I WONDER who Liz Truss regards as her chief enemy after her baptism of fire? The Conservative Parliamentary Party, the right-of-centre media – mainstream and social – who couldn’t wait to label her a lame duck PM – or the left, whether it be the Labour Party, the BBC or the Guardian since there’s so little to distinguish between them?
You’d think she was some sort of modern Mephistopheles the way they’ve been carrying on. Memories are short: her predecessor admirably filled that role to all our cost. A strong contender to Johnson for this claim to fame is another member of the Lockdown ‘quad’, Michael Gove. His assiduity in creating the fear-driven Covid State that really wrecked the economy and an already compromised National Health Service is qualification enough. Today, this self-appointed enemy-in-chief of the new Prime Minister, remains as unrepentant and untouched by this horrendous legacy as he was at the time.
If anything should have been a cause of outrage this week it certainly shouldn’t have been Truss’s decision to drop the 45 per cent tax rate (do journalists not know we have the second highest income tax rate in the world, exceeded only by Iceland’s 46 per cent?) but Michael Gove’s leadership of the Tory MP rebellion against the move. Calling him a snake in the grass is an understatement.
The days after a correct (the instincts of the budget in tax, deregulation and procurement were excellent) though unorthodox (given the scale of the country’s borrowing) tax-cutting mini-Budget were dangerous. The markets were negative. With the left’s political and media alliance piling in, surely this was the time – for the sake of the country – for the Parliamentary party to get behind their new PM, albeit with some firm reminders about complementary public savings she could, indeed must, make to balance it.
Not so for Mr Gove. Those inequality optics of ‘right wing tax cuts’ proved too tempting for the Peter Mandelson of the Tories; the left’s politics of resentment were ripe for exploitation. And exploit them he did. Here we had the politician most responsible, apart from his boss, for unleashing the dark forces of intolerance, for bringing our country the nearest it has ever been to an economically atrophying, East European snitching style hell hole where people were too scared to go to hospital or visit a dying loved one, now causing further turmoil and stoking an already volatile economic and financial situation, in a vicious swipe at his new Prime Minister, whose job it is to retrieve the country from the mess he left.
That’s why Sarah Vine’s unsolicited advice to Liz Truss this week to keep your friends close, but your enemies (like her treacherous former husband Gove) closer, is as insulting as it is wrong. No, Sarah, this is no time for playing games, for doing deals with rotten apples, or for compromise of any sort. It is time for being tough; for a veritable clean out of the Parliamentary Party’s Augean stables.
If Truss has any sense this is what she will do with the ‘roaming megafauna of big beasts’, one by one. Empty shells apart from their rapacious egos and insatiable appetites, they are the Conservatives’ real problem. They need to be named, shamed and got rid of. They would be lucky if their time is called without having to stand before judge and jury for the responsibility they bear for the damage, societal and individual, their covid response has caused. If MPs this week were really getting shouted at in the street by angry constituents about the tax cut for top earners, rather than about the Johnson government’s grim Lockdown and vaccine injury legacy, that’s a reflection of what the media has chosen or not to sensationalise. Truss’s ‘survival’ is this week’s storyline for the daily Tory Street drama series acted by attention seeking politicians and zealously produced by the Daily Mail, the BBC and the rest. Yet for the two years of that really shocking story, that affected us all, that really called for a horrified response, when the Conservatives, in a first for any government at any time, chose to close down the nation’s economy, health service and schools, the villains responsible were given a free pass. What a cast of baddies they had to chose from. But there was no media drama over them, no outrage over their role. Not so much as a whimper.
Why Truss would allow that quisling Gove anywhere near Downing Street I cannot imagine. Steely she certainly needs to be.
Launching several missiles at the ‘anti-growth coalition’ in what turned out to be a pretty workmanlike conference speech on Wednesday Truss has shown more mettle than she’s been credited with and to be quite capable of going on the attack.
So I’d be worried, Mr Gove. If your name isn’t already on her target list after Mark Drakeford, Keir Starmer and Nicola Sturgeon, it ought to be.