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Liz Truss must be over the target.

She’s been attracting a lot of flak.

On Wednesday, August 3, 2022, The Telegraph‘s Allister Heath wrote an excellent editorial, ‘Truss Derangement Syndrome is lulling our failed elite into a fatal miscalculation’.

Truss is quickly becoming a hate figure, again showing that she is the continuity candidate to Boris, whom the metropolitan elite hounded out of leadership via a sizeable group of self-interested Conservative MPs.

Allister Heath tells us (emphases mine):

My enemy’s enemy is my friend, so it is no wonder that Liz Truss is ahead in the race to be our next prime minister. She is driving all of the right people mad, and their increasingly unhinged contempt is proving her best recruiting sergeant among a Tory membership desperate to sock it to the Left.

Her critics cannot understand her appeal, and are displaying all of the classic signs of a delusional ruling class that no longer likes or understands half their country. The Twitter mob is already exhibiting the full symptoms of Truss Derangement Syndrome, as an even cursory scroll through the rantings of our cultural elites immediately reveals …

There were several stages to the onset of TDS. First, when it became obvious that Truss was emerging as the frontrunner, the reaction was bafflement, hilarity and joy: those stupid Tories have really done it this time, handing the election to Labour! Then, as she started to unveil her offering, there was an outpouring of support for Rishi Sunak from people who would never dream of voting Tory.

We are now at the third stage, with anger, fury and extreme, disproportionate rage at her temerity, her audacity, her anti-orthodox positions, combined with almost staggering levels of complacency: how dare she call for more grammar schools or for an improved remit for the Bank of England? How stupid! Doesn’t she know that clever people have already looked into, and dismissed, this? The electorate will hate such ideas, won’t it? Won’t it?

There will undoubtedly be an even uglier, nastier fourth stage, triggered if and when she starts to score higher than Labour in the polls, and especially if she is able to break the 40 per cent support threshold. This will be met by total war and a hysterical, never-ending commitment to annihilate her, reminiscent of the scorched earth campaigning that accompanied the Brexit battles in the dying days of the May government …

TDS is closely connected to a series of bizarre emotional pathologies to which the British centre-Left has succumbeda feeling among some of the latter that Britain doesn’t deserve to succeed. We need to be punished: we voted for Brexit and then for Boris, and so failure is our just desserts. That is why we are told that hiking corporation tax would make no difference to our competitiveness – though, of course, it would supposedly be demagogic to cut taxes to attract capital.

Then there is the closely related “Candide fallacy”, after Voltaire’s satirical novella: the idiotic idea, first aired by Treasury Remainers in 2016, that everything is already for the best in this best of all possible worlds

Last but not least, our self-consciously egalitarian, progressive London elites make an exception when it comes to Right-wing Tory women: the over-the-top nature of some of the attacks on Truss are clearly partly driven by a despicable misogyny laced with anti-Northern snobbery. Even Johnson wasn’t treated with such disdain, such derision, such snootiness.

I disagree with that last sentence. Boris got similar treatment but it revolved around the metropolitan elite’s notional moral superiority and his Etonian education.

The question remains, if elected leader, does Truss have the stamina and enough good advisers to succeed as Prime Minister?

Heath says:

I’ve known Truss since 2008 and I’m cautiously optimistic. Comparisons with the Iron Lady can be inappropriate, but there is one enlightening historical parallel. Many dismissed Margaret Thatcher in the early 1970s; as education secretary, her opposition to comprehensivisation was disappointingly soft. She ensured that it was no longer compulsory for councils to turn all schools into comprehensives, but that only slowed the massacre. She didn’t defeat the Blob, and only saved 94 grammar schools, allowing hundreds to be vandalised. She wasted too much political capital ending free school milk, a minor cost cut.

A similar performance today would have seen centre-Right critics write Thatcher off in despair. Few would have predicted how much she would grow into the role, and Truss’s supporters hope that she too will eventually turn into a formidable leader. Her critics, blinded by Truss Derangement Syndrome, cannot even conceive of the possibility that this could be right. They will rue the day they so completely underestimated her.

