Judging by her victory speech, Liz Truss would have been even happier in a different career – and deep down she knows it.
That secret longing came across in her anaphora revolving around that dread D-word, ‘deliver’:
“I will deliver a bold plan to cut taxes and grow our economy. I will deliver on the energy bills crisis, dealing with people’s energy bills but also dealing with the long-term issues we have on energy supply. And I will deliver on the National Health Service.”
This seems to be the buzz word of the new cabinet. Not to repeat myself, this is what I wrote a month ago, when Suella Braverman, slated to become the new Home Secretary, regaled her TV audience with the same anaphora:
“Someone has misled the poor dear desperately. It’s post offices, obstetricians and Chinese takeaways that deliver. Governments, on the other hand, are supposed to, well, govern.
“Our ‘leaders’ increasingly express themselves in the language of corporate managers, or rather managerial consultants. They don’t govern. They ‘deliver’ markers and outcomes; they hit targets; they facilitate optimisation; they optimise facilitation; they meet goals.”
Miss Truss, aka Mrs O’Leary, also seems to be confused about which party she will be leading. To be fair, she showed no signs of such confusion in her speech. “I campaigned as a Conservative,” she said, “and I’ll govern as a Conservative.”
This only accentuates the inordinate amount of elasticity that the term has acquired. To today’s lot governing as a Conservative means out-Labouring Labour in the hope of winning the next election in the name of conservatism.
In that spirit, having touted her affection for free markets, Miss Truss has promised to freeze energy prices until 2024. Those socialist Labourites only mooted such a freeze until 2023, but hey, what do they know about conservatism.
At the same time, she also reconfirmed her mastery of political contortionism by again promising to ‘deliver’ the unlikely double whammy of both cutting taxes and increasing spending. God has created only two ways of doing that, which on closer examination amount to the same thing: printing or borrowing more money.
Any first-year student of economics will tell you that this measure is inflationary. Since we are already at the threshold of a double-digit rate, flashing through my mind are the Weimar Republic images of people pushing wheelbarrows full of banknotes.
Conservative politicians are good at coining neologisms behind which suicidal borrowing can hide. The Cameron gang favoured ‘quantitative easing’, which I proposed to shorten to ‘queasing’. And the likely in-coming Chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, talks about ‘fiscal loosening’, presumably ‘floosening’ for short.
The idea that borrowing boosts growth also lives in the land of ‘delivering’, rather than statesmanship. All depends on how growth is defined and calculated.
Since borrowing is guaranteed to increase inflation, it can indeed ‘deliver’ GDP growth – on paper and in newspaper headlines. Thus, when you buy a loaf of bread costing £2, that’s £2 added to GDP. However, if inflation pushes the price of the same loaf to £4, the GDP tally will grow by £4.
Do that across the board, and you can claim that GDP has doubled. That sounds like good news until people realise that in the same period their income increased by, say, only 10 per cent. Job done: growth delivered, people impoverished.
We are already paying some £100 billion a year to service the existing debt, which is a gift that keeps on giving. When this amount doubles, which it definitely will in short order, more borrowing will be needed, more percentage points will be added to inflation.
Anticipating such policies, international investors have started to dump the government bonds and gilts financing our sovereign debt. As a result, the pound is plummeting towards parity with the dollar. If this trend continues, the pound will soon be worth less than the dollar for the first time in history.
That’s good news for our exporters and awful news for our imports, especially those of energy, whose price is denominated in dollars. Thus the merry-go-round Miss Truss is planning to step on increasingly looks like a vicious circle.
The more she has to borrow to cover the cost of capping energy prices, the higher those prices will soar, which will then necessitate more borrowing. One way of getting off that spinning contraption is to produce all our own energy and stop importing it, thereby indirectly financing Putin’s bandit raid.
(Claiming that we buy very little gas from Russia is disingenuous. For missing in that claim is the operative word ‘directly’. We do, however, get much of our electricity from the French company EDF, which in turn imports oil and gas from Russia.)
Here Miss Truss is making all the right noises. She plans to drop the moratorium on fracking, increase oil drilling and production in the North Sea, continue to build new nuclear power stations and renovate the old ones.
If she actually does all that, rather than merely delivering it, then things will ease up greatly. But I’ll have to see it to believe it. For the time being, my suspicion is aroused by Miss Truss saying that, yes, she’ll start fracking, but only if the local communities agree.
Much as I prefer localism to centralism in politics, it’s the national government that has to respond to a national emergency, not the mayor of a village in the Midland Valley of Scotland. My sceptical mind detects Miss Truss’s attempt to leave herself an out.
My sympathy is with her, though. Not since 1979, when Margaret Thatcher inherited a shambles of an economy left by Labour, has a new prime minister had to step into such an excremental disaster produced by the previous administrations. The difference is that this time the previous administrations were all Tory, and she has been a member of them for eight years.
One woke, which is to say socialist, perversion she inherits (and lovingly fosters) from the previous Tory governments is the commitment to out-Labour Labour in diversity.
If her choices for the great offices of state go as planned, then Kwasi Kwarteng will become the fourth consecutive non-white Chancellor, Suella Braverman the third minority Home Secretary in a row, and James Cleverly the first non-white Foreign Secretary ever.
I’m beginning to miss the silly belief that any institution should reflect the demographic makeup of the population at large. This way an outsider may look at a photograph of our cabinet meetings and get the impression Britain has floated south to merge with Kenya.
As I keep repeating, competence alone should be the sole qualifying characteristic of a government official, not his/her/its/their race or sex. Yet I realise that my concept of equal, unbiased opportunity is terribly outdated.
Campaigning as a Conservative was easy. Governing as one is impossible in today’s world. Still, if Liz Truss genuinely wants to try, I wish her every success, while fearing that she is doomed to failure. The conservative boat, with or without the initial capital, has sailed for destinations unknown.
1 thought on “Liz missed her true calling”
Thank you for “anaphora” – my near-daily dictionary run.
As a Conservative, Miss Truss(t?) will conserve the suicidal direction that all western democracies are taking. No worries there.
No worries about financing your debt, either. We spent $560 billion on that last year on this side of the Atlantic and things have never been better. (Or is it worse? With all of the language switches these days it is hard to keep track.)
Freeze energy prices? Interesting. But I’d be willing to give odds that it is your backsides that will be freezing this winter, as you struggle to pay the heating bill.
Fracking was banned under Barry O’Bama, renewed under Trump, and banned again under Biden. Miss Truss will find it hard going. All it will take to derail the plan is for “the mayor of a village in the Midland Valley of Scotland” to say fracking (choose one): causes earthquakes; pollutes ground water; reduces transsexualism. Interestingly, where I live we had dire warnings of blackouts, constant reminders to “save energy”, and soaring electrical bills under O’Bama; none of that under Trump; and resurrection of same under Biden. This week, with temperatures hitting 100 F (not really all that bad here in Southern California), we had highway signs exhorting us to “stay cool” and also to “conserve energy”. Sounds simply cadaverous!