The spectre of Trussonomics is not going away
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Good morning. Although she was prime minister for just 49 days, Liz Truss left a huge mark on British politics, not least by having aggravated the Conservative party’s opinion poll deficit. Although Rishi Sunak has lifted the government’s poll rating out of the zone marked “apocalypse”, he has, thus far, been unable to shift it out of the one marked “heavy defeat”.
One obstacle to his attempts to get the Tories further out of the mire is that a large minority of his party don’t think that those 49 days were really all that bad. Some more thoughts on that in today’s note.
Inside Politics is edited by Georgina Quach. Follow Stephen on Twitter @stephenkb and please send gossip, thoughts and feedback to email@example.com.
Here to Romaine
George Parker, Seb Payne and Laura Hughes have written a brilliant piece about Liz Truss’s 49-day premiership. It’s packed with great insight and detail and ends with this eyebrow-raising detail:
Truss is said by friends to have been initially “very low” after her resignation, but has now bounced back, telling allies “I lost a battle, but I haven’t lost the war”.
There are two things worth noting about this. The first is that it is insane. The “battle” Truss lost saw her party slump to an extinction-level poll rating, spooked markets, deepened the economic misery faced by households and resulted in Truss’s own resignation from office.
The second is that it is not entirely wrong. The forces of what you might call “organised Trussonomics” still command a ready audience among parts of the parliamentary Conservative party and the Conservative family more broadly in wonkworld and among Tory donors.
One of those donors, the Conservative peer and Boris Johnson ally Peter Cruddas, has backed and become president of a new organisation, the Conservative Democratic Organisation, which has also secured the support of Priti Patel. Although the former home secretary’s political pull is not what it once was — thanks to the Conservative party’s struggles with illegal Channel crossings — she is still a politician with considerable influence.
The explicit aim of the Conservative Democratic Organisation is to prevent a repeat of Rishi Sunak’s “coronation”. But the implicit message is that Truss’s replacement was some kind of strange elite coup and not the only way the Conservative party could have got out of the mess it was in without going out of business entirely. The organisation’s press release explicitly describes the current platform of Sunak’s government as “centre-left”.
Taken together, I think we can say with a high degree of certainty that Sunak’s replacement as Conservative leader, whenever that happens, will be more reminiscent of Truss, rather than Sunak, in their political positions and priorities.
More importantly, in the short term, that places sharp limitations on what Sunak, or any Conservative prime minister, can do to navigate their way out of the various overlapping crises the UK faces.
As part of the FT’s Christmas fundraising for its Financial Literacy and Inclusion Campaign (FT FLIC), you can bid for lunch with me or a host of other FT writers and luminaries.
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Now try this
I saw Casablanca at the cinema last night: wonderful to see it as the filmmakers intended (Claude Rains really does steal the whole movie). The new restoration is very good — a marked improvement on the 70th anniversary version. Really worth replacing your copy (or buying a new one if you’ve never seen it) with the new re-release.
Also this weekend: I very much enjoyed Helen Warrell’s FT Magazine feature about the life of the UK’s highest ranking female spies, though once again, the lack of decent breakfast places within crawling distance of me on a Sunday morning that are open past 11am remains a real scandal.
Top stories today
Emergency coal plants on standby | The UK electricity grid operator has instructed two emergency-use coal generators to start warming up as the network faces its first big test of the energy crisis, with demand across the country soaring as temperatures dip below zero.
Insulating England | Fixing the “leaky walls” of homes in England is the biggest challenge in improving energy efficiency, with “radical steps” needed to help those least able to pay to insulate their properties, a leading think-tank has warned.
UK economy returns to growth | The UK economy rebounded by more than expected in October and gross domestic product grew by 0.5 per cent, after output in September was hit by an extra bank holiday.
Bulb sale thwarted | The government’s sale of nationalised energy supplier Bulb may be in breach of EU state aid rules in Northern Ireland, British gas owner Centrica has said, risking one of the UK’s first significant showdowns with the bloc since Brexit.
Rail strikes | Railway bosses have urged passengers not to travel on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday as the RMT, TSSA and Unite unions all take industrial action in a long-running dispute over pay, working practices and job security. Network Rail, the infrastructure operator, has also warned of reduced service and some disruption every day from December 13 to January 8.
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