Like energy bills, Truss breaks scale of absurdity - GulfToday

Like energy bills, Truss breaks scale of absurdity

Tom Peck

@tompeck

Peck is The Independent's Political Sketch Writer.

Peck is The Independent's Political Sketch Writer.

Liz Truss

Liz Truss

In two and a half weeks’ time, this country is going to go through a ritual that has become far too familiar. A new prime minister is going to take the short drive back from Buckingham Palace and stand outside 10 Downing Street, and say the words, “Her Majesty the Queen has asked me to form a government.”

And that person is going to be Liz Truss. The closer it gets to the time at which this will happen, the less real it becomes. It is an outcome so impossibly unreal that it will be hard to comprehend it, even as it happens. Last week, my energy company sent me a “forecast” for what it expects my energy costs to be this coming winter.

The two things are very much not dissimilar. Prime minister Liz Truss is a lot like a £1,068 energy bill just for the month of January. Both things break the scale of absurdity to the point where it is difficult to summon any genuine emotion about either of them. Whenever you’re about to, whatever bit of the brain is responsible for making sure you don’t fall for practical jokes just overrides the system to make sure you don’t make a fool of yourself.

But in both circumstances, surreality will quickly dissipate. The horror will become ineluctable. Boris Johnson became prime minister with a back catalogue of racist and misogynistic column writing spread over several decades. He even added to his dreadful canon as recently as 2018, with the overtly and explicitly racist column about Muslim women looking like “bank robbers” and “letter boxes.”

Such things are difficult to face down, but we do live in a democracy, and he did therefore have on his side the reasonably large chunk of people that don’t care very much about racist jokes.Liz Truss, on the other hand, will have to style out the now multiple occasions on which she has called British workers “lazy”. That isn’t easy. It was written in a book of which she was co-author, in which British workers were called “the worst idlers in the world”. And now, the almost certain actual next prime minister has been recorded, while she was a member of the cabinet, claiming that British workers need to apply “more graft” and that they lack the “skill and application” of foreign workers.

As ever, it’s hard to know where to start. Had Liz Truss applied a bit more graft to her role in the Remain campaign, it’s arguable she would not have been part of the single biggest cock-up in British political history — namely a government taking its country out of the EU by accident.

(She now says she regrets ever having campaigned for Remain, as if changing one’s mind is somehow retroactive justification for being strategically naive and demonstrably useless in equal measure.)For almost the entirety of the Truss premiership, which will certainly not last more than two years, British workers are going to be taking the most brutal economic hammering most of them have ever known. Without major intervention on a scale she is currently refusing even to discuss, huge swathes of the population will simply become destitute. Most of the rest will have their discretionary spending all but wiped out. All the money will go on the gas bill, which will devastate almost every other aspect of the economy.

This, Truss will be reminded, quite possibly on a daily basis, will not have anything to do with workers being lazy. They will be working as hard as they possibly can, and it will be getting them absolutely nowhere.

All aspects of the media are currently bursting with case studies and special investigations about the brutal economic hit that is coming. On Tuesday, Sky News happened to cut directly from its news story about Truss calling British workers “lazy” to its own story about a hard-working and relatively well-paid nurse, earning £34,689 a year, who has protein shakes for most meals not only because they’re cheap to buy but also because they do not require excessive energy usage to prepare. That’s a nurse, working all day, who in effect cannot afford to switch on her oven. In the face of this ever-rising tsunami of misery, Truss appears incapable of doing anything but repeating her same old clichés, about how cutting tax means you actually get more tax, the kind of half-baked drivel that anyone who’s ever studied A-level politics tends to find overly simplistic by the time they make it halfway through the Lower Sixth.

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