Liz Truss’ Empty Ambition Powered Her – And Shattered Her – POLITICO

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Tanya Gold is a freelance journalist.

Liz Truss resigned as Prime Minister on her 45th day in office. As I write, the following day, the Conservative Party – Britain’s “natural party of government” for two centuries – has 14% of the vote. They can go lower and they will not unite behind any candidate. Like alcoholics who can’t stop drinking because they’re already crazy, the party is beyond the point of renewal.

But why is Truss, 47, a former accountant, the crucible of the apocalypse?

Many stories intersect in it. Some of it is not his fault, much of it is absolutely his fault. No child looks in the mirror and aspires to be a paradigm as an adult, but sometimes fate demands it. His rise was undeserved, as was the brutality of his fall.

I met Truss in college, long before she got into real politics, and she looks at herself like she’s trying to learn a new language. That’s why she’s stuffy and ethereal: that’s why she can’t speak easily or from the heart.

She is the most expressive on Instagram, a medium that is both tasteless and lively. There’s nothing about her beyond ambition, which explains the need for mirror and, I think, rage: the Britain she dreams of is not a lovable place.

Born in Oxford to a maths teacher and teacher, she grew up in Leeds in the north of England. His parents are on the left and do not share his politics: I sense an Oedipal drama there. She went to a good public school, but with her tendency to rewrite her life for advancement, she trashed her reputation in the summer race to lead the Conservative Party, even though it brought her to the University of Oxford, the nursery of Conservative prime ministers. There she studied politics, philosophy and economics, which gave the young politician the appearance rather than the reality of knowledge.

She was, notoriously, a Liberal Democrat at the time, and she gave it her all, advocating for the abolition of the monarchy at their party conference in 1994. Whatever line Truss took, she gave it her all, as compensation, I suppose, for the uncertainty. in. She smiled as she resigned. I don’t think I’ve ever met a more isolated woman.

She became a hard-right Tory – probably to distance herself from her young liberal democracy, and because Margaret Thatcher is the obvious person to reflect in the Conservative party – worked under three Prime Ministers and spent eight years in Cabinet. The subtleties and collusions of a liberal democracy do not interest him. She is notorious for failing to defend the judiciary against a powerful tabloid’s headline about ‘enemies of the people’ as Britain debated how to leave the EU and she was Lord Chancellor , and she prefers to invoke the British fantasy of exceptionalism by insisting, for example, that we eat more British cheese. There’s something intensely prosaic and unimaginative about Truss: if she was a year old, she’d be in 1951. She can’t unite people either: when she won, she didn’t even shake hands. of Rishi Sunak, and she has largely excluded her supporters from her cabinet.

A scandal – she had an affair with her mentor, former Tory MP Mark Field, although the two were married at the time – did not damage her reputation or, apparently, her marriage and it is also interesting: the betrayal of his most intimate relationship. (She also betrayed Kwasi Kwarteng, her chancellor and closest friend in politics, sacking him last Friday in an attempt to save herself when markets rejected her unfunded taxation and her polls plummeted.) Her husband, Hugh O ‘Leary, was standing outside Downing Street when she quit, but when they entered they did not touch.

When Boris Johnson fell, two things put Truss in his place: Tory party members and Johnson himself. Truss was Johnson’s choice—although he didn’t say so explicitly, leaving his most passionate lieutenants to back her up—and her sin-eater. She never repudiated him personally, though she tore up his 2019 manifesto and offered tax cuts and public service cuts, running counter to his promise to ‘level’ opportunities across the country. . Dominic Cummings – Johnson’s chief strategist, who quit politics after losing a power struggle with Johnson’s third wife – says Truss is obsessed with optics and has no idea how to be prime minister. He also says Johnson chose her knowing she would self-destruct and he could presumably come back. It was the first trap.

Then there are the largely affluent, male, southern and white Conservative party members. They were offered Sunak and Truss by the parliamentary party, which preferred Sunak. The members disliked Sunak for destroying Johnson (his resignation was blamed by Johnson’s cronies for triggering the former prime minister’s downfall) and raised taxes and liked Truss because she reflected them. She talked about their self-centeredness and their desire for low taxes and a smaller state – being well off, they don’t think they need it. She told them follies which delighted them, reviving the empire: she would ignore the prime minister of Scotland; she was ready to bomb Russia if she could find him. (She once told the Russian Foreign Minister that parts of Russia were not in Russia.) A long leadership race allowed her to impress party members and, also, allowed the country to despise her. You can only mirror a limited number of people at a time. It was the second trap.


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Then Queen Elizabeth II, a much more experienced and successful mirror than Truss, died. Britain was distressed and unwilling to tolerate Truss’s petty authoritarianism, avoidable mistakes, and superficial arrogance: humility was required of Johnson’s successor, especially if he were to tear up his manifesto. When she has no one to guide her, she doesn’t know how to do the simplest things. When she entered Westminster Abbey for the Queen’s funeral, she smiled, probably because she had precedence over other living prime ministers. It was the third trap.

Beyond his obvious inability to do the job, Truss is largely a victim of circumstance and bad actors. I see her as a gothic novel character: perhaps the second Mrs. de Winter from Daphne du Maurier’s “Rebecca”, a nameless girl fleeing Manderley (the hot Tory party), obsessed with Rebecca, the first Mrs. de Winter, who in this conceit is either Boris Johnson or Margaret Thatcher or both: more powerful ghosts overshadow him. She has no identity and understands herself better as a paradigm than as an autonomous figure.

It is a paradigm of the distance of members of the conservative party from the rest of the country, which is an abyss after 12 years in power; a paradigm of the tendency of the political class to favor optics over substance; a common, burgeoning paradigm of narcissism; a paradigm of the paranoia, taste for culture wars and will to power that Brexit engendered in its supporters – Truss was usually a late and devout convert – when they realized they were wrong.

All of these threads met in Truss in an explosive way that left it – and the Conservative Party – in shambles. I think I see hope for our democracy because these are all ends. Truss didn’t fall: it’s worse than that. On the contrary, and obediently, it broke.


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