“The last true Tory”

The other day I wondered if there was a single Tory in our Tory cabinet. The profile of Foreign Secretary Liz Truss in The Times answers that question in the affirmative, in so many words. She is, the last one ever.

Against her favourite backdrop

And Miss Truss is “in pole position” should Boris Johnson’s leadership be challenged by the party. As, believes the author, it’s likely to be, given the PM’s plethora of sins.

Yet I’m still convinced that these days few people, and none writing for The Times, would know a true Tory even if he crawled up behind them and bit them on… well, you know. Not that a true Tory would ever commit such an asinine outrage.

I define this type mostly in terms of temperament, mentality and tastes, not so much any set of ideas or proclaimed beliefs. Unlike one’s personality, these may be transient and sensitive to the needs of the moment.

Miss Truss’s ideas make her an ideal conservative – in the US sense of the word, that is. She is an economic libertarian: “low tax, work not welfare, slash red tape, shrink the public sector, reduce workers’ rights.”

I’m not suggesting that these desiderata would be alien to a British conservative. Not at all. It’s just that, while economic libertarianism more or less circumscribes American conservatism, in Britain it’s strictly secondary. But fair enough: “Truss is heavily influenced by American Republicanism.”

Thanks for telling us; we’ve already figured that out. But is she influenced by Republicanism all the way to republicanism? In her youth, before she awakened to the delights of free markets studying economics at Oxford, Miss Truss was virulently anti-monarchist. Is she still? If so, she is also virulently anti-Tory.

She says that, of the three PMs she has served, her current boss is the one she is “closest to ideologically”, “but with lower tax and spend”. Is that a rat I’m smelling?

Far be it from me to accuse Miss Truss of sycophancy, but if she thought Johnson is ideologically alien to her, would she say it? Somehow I doubt that.

But congratulations to her on being able to pinpoint what Johnson’s ideology is, this side of unquenchable powerlust and contortionist pliability. Others have tried to grasp it, only to find his ideology slipping out of their hands like a live eel on amphetamines.

What else? She never misses an opportunity to be photographed next to the Union Jack, which may be either true patriotism or sensitivity to the feelings of her core electorate.

One way or the other, this demonstrative, obtrusive adulation of the flag is more American than British. Next thing you know, Miss Truss will start putting her right hand on her left breast when God Save the Queen is played, and finish every speech with “God bless Britain” or “Let’s make Britain great again”.

That’s not quite… quite. Quite conservative, is what I mean.

Speaking of God, not one of the article’s 3,000 words mentions Miss Truss’s religion, nor even the absence thereof. Her equally long Wikipedia entry, ditto. The issue simply doesn’t come into her life.

At least she isn’t American in that department: a US conservative wouldn’t be elected proverbial dog catcher if he didn’t affect fervent piety. Even a lifelong lefty like Biden has to scream his Catholicism from the Capitol’s dome – before voting in yet another pro-abortion law.

Before we see whether Miss Truss possesses the sine qua non of a true Tory, let’s mention her record on another salient issue: Brexit. She voted Remain in the 2016 referendum. Not only that, but, in the words of a fellow Remainer, “her pitch for Remain was incredible. It was so believable and passionate.”

Now, that’s a black ball at least three feet in diameter. No true Tory would vote for Britain to be governed by any political body other than her own parliament. Miss Truss had better have a good explanation if she isn’t to be drummed out of the Tory ranks.

She did have an explanation, but not a good one: “Every parent wants their children to grow up in a healthy environment with clean water, fresh air and thriving natural wonders. Being part of the EU helps protect these precious resources and spaces.”

At the risk of sounding unchivalrous, I’d describe this explanation as bilge. The underlying assumption seemed to be that outside the EU we’d all suffocate on polluted air or be killed by cholera-infested water.

Her reason for changing her position in 2017 is less foolhardy, but only marginally. “I believed there would be massive economic problems but those haven’t come to pass and I’ve also seen the opportunities.”

An intelligent person would have figured out that Brexit hinged on sovereignty, not any product of double-entry accounting, and a true Tory would have sensed it viscerally. That unfortunate volte-face suggests Miss Truss is neither.

Finally, by this circuitous route, we get to what really defines a conservative, character. The profile helpfully mentions a long affair Miss Truss had with a fellow MP, although both were married.

Feel free to cast the first stone, but I won’t, especially since the MP in question was male. Few of us meet the original requisite qualifications for heaping opprobrium, and these days no one in Britain really believes that a bit of hanky-panky should keep a person out of office. (In France, such peccadilloes are almost an ironclad requirement.)

Now comes the clincher. “Before Liz Truss [delivers a speech, she’ll] spend a few moments engaged in positive self-talk.” Any true Tory would sneer at such motivational mumbo-jumbo. “Sometimes she’ll plug in ear pods for a blast of upbeat pop.” Any true Tory would run away from such sounds at an Olympic speed.

Then she has “a disarming habit of asking abrupt questions and dismissing the response as ‘bollocks’.” A true Tory would dismiss unsatisfactory responses with more intellectual rigour and better manners.

A colleague also describes Miss Truss as “the least judgmental person I’ve ever met, even though she has incredibly strong opinions”. If I understand correctly, she has strong opinions but no judgement. A bad combo for a conservative, that. It betokens a truculent nature unattached to an intellect searching for the truth.

Then she liked to hold “karaoke parties… These were legendary – a place for MPs to let their hair down. They were where George Osborne could be found rapping, where Jeremy Hunt belted out Elvis’s Suspicious Minds, and where Truss could be found doing her best Madonna, sometimes in a pink wig.”

And “she was necking a Smirnoff Ice [at a party conference] and dancing at midnight at an LGBT+ event at the Cruz 101 club in Manchester.” Was her partner male or female?

A true Tory would neither do karaoke nor attend an LGBT+ event even if he himself belonged to the sponsoring group, which Miss Truss demonstrably doesn’t. And then she went on “a boozy girls’ night out” with “Lubov Chernukhin, wife of a Russian oligarch, who had paid £135,000 for the pleasure of their company in an auction at a Tory fundraiser.”

That means Miss Truss doesn’t mind acting as a conduit for Russian mafia money flowing into the veins of our government. This definitely confirms that she has no judgement, while making one doubt the conservative nature of her strong opinions.

And finally, she “doesn’t like being told what to do, particularly by a man”. Do I detect a touch of strident feminism there? Why particularly by a man?

Miss Truss was converted to ‘conservatism’ by studying free-market economists. Who were they? Smith? Ricardo? Hayak? Mises? Friedman? Does this mean that if one of those objectionable men came back to life, Miss Truss wouldn’t listen to him?

Sorry to have kept you for so long on such a trivial subject. It’s just that I’m desperately searching for a true Tory in our cabinet. By the sound of it, the search will have to continue.

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