On Friday, August 5, the Conservatives held a hustings in Eastbourne on the south coast (Sky News also has a video):

The audience was comprised of active Conservative Party members, some of whom were selected to ask questions of the candidates.

Jimmy McLoughlin, creator of the podcast Jimmy’s Jobs of the Future and a Party adviser during the time when David Cameron was leader, moderated the Q&A session.

Nus Ghani, MP for the nearby constituency of Wealden, approached the dais and was the first to pledge her support for Liz Truss.

At the 10-minute point in the video, Liz took the stage to introduce herself and elaborate on her achievements in Parliament.

As she was talking, a group of noisy climate protesters started shouting at Truss. One grabbed a microphone saying, ‘We are the majority’ (15:00):

Guido borrowed a Trumpism in describing the infiltrators — ‘low energy’:

It took a few minutes for security guards to remove them from the hall. Meanwhile, Conservatives in the audience chanted, ‘Out, out, out!’

After decorum was restored and Truss finished her introduction, Dominic Raab presented his reasons for supporting Rishi Sunak.

Sunak then introduced himself (32:00) and said he was the first to suggest that the Government implement freeports; he said he had written a paper on them in 2016, which would have been at the time of the Brexit referendum campaign.

Then it was time for Truss to return for her Q&A session (44:00).

She was happily answering questions when another protester barged in yelling, ‘Shame on you, shame on you’ and was summarily removed (1:00:00).

Rishi took his place to answer audience questions (1:15:00). He came across as a real technocrat.

I got the feeling that he viewed the British public as numbers rather than people.

He would continue to avoid us as much as he could.

To Sunak, we are the great unwashed. The next day, I saw a clip of him in his hometown of Southampton — standing on a pier with yachts swanning past him.

He talked a lot about new technology. A young Conservative asked him about smart phone use (1:28:00). Jimmy McLouglin asked jovially if the man asking the question was a plant.

Sunak talked about bringing in workers from overseas — ‘the best and the brightest’ — to implement new technology. Infosys, anyone?

Why did he not talk about training young Britons for this role? We have successful gaming start-ups in the West Midlands.

At one point, Sunak spoke about the importance he places on family, which for him, comes before everything else. Hmm. In normal circumstances, I would praise that but, given his billionaire in-laws, I wonder whether this indicates a personal agenda someone has asked him to fulfil for a future goal.

McLoughlin asked Sunak if he would have gone into banking today, were he 22 years old. Sunak replied that, in 2022, he would have become an entrepreneur.

Sunak closed by saying that, although Truss can explain Conservative values well (a bit condescending?), the Party needs someone who can beat Labour, meaning himself.

No one heckled Sunak.

Let’s go back to Truss’s bright moment during the hustings.

The Mail reported on that and on the protesters, complete with photographs:

Liz Truss made light of her Liberal Democrat past last night at the leadership hustings in Eastbourne – declaring that ‘we all had teenage misadventures’ and that joining the party was her version of ‘sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll’ in an assured performance.

In a question regarding climate change and young people, Truss unprompted decided to tackle the issue head on by adding that she made a childish decision to join the party when she was a teenager.

Speaking in a Q&A section of the evening on the south coast, the Foreign Secretary said: ‘We all made mistakes. We all had teenage misadventures. That was mine.

‘Some people had sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. I had the Liberal Democrats.’

The quip came despite numerous attempts by eco-protesters to disrupt the hustings while the frontrunner Ms Truss was making her case to become the next Prime Minister. 

Ms Truss was left fuming by six protesters who stormed yesterday’s hustings in Eastbourne before being removed by security.

The Foreign Secretary snapped back at the eco-warriors who could be heard shouting ‘shame’ and calling for a Green New Deal to be implemented by a new Prime Minister.

I did not see her fuming or hearing her snap at them. If anything, she stood back and looked at them patiently, waiting for them to finish their antics.

