Liz Truss’s threatened comeback is just another example of the zombie politics that grips the UK

liz truss
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Everybody’s favourite record-breaking PM – Liz Truss – is threatening a return to the Westminster frontlines, as signalled by a 4,000-word self-pity party in the Telegraph. In it, she blamed hostile media and the wider public for her truly spectacular downfall.

I’m not worried about the prospect of a Truss comeback arc. She famously fronted a mini-budget that immediately sank the pound. More than that, she suffered the public humiliation of losing out to a literal wet lettuce. Surely even the Conservatives, lacking any capacity for shame though they are, could see that she’s a non-starter.

Plus, saying she did somehow resurrect her career, she’d still be the figurehead in front of the same old Tories. However, Truss’s words – and the media buzz around them – do serve as a fantastic illustration of the rot in our political system.

Left-ward drift?!

The mainstream media picked up and ran with Truss blaming the “left-wing economic establishment” for her own failings. Hilarious though it is, this isn’t a direct quote. Instead, the former PM stated that:

 Large parts of the media and the wider public sphere had become unfamiliar with key arguments about tax and economic policy and over time sentiment had shifted Left-wards. This is partly because we Conservatives had failed to make these arguments enough since 2010 – instead triangulating with Labour policy.

First off, the claim of so-called triangulation with Labour policy here is mind-boggling. That anyone could look at the meteoric lurch toward nationalism and fascism in British politics and say that the problem is being too leftist is astounding. But hey, we’re long past the point where politicians’ statements have to have any connection to reality here.

It quickly became apparent exactly who Truss is blaming for her budgetary woes when she went on to level an attack at the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR):

Read on...

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I understand why the OBR was set up – to keep government forecasts honest, which is important. However, the unintended consequence of the Treasury losing its ability to develop policies alongside in-house forecasts has been effectively to make the OBR a driver of fiscal policy.

The OBR was created in 2010 as an independent watchdog of UK finance. Unlike Truss’s fantasy of unregulated free-reign policymaking, the OBR is beholden to the way things actually work: real data, and pesky details like facts.

Trickle off, mate

In case we’ve forgotten, Kwarteng’s mini-budget included such gems as:

  • A reversal of the increase in corporation tax.
  • The removal of caps on bankers’ bonuses.
  • Yet more limits on Universal Credit, and
  • Cuts for people who miss punitive job search targets.

Less for the poor, more for the rich. It’s nothing new, just barely reheated trickle-down economics. Reagan tried it, Thatcher tried it, it’s the fever dream of a million right-wing fantasists. It didn’t work then, and there’s no reason it would work now, no matter how much the likes of Truss might wish it.

When Truss laments that the OBR is a de-facto “driver of fiscal policy”, she’s lamenting the fact that she can’t simply disregard reality in favour of her own beliefs. She believes – or wants the public to believe, at any rate – that giving more money to the rich makes everyone better off, when we’ve all seen repeatedly that this is not true.

More than this, the entire country – the world, even – watched the fallout of the mini-budget in real time. We all saw the pound crash, not because of the nasty OBR’s doomsaying, but because that is how the market itself reacted. Truss’s interminable essay is simply an attempt to rewrite the narrative in defiance of public memory. We are instructed to believe that it would have worked, had it been given a chance, just one more time.

Zombie politics

This attitude typifies politics in Britain. It sits right alongside our creeping fascism, our gross bigotry, our sneering class system. We are so bereft of ideas, so utterly opposed to the notion that life should get better, that we repeat the same horrible mistakes over and over again.

It’s everywhere. Liz Truss wants us to give trickle-down economics another shot, to give her another shot. Hell, she even cosplayed as Thatcher whilst she was PM. Brexit was motivated by a racist yearning for a return to a time before membership in the European Union. Meanwhile, the Labour Party – after the briefest flirt with change – has immediately returned to the dead politics of Blairism.

We will never be free of this cycle of zombie politics as long as the mainstream media has no interest in allowing us to leave. To our detriment, public memory is willfully written over by a news cycle that is invested in our misery.

I don’t want to watch the same political cycle over and over, ad nauseum. I can’t do this worn-out conversation every four years for an increasingly soon forever. And I definitely can’t face the prospect of seeing Liz Truss’s smarmy face in the papers again.

Featured image via Chris McAndrew/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 3.0, resized to 770*403

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