Liz Truss, laughable but not funny
7 September 2022
Opinion: Liz Truss taking the reins is the latest development in Britain's descent into government by the very worst, writes Neal Curtis
The UK has a new prime minister. Selected by a small group of right-wing ideologues, known as the Conservative Party, Liz Truss will govern without either a democratic or popular mandate until she sees fit to call an election, no later than January 2025.
As the newspapers explain to the British people how best to eat rotten food, burn books to keep warm, or suggest they need to be less squeamish about drinking sewage water, daytime TV show This Morning is hosting a game where viewers can spin a wheel for a chance to have the show pay their soaring energy bills (presumably, with the money it makes from attracting more viewers to such a demeaning circus).
Amidst the cluster-crisis now engulfing the lives of millions of British people, Truss has promised that the only way out of the mess is more of the same. Her notorious incompetence, ineptitude and mendacity continues the kakistocracy that Boris Johnson’s election inaugurated. Britain has truly descended into government by the very worst.
Perhaps a clue to what she will bring can be found in her name. A truss is a framework design to support a bridge or a roof. The new prime minister will no doubt like to think of herself as enabling either of those structures. The bridge fits nicely with her rhetoric about Britain’s future. She likes to think of herself as someone who can move the country across the dangerous waters it faces towards the ‘sunlit uplands’ promised by her predecessor.
Again, emulating her idol, she proposes that profit is good, irrespective of the size of profits made, and defends the obscene gains of energy companies delivering record dividends to shareholders at a time when very many people in the UK will not be able to heat their homes.
She no doubt likes the idea that she might be something akin to a roof, the structure that protects and secures a house. This fits with the new prime minister’s adulation of Margaret Thatcher who placed the household at the centre of her economics and moral universe. Such adulation even prompted Truss to dress up as Margaret Thatcher during the leadership election.
Unfortunately, though, it is patently clear that where the roof analogy works is in her explicitly declared belief that the only way to help people at the bottom is to reinforce the strength of those at the top. It should be expected in a country in thrall to the wildest and most deluded of fantasies about its national identity that the new cosplaying prime minister should continue to promote the fable of trickle-down economics. This was never really sound economics in the first place. It was always a political project to increase the wealth of those at the top and, combined with deregulation, make them increasingly unaccountable.
Again, emulating her idol, she proposes that profit is good, irrespective of the size of profits made, and defends the obscene gains of energy companies delivering record dividends to shareholders at a time when very many people in the UK will not be able to heat their homes. This is just good market economics.
As might be expected, her solution is not ‘handouts’ but tax cuts, as if tax cuts aren’t handouts to the most wealthy. This central pillar in neoliberal policy has not worked for 40 years, and as a response to a crisis created by 12 years of her party’s rule, it is laughable. Only it’s not funny.
Ultimately, then, Truss represents a political project that has failed, and is one that will continue to fail. The clue in her name therefore takes us in a different direction. While she continues to support a roof that is increasingly too big for the building, and excessively ornate to the point of opulent vulgarity, the real meaning of Truss as a politician is in the surgical device used to support a hernia.
The myth of neoliberalism has burst. Her predecessor used Brexit as a means to hide the failure of that project beneath a xenophobic, populist rhetoric that evoked another myth: the envisioning a future built on former, imperial greatness. Truss will do something similar, but precisely what is unclear. What we do know is that this Thatcher impersonator is being strapped onto a body politic in seriously poor health, and she will do her best, ably supported by the media, to help the country strut about as if its innards aren’t falling out.
Dr Neal Curtis is Associate Professor of Media and Communication at the University of Auckland.
This article reflects the opinion of the author and not necessarily the views of Waipapa Taumata Rau University of Auckland.
Used with permission from Newsroom, Liz Truss - laughable, not funny.
Margo White I Media adviser
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