by Yuan Yi Zhu
Friday, 21
October 2022
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10:15

At least Liz Truss realised she was useless

Incompetent politicians who actually quit are to be celebrated
by Yuan Yi Zhu
At least she threw in the towel. Credit: Getty

Only the most ardent Westminster watcher will recognise the name of Estelle Morris, who served a little over a year as Education Secretary in the early 2000s. But her 2002 resignation sent shocks through Westminster at the time: she publicly admitted she had quit, despite Tony Blair urging her to stay on, because she wasn’t very good at the job.

In her resignation letter, Morris said she felt she had been a better junior Education minister than Secretary of State: “I’m good at dealing with the issues and in communicating to the teaching profession. I am less good at strategic management of a huge department… I have not felt I have been as effective as I should be, or as effective as you need me to be.” In a later interview, she said that “I’m not having second best in a job as important as this.” When she left her department for the last time, some civil servants openly cried.

Watching Liz Truss’s straightforward resignation speech after a whirlwind month in Downing Street, one could not help but think of Morris’s resignation. The Truss premiership will be remembered as nothing short of catastrophic, as the economy was thrown into crisis and party discipline broke down entirely (not to mention the Queen’s death days after meeting her ex-Roundhead prime minister). She will undoubtedly save poor Neville Chamberlain from last place in the historical league table of modern British prime ministers.

But Truss plainly admitted that she had screwed up: “I recognise, though, given the situation, I cannot deliver the mandate on which I was elected by the Conservative party. I have therefore spoken to His Majesty the King to notify him that I am resigning as leader of the Conservative Party.” She did not wax lyrical about the honour of being prime minister — her whole speech lasted less than two minutes.

Politics is supremely hard, and even those who make it to the top may well end up as failures. But politicians also have to be resilient in the face of failure, which means that most of them find it hard to know when they are out of their depth. Almost no one refuses office because they don’t think they are up to it, knowing that the offer may well be the last they ever receive. The temptation is to hang on until something better comes up, until they get a lucky break and extricate themselves from whatever mess they are in. Public lack of self-confidence, in an age of saturation political media coverage, is fatal.

There was little prospect of Truss limping on until the next election: mass resignations or 1922 Committee rule changes would almost certainly have got her in the end, sooner or later. But she could have dragged it out and hid in the well-used Downing Street closet, even with a Chief Whip who is about as intimidating as a giant teddy bear. She might even have caught a lucky break — some giant Opposition scandal or a miraculously warm winter — and climbed within 10 points of Labour in a poll.

Truss’s fate, after decades in politics, is to be remembered as a punchline. We shouldn’t shed tears for her: she wanted the job and she got it. But at least she saw that she wasn’t up to the task and gave up. An incompetent politician is cause for dismay, but a politician who refuses to give up the office to which they are unsuited is the real threat.

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Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 month ago

I would also like to add: no matter how chaotic everything is right now, be glad that Britain’s ancient, creaky system is able to flush out failed actors. You aren’t stuck with a leader like Biden, who plainly has the cognitive abilities of a carrot and needs minders to clear up his mess constantly.

Andrew Martin
Andrew Martin
1 month ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Yes I wonder how the “Markets” will take to his recent $2 TRILLION unfunded splurge?

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew Martin

The US has the advantage that the dollar is still (for now) the world’s reserve currency. The Chinese are working hard to ensure it will eventually be replaced by the renminbi, and if that ever happens the options of American governments, Right and Left, to continue to run staggering deficits will be greatly reduced.

Last edited 1 month ago by Andrew Fisher
Rhys Jaggar
Rhys Jaggar
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew Martin

More worrying is how the US people will respond to the CDC mandating Covid19 vaccination for children, thereby rendering Pfizer et al forever immune from the litigation they so richly deserved to be bankrupted by.

Last edited 1 month ago by Rhys Jaggar
Gerald Arcuri
Gerald Arcuri
1 month ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Well put, speaking here as a Yankee. But, I think you went a little hard on carrots! 🙂

Jon Hawksley
Jon Hawksley
1 month ago

I amnot convinced Liz Truss thinks, or said, she was not up to the job. Rather that she was not being allowed to do it her way.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 month ago
Reply to  Jon Hawksley

Yes, the resignation statement was ambiguous and didn’t seem to be a confession that she failed in her job lamentably rather that that she can’t get support for the program she was elected by the members on.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 month ago
Reply to  Jon Hawksley

I disagree. I think the Suez comparison gets thrown around way too much, but it was a wake-up call to Britain that its power (and therefore ability to order the world around it according to its own ideas) was now significantly reduced. The country butted up against a painful new reality that it had to learn to deal with, i.e. it was no longer top dog in the world.
The last 45 days have been similar: certain of Truss’/Kwarteng’s ideas were probably right, but in the implementation they simply failed to take aspects of reality into account, i.e. markets may be irrational and the power they exert over sovereign governments controversial/uncomfortable/awkward…but the fact is that they are a significant factor in defining your sphere of action. It has nowt to do with Tory rebels, “Remainer hysteria”, the Blob, or “unaccountable technocratic elites”. Truss wrongly assumed she could defy gravity. There are simply facts and powers out there in the world that are larger than you and which you have to accept and base your plans around.

