SARAH VINE: Why couldn’t Liz Truss just say something human? What a missed opportunity
We all make mistakes from time to time, it can’t be helped. But what really matters is how you deal with those mistakes.
Whether you are prepared to acknowledge your errors and accept responsibility; or whether you double down — and dig yourself into an even bigger hole.
That’s what drove me mad about Liz Truss’s brief — and frankly disastrous — press conference yesterday. She did nothing of the sort. Instead, she came across as even more stubborn and inflexible than ever. At a time, frankly, when she could have done with showing a bit of humility, maybe even a shred of empathy.
Why didn’t she just put her hands up and say: ‘Guys, I’m sorry. We got it wrong — actually, no, I got it wrong. But I’m going to do my best to put it right.
‘Kwasi is standing down as Chancellor and Jeremy Hunt is taking over. I’m hoping his experience will help bring some stability to the situation.
‘I’m sorry it has to be this way, especially for Kwasi who has been such a loyal friend. But it’s the only way I can see out of this mess, and the best way of stabilising the markets.’
Maybe not exactly that, but something like it. Something normal, human, from the heart — honest, at any rate. But instead, no. We got robot Liz. Automaton Liz. Stepford Liz. A total failure to acknowledge her part in the current fiasco. A flat refusal to accept any blame for the mess that, in just a few short weeks in power, she has made of all our lives. Business as usual, nothing to see here.
We got robot Liz. Automaton Liz. Stepford Liz. A total failure to acknowledge her part in the current fiasco. Pictued: Liz Truss at her press conference
Not a hint of an apology, not a whiff of contrition. Just the same old pronouncements. The virtue-signalling about her impoverished childhood, now such a cliche it’s starting to sound like a parody of the Monty Python Four Yorkshiremen sketch.
The frankly delusional statement about ensuring economic stability in this country. I mean, honestly, the cognitive dissonance was off the scale, worse even than Theresa May’s infamous ‘nothing has changed’ outburst.
Talk about a tin ear. Talk about a missed opportunity. Truss is like a flight attendant asking passengers if they would like ice with their gin and tonic as the plane hurtles towards the side of a mountain and the entire crew scrambles for life jackets. Hers is not only completely the wrong response, it’s also, let’s face it, downright weird.
Who knows: maybe she and her team of barely pubescent advisers (because she fired all those with any experience), think this kind of behaviour makes her look strong, or tough, or resolute, or any of the things people in power like to think marks them out as great leaders.
Talk about a tin ear. Talk about a missed opportunity. Truss is like a flight attendant asking passengers if they would like ice with their gin and tonic as the plane hurtles towards the side of a mountain and the entire crew scrambles for life jackets
Maybe it speaks to her appreciation of Margaret Thatcher, who could be spectacularly dogmatic when she wanted to be.
But Thatcher had years of successful government under her belt — and besides, being a woman and a Tory does not de facto make you Thatcher, any more than having four legs and a wet nose makes my beloved dog Muffin likely to take home Supreme Champion at Crufts. We made that mistake once before, with May.
Truth is, all that press conference achieved was to convey the impression that as well as being fiscally incompetent and unrepentant, Truss is also the sort of person who will not hesitate to throw a colleague under the bus to save her skin. Not just hopeless — but nasty to boot.
And that is devastating, not only for her personally but also for the entire Conservative Party — and for those Conservative voters who delivered an 80-seat majority at the 2019 election, and who now, it seems, have been played for fools.
Quite simply, this is not who we are. Truss and her Cabinet of squabbling, backstabbing third-rate freelancers are not an accurate or fair representation of conservative — both with a large and small c — values.
They’re like Conservative caricature out of a Channel 4 satire, or cooked up by a Corbynista troll. Talking of which, if we’d wanted someone to drive the economy over a cliff, we’d have elected Jeremy Corbyn, who would have no doubt been delighted to oblige.
Truss and her Cabinet of squabbling, backstabbing third-rate freelancers are not an accurate or fair representation of conservative — both with a large and small c — values
That a Conservative Prime Minister should have precipitated such an unmitigated disaster is, quite frankly, a far worse horror to contemplate. Every single one of us who voted Tory at the last election now feels betrayed.
To be honest, none of us can quite believe it. Even my daughter, who has had more than enough politics for one lifetime and who generally stays out of these things, was incredulous. ‘OMG,’ she texted me. ‘Liz fired her Chancellor. Why?! It’s been like 3 days. Is she insane? And Hunt? Why Hunt?’
I couldn’t have put it better myself.
For as long as I have known Truss (and that’s got to be at least a decade), she has wanted to wear the crown. She never made any secret of that ambition, and I always rather admired her for it.
She had a kind of unshakable self-belief that I envied. But it’s one thing to have faith in one’s own abilities; quite another to persist in a certain path in defiance of all the evidence, which is precisely what she has done since she took office.
If it were just her own reputation she was destroying, that would be one thing.
It’s the reputation of the Conservatives she’s trashing, of all those hard-working MPs, their spouses, councillors and volunteers she’s undermining. In less than a month she’s destroyed years — decades, even — of hard work
But it’s the reputation of the Conservatives she’s trashing, of all those hard-working MPs, their spouses, councillors and volunteers she’s undermining. In less than a month she’s destroyed years — decades, even — of hard work.
The party that we all, myself included in my own small way, worked so hard to rebuild after the disasters of the John Major years, now lies in ruins, torpedoed by one woman’s vanity and total and utter refusal to listen to the wise and sensible advice of those who, for the most part, only want to help.
The situation just feels so utterly desolate. Especially since all Keir Starmer needs to do now to win the next election is keep breathing.
The only possible way forward, the only slightest chance of rescuing the situation, as far as I can see, lies in the hands of Boris Johnson. He could, if he wanted to (and there is an argument to say why the hell should he bother, especially after the way he was treated) give his support to a unity candidate, someone who would stabilise both the markets and the party itself.
Someone who could set about fixing the craters blown in the party’s credibility by the current incumbent, who could rebuild bridges — and set about winning back the trust and confidence of the British people.
I still don’t think it would be enough for victory at the next general election, so to an extent it would be a suicide mission for whoever took it on.
But there are, I know, some MPs and former ministers for whom the survival of the party still matters, and for whom honour and integrity are more important than their own careers. Maybe, just maybe, they can save us.