Liz Truss: the return of neoconservatism to the United Kingdom | International
Radio journalist Nick Ferrari put the same question to the two candidates to succeed Boris Johnson, but in slipping the idea he used a tone that sounded more like sacrilege than reasonable doubt: “Will you consider any energy rationing if you come first? Minister?”. The response from Rishi Sunak, the primary loser, was like all of his: nuanced, cautious, open: “I don’t rule out any possibility,” he said. Liz Truss’s contained in one syllable all the certainties of a deeply ideological candidacy: “No”, she answered flatly, as if the mere suggestion were an insult to a nation as powerful as the United Kingdom.
Liz Truss has managed to seduce (with 57.4% of the vote) the majority of conservative affiliates, divided by the way in which they have ousted Boris Johnson from power and fearful of a recession that could take away their electoral expectations , with a strong dose of neoconservatism, optimistic patriotism and economic will. His promise to cut most taxes immediately, despite the runaway inflation affecting the United Kingdom, is based on that supposedly virtuous circle applied by Reagan and Thatcher: a combination of low tax pressure and less social spending to promote a greater growth of the economy (at the cost, also, of greater inequality). “People who have higher incomes pay more taxes, so, logically, when you lower taxes, they tend to be the most favored,” Truss explained last week on the BBC. “But I think it is not correct to analyze everything from the perspective of redistribution. I am in favor of the economy growing, because it is something that benefits everyone. The economic debate of the last 20 years has been dominated by the issue of wealth distribution. And the result has been relatively slow growth,” she noted.
Truss had beautiful words of tribute to his predecessor, Boris Johnson, in the victory speech, after the result of the Conservative primaries was known, but he has unceremoniously buried the economic message of the last three years. Gone is the idea of redistributing wealth between the richest regions in the south of England and the less developed ones in the north – the famous level up of Johnson. It is about growing all of a sudden, to arrive with the best possible result at the electoral appointment scheduled for two years from now. Because Truss has also made it clear that he intends to rush his opportunity: the idea of an early election is ruled out. “We will obtain a great victory for the Conservative Party in 2024”, assured the new prime minister.
At least Truss and his team have prevented ideology from clouding their short-term vision and preventing them from seeing the country’s urgent needs. That is why, together with the fiscal revolution, he has promised a multimillion-dollar package of direct aid to households, to deal with the imminent energy crisis suffered by the British. And perhaps that is the sign that politics, which has been coveting for years the position of prime minister that it has just achieved, also applies that famous recipe of the American Democrat Mario Cuomo: they campaign in verse, but govern in prose. During her time at the head of the Department of International Trade, she was methodical and persistent enough to close trade deals around the world that would serve to justify the “regained freedom” that Brexit had brought. Australia, New Zealand, Japan… Truss was closing deals as fast as she was promoting them on social media. Because it was during that time that a rather stiff and brusque personality in her public speeches and performances began to discover the advantages of self-promotion to carve out a new image. “Department to Instagram Truss”, her collaborators ironically called the DIT (Department of International Tradein its acronym in English).
That same image control, as Foreign Minister, led her to harden her stance towards Brussels, despite the fact that in 2016 she campaigned against Brexit. With the faith of the convert, she promoted an internal law that scrapped the Northern Ireland Protocol, the most sensitive agreement of the long negotiations carried out between the United Kingdom and the European Union. Truss has become the champion of the party’s eurosceptics and neoconservatives, enough to achieve victory in the primaries, but also the reason why 52% of Britons, according to an express poll by YouGovbelieve that she will be a prime minister with a poor or terrible performance, and only 12% trust that she will do well.
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