Tag Archives: Liz Truss

The Tories are finished. This time, the lights will turn out themselves due to power shortages, don’t worry.

“It’s The Sun Wot Won It” is the famous headline which appeared on the front page of The Sun on 11 April 1992. The headline referred to The Sun’s contribution to the rather unexpected Tory victory in the 1992 general election owned by Rupert Murdoch, The Sun had been relentless in its drive to turn voters against the Labour Party leader, Neil Kinnock, and has run successful campaigns pro Blair and anti Corbyn. These days of course, the Tories have contributed to an energy crisis so that forced emergency blackouts may happen of their own accord. The country is in a mess. Liz Truss is possibly the most unsuccessful leader in the Tories’ entire history, a modern day Lord Liverpool.

Something has to be done. As we kept on being reminded by the Labour PLP during the Jeremy Corbyn days, while some of them were actively undermining their leadership as evidenced in the Forde Report, Britain needs a strong democracy. The Tories don’t seem to represent the country, especially those people who need some help to survive. They perpetually refer to people on working tax credits as ‘scroungers’. The toxicity is awful. The Tories are a weird coalition of Red Wall voters and people in the South East, who has been united in the goal of ‘getting Brexit done’. The pity is that they have not much to show for this. And their saviour, Boris Johnson, couldn’t even avoid partying during the pandemic.

I don’t particularly want the Conservative Party to suffer now, now that it is clearly dying. Many do, because of all of the suffering that this political party has inflicted on people, especially the most sick and vulnerable members of society.  The Conservatives have never had any enthusiasm about processing welfare benefits for people who cannot work. Now we know that senior members ‘dream’ of jumbo jets lifting off with people yet to have their asylum applications processed. The NHS is clearly malfunctioning, with a workforce crisis reflecting chronic underfunding and just a complete apathy in making it work. The social reforms have been delayed so much so that Sir Andrew Dilnot CBE will re-appear to give new evidence for the social care Commons committee this week, eleven years after his seminal proposals were first made. The Tory Party is dying a natural death anyway. Liz Truss couldn’t have killed off the Party better had she tried, so much so  Tim Farron MP has been making the joke that she is a ‘secret agent’ who should cover her tracks more carefully.

I despise the Tory Party although I do not despise Tories.

I just want the Conservative Party to have a ‘good death’. Ironically, the Conservatives introduced the construct of ‘necessity’ with their doomed Northern Ireland protocol, where there was no good option when you’re between a rock and a hard place. The Conservatives have entirely got themselves to blame. The Conservative Party  are now pretty damned if they keep Liz Truss at the helm, but also damned if they get rid of her.  They had the option of choosing, albeit out of a pretty awful choice, between two plausible contenders for leader of the Conservative Party. It is possible that Liz Truss MP could yet be further ‘challenged’, so to speak, due to some weird ambiguity of the interpretation of the rules in Sir Graham Brady’s head. Letters could be going into the 1922 committee as we speak. The Conservatives had a choice between someone who warned against the potential economic crises and who had a track record of dealing with the UK economy during a period of unprecedented uncertainty. Or they could choose Liz Truss of ‘Britannia unchained’ fame, whose maverick anarchic economic slash and burn was bound to run into problems. Truss managed to avoid any scrutiny, symbolised by her deft avoidance of Andrew Neil’s glare. She delivered the same attack lines ad absurdum. Nobody ever asked her on where she would get the money for the tax cuts would come from. The sad thing is that the Conservative Party actually voted in Truss – albeit with a decisive but not all that convincing victory. They officially own this result. It’s not as if the tanking of the Pound is that much of a surprise. What is though is a bit unexpected is that she is at -47% in popularity, meaning that single speeches can put mortgages into a tailspin, and individuals in Great Britain can loose their livelihood at an instant. I recently had to wait three hours to a mortgage provider to double check that my mortgage was a fixed rate with a low rate of interest rates, rather than a standard variable rate mortgage. This was as I was waiting for my Royal Mail post to arrive – mid-afternoon – when it would normally turn up punctually in the morning at around 9 am.

