pay for one speech by Boris Johnson.
“These go to eleven!”
But still, it wasn’t her fault: it was the media and the establishment. “Large parts of the media and the wider public sphere had become unfamiliar with key arguments about tax and economic policy”, she wrote, seemingly oblivious to the irony that she’d admitted she didn’t understand what she was doing.
“I fully admit that our communication could have been better”, Truss went on, in a rare moment of almost-but-not-quite self-awareness. “As I said during the leadership campaign, I am not the slickest communicator.” It’s true that her face and voice have a somewhat complicated relationship with human emotion. Perhaps she could use someone warmer and more engaging to communicate on her behalf? Maybe a Cyberman?
“I assumed upon entering Downing Street that my mandate would be respected”, Truss’s monologue continued. Hm. Which mandate was that? The one where a small number of hard-core Conservatives from the home counties got to choose between Truss and Sunak, and for some unknown reason rejected the candidate of Indian descent? The Daily Star’s lettuce had about as much mandate.
Thinking back to how we had previously heard that Truss took a “Spinal Tap” approach to government, with everything “turned up to eleven”, I can’t help but remember the immortal words of Spinal Tap’s David St Hubbins: “It’s such a fine line between stupid and clever.”
At least the focus on Truss managed to get the deputy PM, Dominic Raab, off the front pages for a few days. It seemed that every day was bringing new stories of him bullying members of staff in the ministerial departments where he has worked. Some of these included suggestions that he had committed “microaggressions” and would give staff a “hard stare”. This doesn’t sound like much, but when you’ve seen Paddington give Knuckles a hard stare in Paddington 2, you’ll know how terrifying they can be.
On other allegations that he had sworn at junior members of staff, a ‘source’ close to Raab responded, “This is absolute [censored]. If anyone [censored] [censored] [censored] [censored] [censored] [censored] [censored]. [Censored] [censored] [censored] [censored]. [Censored] [censored] [censored] [censored] [censored] [censored]. And you can quote me on that. What? Say it was a close ‘source’. Now [censored] off or I’ll stare at you again”.