by Will Lloyd
Monday, 5
September 2022
Dispatch
15:00

Liz Truss speech: awkward pauses and limp applause

The new Tory leader didn't exactly get the crowd going
by Will Lloyd
Credit: Getty

Westminster, the QEII Centre

We are here for a coronation without bishops, prayers, or giltwood gold carriages. Instead, as the cream of the Conservative Party is poured through a mouth of metal detectors, there is a smell. It’s pungent. Nitroglycerin, sawdust, and a whiff of graphite. Bomb, burned toast, or Rishi Sunak’s hopes and dreams? As tieless Tory men fan themselves, I wonder if it’s hot enough in here for Mark Francois to burst a couple of valves when he claims his seat.

There are no cardiac catastrophes. The only real disaster is the margin of victory for Liz Truss today. She takes 57% of the vote, beating Rishi Sunak by 20,000 or so votes. That’s less than Iain Duncan Smith in 2001, David Cameron in 2005, and Boris Johnson in 2019. All that after winning over fewer MPs than Sunak.

Yesterday, YouGov’s final poll had given Truss a 32-point lead over Sunak. In reality her actual margin was 15. These numbers brooded over the Sunak campaign for seven weeks. They were not accurate, and they probably pushed some wavering Tory members over to Truss. It might explain why Sunak is so utterly diminished when he enters the Churchill room, his face hammered into a smile so tight it appears to be held in place with nails.

Prime Minister number 56, and the third in eight years, makes her way to the lectern. She moves like a flightless bird. The top line of her speech comes at the close: “We will defeat Labour at the 2024 general election.” She won’t go to the polls early, but given half the country will be warming itself with candles, blankets, and goose fat this Christmas, why would she?

Elsewhere there was the simple, strange spectacle of Truss the speaker. Awkward pauses, broken up by reluctant and half-hearted applause, only enlivened by a phone going off as she talked up Prime Minister number 55. A man beloved “from Kyiv to Carlisle” said Truss — though not here. Truss’s gratitude-seeking applause lines for Johnson were about as welcome in the Churchill room as a boat full of fighting-age Albanian men on the Kent coast.

“We have shown a depth and breadth of talent”, she said to the audience, which included Dominic Raab and Jacob Rees-Mogg. Behind me there was a head-turning burst of staccato laughter. It’s the only joke, and it’s an accident.

The real speech, when Truss is expected to do something — anything! — about energy bills, comes tomorrow. Her final promise to the room was saying the word “deliver” four times. This leadership coronation had only delivered the troubling reality, for Truss, that her support among members was thinner than it had seemed all summer.

At least she could count on the loyalty of her MPs. As we filed out, Julian Knight tweeted his congratulations to Truss. “The party must now get behead Liz so we can defeat Starmer!” The first micro-gaffe of the new era. I suspect there will be many more to come.

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Christopher Peter
Christopher Peter
26 days ago

Unherd’s really joined the Trash Truss party, hasn’t it? And we all know where Will Lloyd stands, because he keeps telling us. Here’s an idea: instead of all this bitter sniping (yes, yes, we know that Liz isn’t the slickest media performer, and she admits it herself, so saying it for the 1,000th time really isn’t at all clever or original), why not actually give the poor woman a chance? As everyone also keeps saying, she has an in-tray bursting with problems. Most fair-minded people will be inclined to wait and see how she does, and few will be expecting miracles – nor would we if it were someone else (or another party) taking the reigns instead.
Will she be a good PM? I’ve no idea, but I’m prepared to give her a chance. It’s not like we have much choice anyway. But I hope she confounds expectations, if only because I don’t want things to get even worse for everyone. But I know plenty are gunning for her already and willing her to fail – from the Guardian across much of the left-leaning MSM, the woke Twitterati and cultural elites. People who hate the Tories on principle, and having unseated Boris will now find new ways to hate whoever would have replaced him (and don’t think for a moment Sunak would have got a much easier ride had he won). People for whom just being a Tory PM is reason enough to despise her. It would be refreshing though if everyone else, including more conservative leaning commentators like Lloyd and less Tory-allergic places like Unherd, could take a more positive approach.

Marian Mawdsley
Marian Mawdsley
26 days ago

Youll be able to tell which way shes ‘ swaying ‘ by the cabinet members she decides on. Personally l think shes made too many gaffes already.

Last edited 26 days ago by Marian Mawdsley
Alex Mayor
Alex Mayor
26 days ago

If she’d been intellectually dazzling, full of policy boldness and insight, in the interminable weeks of this contest, perhaps you’d have a point. As it is… <trails off>.

Richard Parker
Richard Parker
25 days ago
Reply to  Alex Mayor

Thank you, yes, the issue in précis.

Harry Smithson
Harry Smithson
25 days ago

The journalist was reporting on the stilted ambience of the event, illustrating the challenges the PM will face given the lukewarm support of her own party, albeit with a touch of the literary. Partisanship would not have been appropriate here.

