Trusted to deliver? I warned you about Lizz Truss - GulfToday

Trusted to deliver? I warned you about Lizz Truss

Sean O'Grady

@_SeanOGrady

Associate Editor of the Independent.

Associate Editor of the Independent.

Liz Truss interacts with supporters during a hustings event in Manchester.

Liz Truss during a hustings event at Manchester Central Convention Complex in Manchester, England, on Friday. Associated Press

Inflation to hit 18 per cent. It’s the headline on almost every front page. That’s the sort of headline to absolutely terrify people. Eighteen per cent. Most people on moderate and middle incomes understand exactly what that number means. It means an 18 per cent pay cut that absolutely none of them can afford. And what is the cause of that headline? Is it the after-effects of Covid? Is it Brexit? Is it the war in Ukraine? Well, it’s all those things, but mainly it’s the Tory leadership contest. It really is. The reason the UK’s inflation forecast is so much higher than any comparable country is, more than any other reason, simply because the people doing the forecasting have no idea what the UK government intends to do about it, because the UK government doesn’t either.

France, Germany, the United States – all these countries have governments that have set out clear plans for how they will insulate their people from the coming energy tsunami. France has, in effect, renationalised its own already nationalised energy company, EDF. Joe Biden has passed the Inflation Reduction Act. Germany imports most of its gas from Russia, which the UK does not, but has still managed to make more decisive action than we have.

The actual prime minister is spending this crisis being photographed getting on and off tourist aeroplanes and then going straight to Chequers. He has not even taken the trouble to furnish his spokesperson with any comments to make on the subject for those who happen to ask.

This seems to be irritating the British public quite a bit, but it is hardly surprising. Johnson is out of a job despite having an 80-seat majority because he was found to be utterly terrible at it. That being forced out of office has not awakened in him some secret store of conscientiousness is not the most shocking turn of events. Johnson committed political suicide through sheer negligence.

What is shocking is that his two would-be replacements are already doing the same thing. City analysts are busily writing forecasts that move markets, that, in effect, instruct investors not to bring their money anywhere near the UK.

You’d be forgiven for forgetting that the country does have a chancellor of the exchequer, by the name of Nadhim Zahawi. What is he doing about this never-diminishing crisis? We can’t possibly know, but thus far his only public response to the most dire economic forecast in decades has been to put together a little photo collage of all the MSPs that support Liz Truss and tweet them out alongside the preferred slogan, Trusted to Deliver.

Back in the early Jurassic period when this contest began, I and others gently pointed out that it would be hard to trust Liz Truss to deliver, on account of her only slightly off-centre role in delivering the greatest cock-up quite possibly in all of British political history – namely taking her country out of the EU by accident.

It seemed unlikely, back then, that she could possibly use this contest to undermine even further the already complete lack of faith that any sane voter could ever possibly have in her, but she has. On Tuesday, the Tory leadership contest, which even the man who organised it now says should have been shorter, has gone to Birmingham for another head-to-head hustings between the two candidates, which would be a bit like Groundhog Day but for the fact that Groundhog Day is a highly watchable movie released to huge box office success, whereas no one would watch the Tory leadership contest any more even if you paid them. (I know this almost for a fact as I am, technically, paid to watch it and I gave up weeks ago.)

Liz Truss has pre-empted events with an article for the Express & Star newspaper which has not so much been phoned in as farted out and wafted in its general direction. Liz Truss has, in her own words, “a plan to get the Midlands economy firing on all cylinders again”. This, in case you missed it, is an industrial metaphor. The article is about 800 words long. It does not contain a single sentence about the massive energy crisis which no business in the Midlands economy has a clue what to do about.

As she types out this drivel, a Whitehall leak reveals that plans are being drawn up for how to cope with energy-heavy industries choosing to shut down this winter, because they will not be able to afford to keep running. A reminder, at this point, that the energy price cap doesn’t apply to businesses.

If you’re worried about your domestic energy bill quadrupling, most businesses are looking at quite possibly a tenfold increase.

Liz Truss knows about this stuff, she’s being briefed on all of it. And the best she can do, the would-be next prime minister, is just studiously ignore it all, and whistle some meaningless platitudes into the wind.

She will, she says, “harness the huge opportunities offered by Brexit to benefit the region”. She knows very well indeed that there are no opportunities offered by Brexit to the region. It was for this reason, by her own admission, that she went against her own ideological preferences and campaigned for Remain. Because it was the economy, stupid. And now she really does think everybody else is stupid enough to believe her when she says the opposite, which they aren’t.

She will, she says, “unleash investment into the car industry and tech hub”. The people she hopes will read this are actively engaged in plans to shut their car plants down because they can’t cope with the prospect of 18 per cent inflation, which is, just to repeat, only forecast to happen because the government – of which Liz Truss is still a member – is doing absolutely nothing about it.

The leadership frontrunner Liz Truss has promised tax cuts and reversing increases in National Insurance contributions that fund the public health service and welfare payments. She is also proposing to axe taxes on fuel which pay for the transition to cleaner energy and rejected “sticking plaster” solutions to the cost-of-living crisis such as direct government aid.

Supporters of the current foreign secretary say she is planning an emergency budget within weeks if she wins the internal party vote. Her opponent, Rishi Sunak, believes cutting taxes will not have any effect on low-income households as they do not earn enough to pay them anyway.



Agencies


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