I can’t literally think of any one thing which the Conservatives have done to make my life better in any sense. Of course, not everything which has gone wrong with this country is due to the Conservatives. But it’s obvious that the tired mantra such as ‘we want to put more money in your pocket’ are not working any more. More like, the Conservatives want to put more of your money into their friends’ pockets, as exhibited by the ‘Test and trace’ fiasco or the PPE scandal. It’s not just the tanking of the £ which makes one question the economic competence of the Tories. It’s the fact that the economy is fundamentally screwed as well. It has been left to Grace Blakeley and a very small number of people repeatedly to point out that if you privatise monopoly-like behaviour you will end up with a few companies making a lot of money for the few not the many. The tragedy about our utilities is that they are in fact nationalised – but owned and managed by private equity companies abroad. And there is no argument that you weren’t blamed about it. Ed Miliband while he was leader of the Labour Party did indeed complain in some form about croney capitalism, and nobody listened. The Tories were more concerned about getting rid of the Liberal Democrats, and spitting them out such that they could never rise again. David Cameron was forced to embrace his inner UKIP, and the rest is history. A pack of lies came out for the 2016 referendum on both sides, I hasten to add – a decision was made. Nobody talked about it ever again, using tired tropes like, ‘Let’s put it to rest like the 1966 World Cup win’. The problem is, and it is hard to avoid, is that it is estimated that Brexit is costing the economy +4% in GDP deterioration. The pandemic came along, but the impact of Brexit on various industries – such as fishing, farming, the arts, sciences, financial services – has not gone away. As George Osborne said on the Andrew Neil Show, it is possible that there could be a ‘wipeout’ at the next general election in 2024. But he also added that the Tories could turn around their problems, and that Labour has not ‘sealed the deal’. The Red Wall voters are certainly not ‘stupid’, and will be the first to rebel at any whiff that they have bene sold a pup with Brexit. After all, the Tories kept on re-assuring them that they knew they were being lent their votes.

What is striking, however, is that while the parliamentary Labour Party has not sealed the deal, there is much to be said for left wing politics in general. The ‘Enough is enough’ campaign has struck a chord with many who do not see why unconscionable profits are being made by some in companies with a public service rôle. Nurses can be easily stereotyped as tub-thumping Corbynistas, but the truth is very far from that. Nurses see cutbacks on their wards directly impacting on the quality of care. They literally don’t have time or other resources to care, as Andy Burnham had indeed warned about when he was the shadow Secretary of State for health I n2014.  Nurses do to want to strike and their professional code imposes very strict sanctions if they pose any risk to patient care. Nurses like many in the public sector feel that they need to organise through their Unions. More’s the point, they feel that their concerns are falling on deaf ears with the Tories. The problem with Labour is also if they appear to be tone deaf to the concerns of the public sector. Symbolically the Labour Psrty leadership doesn’t want to be seen as ‘crossing picket lines’, but the discussion is far more nuanced than that. Nurses who have asked to address the cost of living crisis by putting on an extra wooly jumper are more than aware that millions are being siphoned off away from frontline patient care into paying off loan repayments from the private finance initiative agreements from the Tories and New Labour days. The neoliberal framing has clearly failed, and Labour won’t get power if it does not become popular. The general public is actually quite astute, and in these days of social media very well informed.

There’s a general consensus that Starmer is not at where Blair was at. Sure, there are similarities, such as the culture of sleaze engulfing the Tory Party much as in the dying days of the Major government. But Blair had a policy offering which made sense, as well as being a charismatic leader. Starmer seems to be going for a ‘safe option’, not daring to mention the Forde Report or other seismic internal problems. He seems ready to embrace a market economy and let go of the more extreme absurdities previously proposed. He might appeal to ex-Tory voters, but he has to weigh this up against potentially losing left-wing voters who are still curiously loyal to Jeremy Corbyn. A week is a long time in politics, so it’s possible that the national mood might lift. The general public are notoriously amnesic when it suits them. When it comes to 2022, it is possible that Liverpool delivers a Eurovision bounce; and 2023, it is possible that the Coronation makes the country patriotic again. Starmer can prove then that Labour is intensely patriotic, and already the pro-Merseyside lovefest has started. The fault lines might still remain, like Starmer being perceived as ‘North London’ or a ‘remainer’. Starmer is certainly the antidote to the very worst of the Tory administration so far – Cameron, May, Johnson, and Truss – and his ‘boringness’ may be just what the country needs during these turbulent times. Scotland may end up voting SNP, and uncertain voters who want to vote Labour but who for whatever reason can’t may vote Liberal Democrat. All of this makes it more likely that the arithmetic will favour a Lab-Lib hung parliament.

