Tuesday September 06, 2022

Truss’s party leadership win impressive

Truss’s party leadership win impressive

Liz Truss

Liz Truss who served as foreign secretary in the Boris Johnson cabinet has now been chosen by the Conservative Party to succeed Johnson as Britain’s prime minister. There was a tough battle between her and former Chancellor of Exchequer Rishi Sunak, and there was a clash in the programmes they offered. Sunak put forward the harder one and said there could not be avoiding the pain of higher taxes in the immediate aftermath to reach a comfortable zone two years later.

Truss on the other hand has promised immediate tax cuts as part of her “bold plan” to deal with Britain’s “cost of living crisis”. Her promise found favour with the Conservative Party. She has won the leadership battle though the numbers each of the main two contestants voted reflects that it was a tough battle if not a close one. Truss got 81,326 votes to Sunak’s 60,399, a fair victory of 21,073 votes. It became certain that Truss would emerge the winner in the party contest, but it seems that Sunak has put up a good fight and gathered a fair number of supporters in the party.

It has been repeatedly said that Truss’s political model is Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher came to power in 1979 on the back of the failure of Labour governments of the 1970s. More than half-a-century later, Truss stands at the end of 12 years of Conservative governments under three prime ministers, David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson. Of course, Johnson won for the Conservative Party a resounding victory in 2019 on the issue of Brexit. Truss then has the burden of office, the incumbency factor. She has promised a victory for the Conservatives in 2024 and she can as well pull it as dull John Major did in 1992. The Labour Party is still in disarray. It is proving itself to be a good Opposition party under Keir Starmer.

It would perhaps be unfair to predict whether Truss can succeed in her job. Theresa May could not, and Johnson botched it up though he stuck to his ineffective rhetorical flourishes. Truss then has a tough situation on hand, to keep the Conservatives in power at a time when Britain is going through the toughest economic situation. It is true as she had pointed out in her victory speech that the Conservative Party has a lot of talented people who can think out solutions for the difficult problems facing the country. But what could really spoil the game for Truss is her adherence to the Conservative ideology of market economy because the market economy in Britain and in other Western countries is in trouble. Britain is also fighting a war over the conditions of Brexit with the European Union (EU), which does not admit of easy political solutions. Then there is the issue of Scotland pressing for its freedom through a referendum.

Truss displays Thatcherian confidence and optimism and that could carry her far enough in her leadership task. But she may have to show enough flexibility when she comes up against hurdles. And the test would be how much flexibility will she display. If she finds compelled to adhere faithfully to an outdated Thatcherism, then she will face more problems than anticipated. What is heartening, however, is that Truss has been bold enough to throw the hat in the ring in the prime ministerial race and make her stand clear though the stand she adopted appears unrealistic given the economic situation in Britain. But sometimes, it is determination and confidence in one’s ideas that help a leader to face a stormy situation. Truss displays sufficient pluck and that is a virtue in difficult times.

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