Last edited 1 month ago by Katharine Eyre
Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 month ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

This is not an original point, but Truss’s posing as some kind of Thatcherite while introducing the vastly expensive (and socialist!) fuel subsidy indicates an intellectual dishonesty along with her other faults.

Of course, as is the way of these things, people so often quickly forget their oh so dearly-held principles, or think they are only apply to other people, when it comes to their own wallets! I heard no-one opposing this aspect of the mini-budget at the time, rather like the furlough scheme before it, though Sunak was endlessly castigated for it by pro-Truss supporters after the event!

Last edited 1 month ago by Andrew Fisher
Rhys Jaggar
Rhys Jaggar
1 month ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

That’s the whole problem, isn’;t it? There’s this magnificent delusion that mostly guys who’ve done no real job in their lives other than live off rumour and gambling are the right judges of sober, long-term economic policy.

Iris C
Iris C
1 month ago
Reply to  Jon Hawksley

Why appoint a new Home Secretary the evening before resigning? All very odd and I would hazard a guess that she was forced to resign because the rumpus in parliament (on both sides) indicated that she could no longer command the confidence of the House .

Helen Nevitt
Helen Nevitt
1 month ago

I’m a bit worried because I thought of Estelle Morris only this morning and I didn’t think I was any kind of nerdish type or anything.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 month ago
Reply to  Helen Nevitt

Is being a political nerd that bad then?

Rhys Jaggar
Rhys Jaggar
1 month ago
Reply to  Helen Nevitt

A sign of mature humanity is not having a problem thinking about those you disagree with respectfully.
I wouldn’t advise thinking too much about psychopaths who want to kill7 billion people, nor those who think a nuclear war is winnable.
But Estelle Morris was remarkably harmless by modern standards of politician.

Jonathan Nash
Jonathan Nash
1 month ago

Neville Chamberlain at the bottom of the league table? Surely not. Ted Heath takes a lot of beating.

CF Hankinson
CF Hankinson
1 month ago

She was the third Female Prime Minister. The previous two left in tears. Good for Truss for holding her nerve and not sobbing as she was pushed. Never was there such a witch hunt. I can’t think of anything that she isn’t being blamed for. She’s now being mocked for leaving after such a short tenure.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 month ago
Reply to  CF Hankinson

Her achievement is that she didn’t cry?! Dominic Sandbrook forgot to include that in his excoriating article about her, but I doubt it tilts the balance!

She seemed to me to be a very poor candidate and proved a catastrophically bad prime minister in practice. But the judgement of all those who supported her – and for example for some reason I can’t quite apprehend, trashed Sunak, was also tragically misplaced. But that was the point, they just hated Sunak for his role in toppling Johnson, (who proved almost as useless as Truss as well as being personally dishonest and venal). What was even more astonishing to me is that so many right wingers just suddenly seemed not to give a fig for the fact that Truss supported a more liberal migration policy, which previously had been their single biggest complaint! It doesn’t even resemble a serious political party any more.

To be fair, Truss is hardly the only poor politician in the Tory Party. (Priti Patel?) Endless announcements that you are going to do x and y (and then completely failing) is not the same as effective government. The Conservative Party now has so many factions, and such poor quality ministers, Michael Gove one of the few exceptions I can think of. probably ungovernable and doomed to huge defeat. The only question now is to provide half decent stable government for two years until the inevitable wipe out, though I feel a general election should be held well before that as the Conservatives have lost all credibility.

Last edited 1 month ago by Andrew Fisher
Rhys Jaggar
Rhys Jaggar
1 month ago
Reply to  CF Hankinson

Look, the USA billionaires need to prove that the UK isn’t a ‘sovereign state’ any more, as they want them back where they belong, inside the anti-democratic EU.
The media is totally subservient to such unelected actors, so they spout their propaganda without thought.
You only have to read Breitbart Europe to see exactly what is going on.

D.C. Harris
D.C. Harris
1 month ago

Her economic policies would have turned the country around if they had been followed. Sad stupidity.

Andrew Martin
Andrew Martin
1 month ago
Reply to  D.C. Harris

Agreed but she didn’t get her policies vetted and so flew blind. There was plenty of opportunity to reduce the size of the state but it seems to be a no go area for most Tories now. there is no conviction.

Rhys Jaggar
Rhys Jaggar
1 month ago
Reply to  D.C. Harris

As the rich don’t spend much of their excess income, giving them more tax cuts doesn’t actually ‘stimulate the economy’, it slows it down. The economy does most well when money circulates freely in mostly local circles, not being siphoned off to London all the time.
But that requires you to believe in a resilient SME economy, whose absolute destruction was the prime aim of this fascistic coup d’etat by the globalists.

Kit Read
Kit Read
1 month ago
Reply to  D.C. Harris

Harold Wilson blamed the Gnomes of Zurich for the 1967 devaluation of the pound, can Liz Truss blame them for her truncated time as PM?

