The Tories need Liz Truss’s nonsense like a hole in the head

Top Cameron aide Craig Oliver breaks down why the former prime minister’s essay absolving herself of guilt is a disaster

Sunday 05 February 2023 17:59 GMT
The ex-PM even has the brass neck to claim that none of what she was doing was a surprise
The ex-PM even has the brass neck to claim that none of what she was doing was a surprise (Getty Images)

Liz Truss’s 4,000-word article explaining how she became Britain’s shortest-serving prime minister is a communications disaster, both for her and for the Conservative Party.

Anyone worth their salt would have told her she needed to win permission to be heard before trying to take the moral high ground. That would have meant a long period of reflection, allowing time for wounds to heal, and saying sorry for taking the country to the brink of disaster. She has done none of this, and is instead expecting us to believe it is we who have got it all so badly wrong.

To be fair, there is a fig leaf of contrition. She admits poor communication – but only by way of painting herself as more sinned against than sinning. Hundreds of words are devoted to a foot-stamping conspiracy theory about the international money markets, the economic establishment and the Treasury ganging up against her. The idea that all of these are bastions of “left-wing orthodoxy” just waiting to bring her down is laughable. I half expected her to tell me that they had also been responsible for assassinating JFK.

My head was left spinning as her argument seemed to amount to little more than: I had no idea I was a bull in a china shop, and it’s the crockery’s fault for being broken.

During a frankly interminable Tory leadership campaign last summer she was warned repeatedly about her “fantasy economics”; not least by Rishi Sunak, who told her if she tried to enact her plan, it would blow up in her face. Instead of listening, she scoffed.

Truss even has the brass neck to claim that none of what she was doing was a surprise – apart from announcing she was going to cut the top rate of tax. She’s right that people knew about most of it – but nobody thought she’d be crazy enough to do it.

Which brings us to the second great problem with her piece: it is yet another sign that the Conservative Party is more interested in settling internal scores than it is in staying in power.

The subtext of each of her words is: Sunak is getting it wrong. I was right and you should listen to me, despite the fact I brought you so close to ruin.

More than 20 points behind in the polls, the Conservative Party needs this nonsense like it needs a hole in the head. One former prime minister trying to grab the wheel from Sunak would be unfortunate, the problem is there are two. In the last week, Boris Johnson has been reminding anyone who will listen that he is still available for the top job, using whatever he can to get attention – from Nadine Dorries to Volodymyr Zelensky.

There’s been a debate in Conservative circles recently: is the situation Sunak finds himself in more similar to 1992 or 1997? In 1992, John Major surprised everyone with a historic win. In 1997 he was eviscerated after years of scandal and back-fighting. The last few years have taught us that it’s foolish to make absolute predictions about politics. But the Conservative Party needs to wake up. If they do not hang together, they will hang apart.

The scandal of Nadhim Zahawi’s tax affairs, bickering MPs, two former prime ministers doing everything in their power to rock the boat – is not a recipe for victory. It points to a potential cataclysmic defeat.

The second series of Craig Oliver’s ‘Desperately Seeking Wisdom’ podcast is out tomorrow on GlobalPlayer, Apple and Spotify

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