The Tragedy of Liz Truss
The Tragedy of Liz Truss
An abortive premiership, then a failed comeback: British politics is tragicomic and technicolor.
In his suicide note “Football Season is Over,” Hunter S. Thompson stated that he was done with games. No More Bombs …. I am always bitchy. “No Fun–for anyone” Across the pond, football is soccer. But, a season is over.
Cheap thrills to those who want to prove that chivalry has in fact died, the live demolition and dismemberment of Liz Truss, British Prime Minister, was to this observer neither more comfortable nor noble than a vivisection. Truss, who was less than two months in office, was forced to resign and was sent to politics’ abattoir as publicly and cinematically as Hu Jintao at China’s Communist Party Congress.
Truss was a career politician or was. The most real kind of politician is a former student politician. To see Truss rise to her level of incompetence (a blockish, but occasionally true heuristic) and her libertarian faith humiliated by the market itself was evocative of the Joker of Christopher Nolan’s films: “Even to a guy like me, that’s cold.” Incidentally, the Baffler magazine once categorized Nolan as “the last Tory director.”
The notorious Pedro Gonzalez of Chronicles magazine eulogized on Twitter: “Liz Truss was the ultimate conservative politician of a Western liberal democracy: she assumed most of the premises of the left around things like immigration and diversity while being insanely hawkish on foreign policy and pushing tax cuts. The worst .”
And, it’s fair enough, that’s pretty much true.
Lost, slightly, in that character-limited analysis is that Truss was the candidate of the British right in 2022: considered the right-ish alternative to Boris Johnson, and certainly the party faithful preference against Rishi Sunak, the financier’s financier and former chancellor of the Exchequer. This was why she won the summer.
But, the race to succeed Truss was too clearly a failed endeavor, at least in terms of a Johnson comeback, and it demonstrated the mystery of the Western right today: Is it more statist or the establishment? (Yes.) (Yes.) (Also yes. )
To self-plagiarize: I wrote August 1: “Neither Sunak nor Truss is the exact Grenache=Syrah mixture I’d reach to for …. But, Truss’s undead Thatcherism, as left-wing abominators have suggested, is the stuff of a low trust society or no society at all. It is responsive to a world in which even the mighty Dollar and Pound Sterling aren’t as reliable as they used to be. It is a philosophy that recognizes that permanent survival requires the knowledge that the knives will always be out. A British politician would certainly know .”
Prescient stuff! Truss is not enough.
I’m not the only one who recognizes the strange politics and contradictions at play here. Tom Harwood, a rising star of GB News, writes about post-Boris, postTruss Conservatives, and likely Prime Minister Rishi. He writes: “It is extremely likely that tomorrow the Conservative Party will install a Thatcherite Leader that the right of that party hates after rejecting a Tory leader .”
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I also wrote in the summer Truss was the relative double-hawk of the pair–more cautious than Sunak regarding both Russia and China. And argued that if pressed to choose, the anti-establishmentarian should select full hawk over full dove. Sunak may broker peace in East, but Sunak is a Davos Set dove on China. After the weekend’s gangster conclave, it should be obvious to all what the threat and nature of the country’s government is to anyone other than China.
The coming premiership of Sunak will be one of a man who is more interested in moving himself to California than in transforming an ex-empire into denial. He will likely last for more than 45 days, I think. I also suspect he will lose narrowly and honorably to Keir Starmer and Labour in two years, something that I would not write of Truss or Johnson, who were high-risk-high-reward commodities both.
To steal from and butcher an witticism of British intelligence’s most renowned alumnus: Competence does not suffice.
I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.