Christine Thomas
Christine Thomas
1 month ago

Think she gave herself away as totally unsuited to be leader of the Tory Party in the way she spontaneously reacted when the interviewer in the TV studio suddenly fell to the floor. To her eternal credit, genuine concern for the fate of the interviewer not steely calculated self-mastery flooded her face.
Common humanity overriding her ambition after all. In control of a nest of vipers, never.

Christine Thomas
Christine Thomas
1 month ago

To follow up concluding sentence would like to add:-
Just like the members of the Tory Party in the country who ‘gave’ her the job in the first place.

Rhys Jaggar
Rhys Jaggar
1 month ago

I disagree – if you can’t retain humanity as a leader, you’ll never do anything worthwhile anyway.
If all you care about is earning as much as Tony Blair post-office, well you won’t do anything for the people in office. You’ll be an obedient poodle to those who will pay you millions afterwards for betraying your country.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 month ago

We have imported from the land of the baseball cap and McDonalds, a number of corrosive negatives: these include:
1. Keep your job at any cost: lie, cheat and steal, because without your job your peer group ostracise you.
2. Senior Employed people have a right to be paid entrepreneurial risk based emolument, when they have no personal risk or capital at stake.
3. Everyone and anyone can achieve anything regardless of inherent skill and talent.
4. Sportsmen, actors and pop stars excluded, the privelige of talent, inherent skill superiority, aptitude, and ability is non sequitur, not least because it can neither be bought or acquired.
5. Modesty, and self deprecation, are ” for losers”.
6. Experience counts for nothing.

Our politicians are living testament to the above:

Perhaps the most chilling and macabre element to nu britn’s view on Sunak is that, instead of seeing that his personal wealth means that he does not need the job of PM, it decrees that he is therefore ” out of touch with most people”.

Rhys Jaggar
Rhys Jaggar
1 month ago

Thinking Britain’s view on Sunak is that he was the worst Chancellor in the history of the country, blindly waving through the ridiculous spending of tens/hundreds of billions on useless Covid policies, tests, vaccines, not to mention the lockdown farces as well.
If he was ‘in touch with the people’, he would have resigned in about April 2020, delivered decisive, corrosive criticism of useless government policy and then, having been vindicated in every manner in the past two years, being crowned as the conquering hero.
Of course, as Bill Gates has to vet all PM appointments in this country, calling out Bill Gates’ corrupt vaccine-at-all-costs nonsense might have stalled his political career somewhat….

Last edited 1 month ago by Rhys Jaggar
Jon Hawksley
Jon Hawksley
1 month ago

I am not convinced Liz Truss thinks, or said, she was not up to the job. Rather that she was not being allowed to do it her way.

Rhys Jaggar
Rhys Jaggar
1 month ago
Reply to  Jon Hawksley

Until the people of this country disintermediate Sky, Breitbart, News Corporation, the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, the Daily Mail etc etc, no PM will be allowed to govern properly.
Government by media hysterics has been our diet for 30 years.
It’s time the cocaine snorters were sidelined.

Graeme Laws
Graeme Laws
1 month ago

She behaved through the leadership as if she was going to be a french style president with absolute executive authority. “I will do this” and “I will do that”. Did she not realise that she had to coax along a cabinet and a parliamentary party? And where on earth did she get the idea that her mandate was from the membership of the party? Her mandate can only have been the one from the General Election manifesto, which was shot down by Covid. She wasn’t strong on politics, or economics. Her Oxford philosophy essays must have been top drawer.

MJ Reid
MJ Reid
1 month ago

No matter which woman won the contest, this would have been the result. The Tory Party do not want a woman at the top doing good. The senior party did not give Liz Truss any support. They were stabbing her in the back from day one and once she started to fall, they then started stamping on her. The twisted individuals actually want Boris back simply because he is a brazen man who will lie and cheat his way through government and will make them all look squeaky clean. General election needed now.

j watson
j watson
1 month ago

Like a number of comments, I don’t think she was blessed with a sudden damascene lightning bolt of insight that she wasn’t up to it. Her prior record was not characterised with moments of humility to indicate she had that reflex. Much more that she knew she no longer had the support or minimum confidence in her to continue. I suspect she still can’t entirely fathom why, after great initial right-wing applause for her mini-budget, the ‘free’ markets took the opposite view.
Her act of resigning looks dignified when compared to Johnson though but that is more a reflection on him than her.

Of course across the Atlantic we continue to have the more worrying example of an incompetent criminal refusing to accept the result of an election. We may have many problems in the UK but at least we have not seeded and germinated that form of disease. One should never be too complacent though.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
1 month ago
Reply to  j watson

You’re right. From 2016 to 2020, the Democrats refused to accept the results of the 2016 election, because of some semi-mythical “Russian interference” that turned out to be a big bugaboo. I guessed they all learned their lesson, though. Nowadays anyone who “questions elections” is called an “election denier”, which is a Bad Thing.