This article originally appeared in our Elevenses newsletter.
“I am not claiming to be blameless in what happened,” is what Liz Truss said as she set out for the first time her detailed defence of her turbulent and short-lived premiership. But her article for The Sunday Telegraph was hardly the mea culpa that you might have expected following her chaotic 49-day tenure in No 10. Over the course of 4,000 words she took aim at the Bank of England, Treasury officials, the Office for Budget Responsibility, the International Monetary Fund and US President Joe Biden, who she said undermined support for her policies by describing them as a “mistake”. Most laughably, the former PM even had a pop at the air quotes ‘left-wing economic establishment’, because apparently that is the collective noun for bond traders, currency speculators and bankers these days. Très drôle, Ms Truss. Très drôle.
Reaction to the ‘sorry not sorry’ has been, understandably, about as fiery as her short reign at the helm. Business secretary Grant Shapps said she had “clearly” taken the wrong approach to the economy while senior MP Alicia Kearns mocked Truss’s attempt to rewrite history by blaming economic institutions. Dominic Lawson of the Daily Mail likened Truss to a driver who crashes at 100mph then blames it on the passengers in the back, while the Guardian’s John Crace asked whether she is “dimmer than she appears or just totally dishonest”, concluding that she may be both. Gracefully, a near unanimous opinion was that whatever happened in the apocalyptic days she was in charge, a future where Truss roams free is not the one for us.
The question on the table, therefore, is why a national newspaper cleared the front pages of its Sunday broadsheet to give her a shot at redemption. Why was she then given a cushy interview with the Spectator and why, given the substantial backlash the first article received, did the Telegraph double down on its position the day after, getting lead writer Tim Stanley to proclaim that she was right to say she only lasted 49 days because, and I quote, “undemocratic forces prevailed”, an absurd notion given that Truss was elected by 0.17 per cent of the British vote and had an approval rating of minus 70 by the time she left office.
Consider for a moment that it wasn’t Truss and her trickle-down high-wealth agenda that was in the spotlight and, instead, it was someone like, I don’t know, Jeremy Corbyn. If Jeremy Corbyn had managed to cost the country £30 billion with a disastrous mini-budget during his six weeks in charge, would he have been offered the front page to explain why shortly after? If he managed to wipe ten times that amount from UK stock and bond markets, trigger a pension fund crisis and have international investors running scared, would he be given column inches to put his case forward? If he sacked his chancellor, sacked his chief whip and deputy chief whip and had people manhandled before a vote on fracking, do you think we might be having a franker conversation as to what happened rather than debating the merits of his policies?
Of course we would, yet given the shape of our media and our political class’s inability to admit their mistakes we find ourselves staring down a debate about an agenda that was proven in the most extreme way to have been wrong. And that, I’m afraid, is completely inexplicable.
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