A Lab-Lib hung parliament in 2024 would be very interesting for the Brexit question. Assuming that the problems with the Northern Ireland protocol and the cross channel crossings are negotiated, Brexit does leave the country with an economic difficulty regarding productivity and growth. The UK may be OK when it comes to its geo-political soft power and influence, because of its historic legacy. But the UK cannot force members of the European Union to trade with us especially if we bonfire all of their laws and we diverge from their commonly agreed standards. The LibDems have already decided to sit on the fence regarding Brexit, and so have Labour. It is however becoming increasingly difficult to understand how the UK can sustain this degree of ‘hard Brexit’, and with a deterioration in the performance of the UK economy it may be quite unavoidable to re-join the single market. It is unclear how all the people newly enobled following their ‘success’ in Brexit supported such a ‘hard Brexit’, but we are where we are. Starmer did not oppose it. Starmer does not oppose it. Starmer will not oppose it.

Liz Truss has undoubtedly suffered from a number of  setbacks, but the unusual aspect to these setbacks is that they are largely predictable. They are all unnecessary unforced errors, which have cost the reputation of the country and the Party dear.  The problem here is that with such multi-organ failure the Conservatives might aim for a good death rather than the crises becoming more frequent and more severe in intensity.  The economic model of the Tory Party is undoubtedly a busted flush, with it increasingly being seen as a Ponzi scheme run for the benefit of its corporate donors. It always has been socially divisive, but in a world of zero sum gain it is hard not to acknowledge that they have set out to pick winners. The problem is that Truss openly, having been backed allegedly in her leadership campaign by hedge funders and other equally savoury financiers, does not ‘believe’ in re-distribution and believes in trickle down economics. It is impossible to reconcile this with the need for huge amounts of borrowing with little or zero productivity. Whatever the motives of the New York Times or Bloomberg, it is not in the UK’s interest for the economy to be viewed as a ‘basketcase’ by the markets. As Thatcher said, ‘you can’t buck the markets’. The Tories might not especially benefit from a ‘period of opposition’, but they have definitely lost their way. The reason I feel that people are genuinely willing to look at other parties now is that they are not scared off by Jeremy Corbyn (and this is a controversial issue anyway), and the Labour Party cannot conceivably be any worse than the Tories. One of the biggest mistakes for Truss surely was not to unite her own party. There have been limited offerings to Sunak supporters, especially notably in the Cabinet. Truss’ really catastrophic mistake is that she appears to have no intention to unite the country. Her anti-growth coalition is laughable if only for the sheer volume of it.

I have said all along that I live in North London. I think Labour has lost its way in not having an appealing offer to its traditional voters. Whilst my initial dislike of Brexit has subsided, I think Brexit can be made to work only if we are open about what its successes and failings have been, and there needs to be an honest discussion with the voters who had so much faith in it. If public services were good, the economy was fantastic and the UK had a brilliant reputation abroad (apart from Johnson’s tub thumping about Ukraine), the room for manoeuvre with the Tories and Truss in particular would be greater.  Tory/UKIP supporters have long been able to use the existence of Jeremy Corbyn, their myth over economic competence,  and Brexit to maul the opposition, but these are losing their potency. Brexit has been a drug delivered by the Tories, such that some of the general public have become addicted. They  have become tolerant to the lies, and needed an increasing dose of unicorns to get their fix. It is hard to see how Starmer or Truss can ‘make Brexit work’, but having spent billions on making it work so far with no immediate advantage, all the political parties need to come clean with the general public about its future. Truss is certainly a lightning conductor for all that is not right with this country, but I don’t think she is solely to blame. Thatcher always boasted that the foundations she laid were fundamentally wrong.

It is clear that the foundations that Thatcher laid were actually fundamentally wrong.


The clock is ticking. Does Labour know what it’s up against?

There is an important and distinct political choice on offer in 2024. In Liz Truss’ favour, for whatever reason, she comes in as Prime Minister with rather low expectations of the Tories in general. Any achievement from Liz Truss can therefore end up looking incredible. But Liz Truss gave a strong performance in #pmqs today. The messages of ‘on the side of people who work hard’ and ‘in favour of aspiration’ are well road-tested. Whilst the Tories have established themselves in terms of economic competence, despite much alleged pandemic-related corruption, they have not established themselves as having much regard to social standards such as pumping sewage into the sea. Liz Truss has up to 50% of her own Party not in full support in that they voted ‘for the other candidate’, but Rishi Sunak has urged the Tory MPs to ‘unite as one big family’. On that, the problems in the Conservative Party are nothing compared to the mayhem in Labour, where some of the membership still remain loyal to Jeremy Corbyn personally and his socialist policies. But things are not clearly quite right yet. Today, the British pound has fallen to its lowest level against the US dollar since 1985, when Margaret Thatcher was running the country Spooking the markets is not something the Tories want to be known for. The markets may go for consistency and steely views.