Richard Parker
Richard Parker
25 days ago

Yup, she’s what you’ve got to work with. Hold on tight and hope. At least you’ve got Starmer in opposition, that must be a help.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
25 days ago

Indeed – in the 13:00 news just after the result was announced the BBC immediately started trashing her by unnecessarily including – was once a LidDem – had an affair – once said something anti-monarchist – didn’t win by as much as predicted – is already in a precarious position.
The BBC News outfit is a horrible and biased organisation that loves nothing better than trashing this country’s past – and undermining its future.
(public service broadcaster my ar5e)
Revenge can (and should be) be very sweet …

Last edited 25 days ago by Ian Barton
Adam Bartlett
Adam Bartlett
26 days ago

I loved the artistic use of words in the article. Especialy liked the “boat full of fighting-age Albanian men” simile. We have a new Albanian at my work, he’s very good, but every time we have a non work chat he’s always like “Skanderbeg this, Skanderbeg that, we Albanians are the most in demand as mercs in the world, more bullets in Albania than the rest of the world combined – you westerners dont know a fraction of our underground stores…”
Anyway, best of luck to Liz, perhaps not the easiest ever time to take over at no 10.

Last edited 26 days ago by Adam Bartlett
Albireo Double
Albireo Double
26 days ago

This is well down to Mr Lloyd’s recent standard, I must say. His recent pieces seem to be little more than rather amateurish attempts to insult either his readers and / or the subject of his writing, as long as either are Conservative.
This is just words without content, or a point – I wonder why bother writing or printing it.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
26 days ago
Reply to  Albireo Double

Indeed. And alongside the article which refers to Truss’ “zombie policies” published today, leads to the question: is Unherd simply becoming subsumed within the MSM? Its raison d’etre is at stake.

Mark Goodhand
Mark Goodhand
26 days ago

These numbers brooded over the Sunak campaign for seven weeks. They were not accurate, and they probably pushed some wavering Tory members over to Truss.

So much of political commentary makes no sense to me.
I can see MPs choosing to back the likely winner, but what’s in it for the members voting in a secret ballot? If they really thought Sunak was the better candidate, what was the downside to voting for him?
Is this some weird psychological thing?

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
26 days ago
Reply to  Mark Goodhand

His ‘Green Card pretensions’. Many think he was using UK PM merely as a stepping-stone to “greater” things in USA and, given his families financial clout, might allow him to blag-out if the going got tough at a bad time for the UK. They (we) want someone in Nr 10 whose thoughts and plans are only for us (not USA). Well that’s my Nr1 take on it.

Adam Bartlett
Adam Bartlett
26 days ago
Reply to  Mark Goodhand

Not sure the psychology is that weird – it’s been well known for almost 100 years that folk often make choices based on what they expect others will do, rather than on their own assessment of what is best. Ask professor Google about ‘Keynesian beauty contest’ for more…

Mark Goodhand
Mark Goodhand
26 days ago
Reply to  Adam Bartlett

Keynes was talking about the stock market, where there really is an incentive for aligning with what you think others will choose.
Here all you get is the psychological satisfaction of voting for the winning candidate, which seems a hollow victory indeed.

Adam Bartlett
Adam Bartlett
26 days ago
Reply to  Mark Goodhand

I see your point, and maybe you’re right. However – if you back the winner, its not just satisfaction you might gain. Party members do sometimes meet the candidates for party leader and it’s not unheard of to tell them who you voted for. I’ve heard others do it done it mysef .E.g back in 2016 I was on a round table with Yvette Cooper on the relationship between Digital platforms & goverment, & I introduced myself as “Im a Labour party member who somtimes consults about platforms & who voted for Yvette as our leader”. Perhaps sub conciously I was thinking it might ingraitiate myself to her by syaing that – and obviously the pay off is greater if it happens to be the winning candidate who you voted for (Admitedly I was well aware at time of voting that JC was the popular choice but voted for Yvette as I thought she was the best – but then as an ‘Unherd’ type person I probably dont have typical psychology.)
PS – in case anyone thinks why does it matter who you voted for in a secret ballet as you can lie and no one is going to check – well 1.a surprising number of party members of both main parties are Christian (it’s a joiners thing) and 2. the sort who get to be candidate for party leader are perhaps much better at detecting porky pies than the average rank & file member is at telling them.

Aaron James
Aaron James
25 days ago

”Cometh the hour, cometh the man”
What hour is it that summons up Liz Truss?

‘The Second ComingW.B. Yeats – 1865-1939

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

where is the Churchill, the Richard the Lionhearted, the Alfred the Great, because the beast is lumbering towards our pleasant lands…..and we have Ms trust to answer it; and the weak and faithless who back her, and no one else…..one is not hopeful

M. M.
M. M.
25 days ago

Last edited 25 days ago by Matthew M.
Brett H
Brett H
25 days ago
Reply to  M. M.

I’ve already pointed out your distortion of statistics in other comments. You may think the world will turn your way but you’re wrong. You’re a wasted effort of humanity. If you’re concerned about preserving Western culture try doing it with some dignity.

Last edited 25 days ago by Brett H