The Conservatives were in Darlington this week, a mile from Charles Dodgson’s (or Lewis Carroll, as he was also known) childhood home, Croft-on-Tees. So we went through the looking glass of where the rest becomes Brexiteers and vice versa, and Liz Truss, who launched her campaign as a candidate for change, portrayed herself as a keeper of Boris Johnson’s legacy.
He refused to accept that Johnson was responsible for his own downfall and agreed with calls from the party members’ audience that the media was to blame.
She defended Johnson’s record for delivering Brexit, rolling out the vaccines and opposing Putin. But she also flattered Johnson through imitation and deflected questions with ranting and deliberate provocation. She is brilliant at Dominic Cummings’ trick of saying things that outrage non-Tories but evoke admiration from part of the Tory membership.
So she said that if there was a vote in the House of Commons, she would vote to drop the probe into whether the Prime Minister misled Parliament – although she said “there is no vote and it is going on”. It went down well with that segment of the audience who saw Johnson’s downfall as a conspiracy between “sneaky man” Rishi Sunak and the left-wing media.
The more hype there is about her wish to drop the investigation, the more supporters of the Johnson betrayed myth will rally to her cause.
Truss is doing something similar with the question of what kind of further help people will need with their energy bills. She never answers the question directly and says two unrelated things: first, that she will do more to help; and second, that it prefers tax cuts to handouts.
Like the £350m (€414m) on the side of the bus, this is driving sane people, including Sunak, to despair as they protest that tax cuts will do no good to those most affected who don’t pay taxes. What Truss supporters hear is that she is pro-tax cuts and anti-handouts—which is what they want to hear.
Truss repeated the maneuver, throwing in an extra bit of media bashing for good measure. She accused Tom Newton Dunn, the talk TV host who hosted the event, of “framing the question in a leftist way” and describing cash aid from the government as a “giveaway” rather than “people’s money”. She said: “The first thing we should do as Conservatives is help the people
have more money of their own.”
That’s just chaff for the base. There is no denying that when she becomes prime minister she will do the obvious and expand aid through the benefits system Sunak has already put in place, including pension credits and winter fuel payments for pensioners.
Average gas and electricity bills are expected to rise by £550 in October, beyond what was predicted in Sunak’s May announcement, and whoever becomes Prime Minister is likely to bear that average cost to vulnerable people. Simon Clarke, chief secretary of the Treasury and a supporter of Truss, almost confirmed this, saying: “The government is working on a cost-of-living support package for the next prime minister to consider.”
But Truss is trying to win votes in a leadership election rather than trying to create workable policy for the government. She does it the Boris Johnson way while presenting herself as a fresh start.
There was another small example of their Johnsonist tendencies. She told Newton Dunn, “No, that’s not true,” when he asked her if her team were in talks with civil servants to prepare for government. She either doesn’t know what her team is doing – I’ve heard talks have taken place in person – or she’s denied it because she didn’t want to appear to be opening the curtains of No.
Whatever the explanation, it sounds more like Johnson’s habit, copied from Lewis Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty, of using a word to mean “exactly what I want it to mean – neither more nor less.” .
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/liz-truss-in-wonderland-as-she-plays-fantasy-politics-in-race-for-no-10-41908849.html Liz Truss in Wonderland plays fantasy politics in the race for 10th place