Assuming that Sir Keir Starmer is still the Labour leader in 2024, it is likely that the next general election will be interesting. Starmer’s supporters believe very much that he is the man for them, so much so thay strongly believe him to be the next Prime Minister, but those non-believers cite reasons for their difficulty in supporting Labour. Labour is substantially ahead for the first time in ages in polls, but even Margaret Thatcher claims that she never looked at the polls. There is only one poll that counts. The last real poll was in 2019, and ‘influencers’ came out to tell people not to vote for Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn was in the unusual position of being ‘unelectable’, and yet it was an achievement according to both Liz Truss and Boris Johnson that “Corbyn was crushed”. Voters apparently voted to ‘get Brexit done’, but Labour does not wish to discuss Brexit at all, denying a voice for millions of people who continue to be criticised as ‘remoaners’. This relentless personalisation and vilification of the attack, to which many are thick-skinned anyway, means there is no discussion of the breaches of the Northern Ireland protocol, where the Northern Irish border in effect, the decimation of industries, the queues at Dover, the effect on trade, and the security checks about to be implemented for the UK as a third country.

When Joe Lycett came to criticise so vocally on the inaugural episode of ‘The Laura Kuenssberg Show’, basically the flagship political discussion programme of the BBC on Sunday mornings, it came as a shock to some who were not expecting somebody there ‘taking the piss’ in broad daylight. It was completely cognitively dissonant, in that this was unexpected and confusing. But equally for many it was very funny. Emily Maitlis has her critics, so much so she was even accused of being a ‘plant’ for the Labour Party in the BBC, but she has an arguable point over false equivalence. For an organisation which prides itself on its public funding and ‘impartiality’, it was clearly going to be a problem for Kuenssberg to have a comedian as a member of a panel, odd in number, and so small in number. Satire itself has a long tradition in the BBC, for example ‘That was the week that was’, but the inclusion of satire in itself is not a culpable sin (take for example BBC Question Time which is regularly accused of substantial right-wing bias).

As Liam Halligan said today on GB News, ‘Can they afford to do an energy rescue package or can they afford not to?” Halligan is a highly respected economist and journalist, and he succinctly set out the potential danger of businesses going to the wall. It apparently is uncertain how the markets will take to as much as £100 billion (or more) of help, and Halligan set out the uncertainty of knowing how much it would cost due to the lack of knowledge about the international price. One is rather reminded of how David Cameron used to tour the TV studios religiously to tell people how Gordon Brown had ‘maxed out the credit card’, after a global financial crash over securitised mortgages attributed by Cameron to Gordon Brown. Some economists would argue now that this was used an excuse for the failed policy of austerity which did substantial economic and social damage. Proponents of the free markets claimed that that was no where near austerity. If there is any. whiff that the general public has been dumped with an extra cost for ten years, whilst something could have been to tax unconscionable profits from the energy providers, Keir Starmer could prove to be very popular indeed. The #enoughisenough movement is already very strong due to remarkable work by Mick Lynch and Eddie Dempsey. They have been protecting workers’ rights in a way many wish Keir Starmer and Labour had. But the idea that the Conservatives are a party which only looks after the interests of large corporates, especially after the way some smaller businesses were treated during the pandemic, could turn out to be extremely toxic like the Poll Tax. If the general public is to pay for it for ten years, the mood music might change.

