Cohen: Briton Liz Truss completes a quartet of incompetent leaders


In the long-running British melodrama, David Cameron was the madman, Theresa May the dithering and Boris Johnson the buffoon. Now the British must survive Truss.

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CAMBRIDGE, England – There are few better examples of British eccentricity than its quirky street signs, especially when they’re not just about the roads.

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Consider this troika of random signs seen the other day while wandering the back streets of East Anglia. Standing miles apart but read together, they offer a neat account of the ruling Tories and their four embattled prime ministers over the past twelve years:

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• Changing future priorities.

• High casualty road.

• Crematorium.

To change. Danger. Death. This has been the pattern of Britain’s Conservatives since taking over from Labor in 2010, the dangers of their crumbling economy and political fate. By adopting “altered priorities”, they have created chaos and the prospect of electoral calamity. This comes after a succession of leaders trafficking in judgment, incompetence, outrage, deceit, indecision, ideology and arrogance.

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Prime Minister Liz Truss has only been in office for a month. Her debut was so full of missteps that, as one BBC pundit says of her party, it’s like finding out on your wedding night that you’ve made a terrible mistake.

Consulting with no one but her secret soulmates in the free market, she unveils an economic agenda of deregulation, lower taxes, and massive borrowing. The pound plummets, markets shake and Labor opens the biggest gap in polling history. Tory MPs drop letters of non-confidence, that’s how they topple party leaders here.

On the BBC, Truss fumbled as he explained his high-growth policy, a gift to the rich. Historian Dan Snow called it hilarious “the worst provincial campaign since the autumn of 1216 when King John … caught dysentery at Norfolk, lost the crown jewels at The Wash and died in Nottinghamshire.”

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A friend, a successful banker, says, “No one asked. I don’t know anyone, and we have a reduced tax rate. It’s absurd.”

It made sense, however, if you’re an apostle of Margaret Thatcher, a champion of economic freedom and a servant of the libertarian mob, a mob that we learn has been pushing its agenda for years, taking “a hammer a blacksmith for the British economic consensus”. .”

Now, under Truss, purists have their moment. Like conservatives around the world, she is a firm believer in shrinking government because, you know, the state is bad. She founded the “Free Enterprise Group” of private members of parliament.

She recalls their traveling companions in the United States under Donald Trump. The ideologues there pushed a conservative social and economic agenda, which captured Republicans in Congress and produced a Supreme Court majority. (which, to begin with, blew up the consensus on abortion). Some call this the “Americanization” of British politics.

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Truss backtracked this week. Finance Minister Kwasi Kwarteng canceled tax relief for high earners. “We understand,” he tweeted.

Not really. Much of his program survives. This is yet another colossal misjudgment consistent with all three of Truss’ predecessors.

David Cameron was the brilliant, progressive in the mold of Tony Blair. His government collapsed in 2016 when it agreed to hold a referendum on leaving the European Union. He didn’t have to hold the referendum; he could have said “to the outgoing” no. It was an internal management problem which he mishandled and for Britain it is a staggering mistake.

Cameron lost the referendum and his successor struggled to deal with the fallout. Theresa May was so indecisive about implementing Brexit that she called herself ‘Theresa Maybe’. She led the party to re-election but was quickly ousted.

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Next, Boris Johnson. His cover-up and clowning around COVID has also undone him. In the long-running British melodrama, Cameron was the madman, May the dithering and Johnson the buffoon. Now Truss.

As Britons reeling from leaving Europe falsely sold, historians will see these four 21st century Tory prime ministers among the weakest in its history, with staggering consequences. In the United States, the historical parallel is that of the presidencies of Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan between 1850 and 1861. Their misunderstanding of slavery and sectionalism led to the Civil War.

Britain isn’t cracking, but it’s in trouble. Blame shifting priorities and the high-casualty road, threatening Tories with a fiery death in the next election.

Andre Cohen is a journalist and author of Two Days in June: John F. Kennedy and the 48 Hours That Made History.

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