If Brexit in 2016 was the solution, what was the problem? The dinghies have become symbolic of trafficking and immigration. The problem here is that immigration is still sky-high, immigration is needed to fill employment gaps in some critical sectors, and Brexit led to the abolition of the Treaty of Dublin which had safeguarded cooperation with France. We have pumped billions into this, with very little accountability from the media including the BBC or the opposition parties. It is conceded that growth and productivity are issues decades old unresolved successfully from the UK government, but an act of economic self harm through Brexit is hard to justify. Not trading in products which meet the specification of your target audience abroad could lead to the imposition of tariff barriers, further causing problems. It is possible that due to signing up to the European Convention of Human Rights flights cannot leave for Rwanda or extremist (normally illegal) action cannot be taken against dinghies. It seems that Raab’s Tory Bill of Rights is a bit of a mess. Now that the chief cheerleader for it, Dominic Raab, has been asked to leave, the legislation is considered to be a mess. But Suella Braverman has an immediate problem on her hands, in an area where Priti Patel is generally thought to have failed by supporters of Nigel Farage – the English Channel crossings. It could be the departure from the European human rights convention could be put on hold until a mandate is achieved in 2024. Truss may double down with her identity politics, ‘anti-woke’, hits to make the political transformation of the Tories complete. The productivity challenge had been thought to have been solved on paper by Liz Truss and colleagues through changing the work culture of Brits, and a low-tax economy. Being free marketeer and also being sympathetic to the ERG, where some members are coincidentally now planted in the Northern Ireland office, Liz Truss seems resistant to go back to joining the single market, the big market on her doorstep. Surely that would be rather important for productivity? Liz Truss at the weekend stated clearly that she did not see redistribution as a priority, but later said that levelling-up is a priority. In theory, she might be levelling up through pre-distribution, which possibly became peak in popularity about a decade ago, but that would be a rather left wing thing to do.

In addition to resolving the energy crisis in the short term, and the productivity puzzle, Liz Truss has made it clear she intends to address the NHS. Therese Coffey, who appears to have been extensively ‘shamed’ on Twitter including by those accused of being ‘liberal lefties’, allegedly, has set out an ABCD plan, ambulance waits, backlog, care and doctors and dentists. Ambulance waits cannot be resolved unless ambulances can enter A&E, and that is not possible unless patients can leave hospital which is made much harder by a decade of swingeing social care cuts. Social care’s raison d’être is not simply for the benefit of the NHS, but is intended to enable and protect individuals of all ages. Coffey will be in discussion with Amanda Pritchard, boss of the NHS England, today to talk about how to improve the backlogs for procedures which might include instructing the private sector, mitigating years of lack of workforce planning in both the NHS and social care. GPs have been attacked for only working 3 days a week, but a previous SoS had himself suggested alternative means of GP consultations at the time of the pandemic. There is a discussion to be had how to get patients to their doctors most easily, as there is a substantial GP workforce retention problem. Getting a GP appointment at 8 am should not be a ‘star prize’ like winning energy bills paid for from ‘This Morning’, in some poverty porn extravaganza.

Polly Toynbee may feel that Starmer’s Labour has nothing to fear from Liz Truss, having ‘no vision, no charisma, no real plan’. Truss has laid out a plan on energy, growth (and low taxes) and the NHS, which one may disagree with, but it is a vision. It may be ideological; it might not be. It may not be the vision I would want, for example in employment rights or breaking up failed privatised monopolies in the country’s infrastructure, but it is a vision. Starmer has not produced a vision or plan either (or if he has produced a vision, he might not have time to share it yet), and he has 2 years to produce one. Even Wes Streeting on Iain Dale’s discussion programme this week conceded that Labour could not win through opposition alone. It is perfectly possible that Sir Keir Starmer does have a coherent plan for government, does have a workable vision for running the country, and is the perfect candidate to be a national statesman with an innate passion for justice and fairness. As John Prescott argued, when you want to be a passenger on the plane, you don’t care if the pilot is not particularly charismatic. Labour is clearly still split as the recent NEC elections demonstrated, opening up old wounds. Labour still has a serious problem living with itself, and it is as if the days of Kinnock, Benn and Healey are not behind Labour yet. It is as if Nye Bevan’s call to not run after pure socialism, articulated in ‘In place of fear’ has gone unheeded. Here it is quoted by Foot:

The clock is ticking, and the next week or so will be a good clue as to whether the public want to buy into a change through Keir Starmer’s Labour. The politics and economics are complex, but they involve choices. We don’t know what the public make of these solutions to the choices yet. We will one day. Can Liz Truss ‘deliver’? Growth is potentially compromised by externalities such as the Ukraine conflict, and whisper it gently Brexit. The NHS ambulance waits themselves depend on funding social care and increasing capacity of A&E departments. And the energy crisis is anyone’s guess. Two years is a long time in politics.