Anyway:

Five protesters were kicked out of the Tory leadership hustings in Eastbourne after shouting ‘shame on you’ to Liz Truss during her opening remarks, calling for a ‘Green New Deal’ and claiming to be the majority. Tory members in the audience could be heard chanting ‘out, out, out!’

Another was ejected during the Q&A section shouting similar slogans at Ms Truss.

During the initial incursion, Ms Truss said that she would legislate to stop the likes of these protesters from disrupting ordinary people’s lives and vowed to clamp down on them immediately if she wins the leadership.

She said: ‘I would legislate immediately to make sure that we are standing up to militant trade unions who stop ordinary commuters getting into work.

‘And I would legislate to protect our essential services. I will make sure that militant activists such as Extinction Rebellion are not able to disrupt ordinary people who work hard and do the right thing and go into work.

‘And I will never ever ever allow our democracy to be disrupted by unfair protests.’

After the initial wave of protesters, another disruptor infiltrated the arena and was removed.

The frontrunner then quipped that she was ‘popular with Extinction Rebellion’ after the eco-warriors did not heckle Mr Sunak. 

The protesters were from Green New Deal Rising, a youth climate group, and they said: ‘This is a critical moment for our country. Our next Prime Minister should be responding to what the majority wants, which is good wages, secure jobs and a safe climate.

‘But Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak are clogging up the airwaves with policies that will make things worse, not better.

‘Energy bills are set to rise to over £3000 a year and nothing they have announced will come anywhere near putting that money back in people’s pockets.

‘We disrupted the hustings tonight to send a clear message that we are the majority and we are rising up.’

However, Sunak was not without his own problem.

Conveniently, on the morning of the Eastbourne hustings, the pro-Labour New Statesman magazine issued a video of Sunak in the traditionally upmarket town of Tunbridge Wells, Kent, in which he told Conservatives that, as Chancellor, he was able to reverse a Labour policy of targeting deprived areas in England’s major cities and put taxpayers’ money to work in their own areas instead:

That evening, in Eastbourne, he had some explaining to do.

On Saturday, the Mail reported that someone had asked him about it in his Q&A session:

Rishi Sunak came under fire from Tories and Labour yesterday after he was recorded saying he had been working to divert funding from ‘deprived urban areas’ towards prosperous towns.

Responding to the furore, Mr Sunak said: ‘I wanna level up everywhere, and as you may have seen from a video clip that is online, I don’t believe that’s just about our very large urban cities.

‘I believe that’s about investing in and leveling up small towns in rural communities, in coastal communities like those here in the south-east.’

The intervention garnered applause from the watching Conservative members despite widespread backlash to his earlier remarks. 

The former chancellor was filmed bragging that he had started changing public funding formulas when he was chancellor to ensure places like Tunbridge Wells receive ‘the funding they deserve’.

The New Statesman magazine, which obtained video revealing Mr Sunak’s remarks, said they were made to grassroots Tories in the Kent town on July 29.

It promoted criticism, with Foreign Office minister Lord Zac Goldsmith – a close ally of Boris Johnson – saying: ‘This is one of the weirdest – and dumbest – things I’ve ever heard from a politician.’

Jake Berry, the chairman of the Northern Research Group of Tory MPs, said that in public Mr Sunak ‘claims he wants to level up the North, but here, he boasts about trying to funnel vital investment away from deprived areas’.

‘He says one thing and does another – from putting up taxes to trying to block funding for our armed forces and now levelling up,’ the Truss supporter said

But, and it’s a big but:

Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen said, ‘Strangely enough, most Red Wall areas that voted Conservative for the first time in 2019 – who have been left behind for decades – aren’t urban/city areas. Exactly the whole point of levelling up.

‘They should post the full clip, which would show Rishi Sunak talk about the local council funding formula and how it discriminated against non-metropolitan areas in favour of cities – by giving them less money for things like adult and children services, highways and fire.’

At the weekend, conservative broadcaster André Walker was on GB News. He said that he lives in Windsor, which has its tax money taken away to benefit more deprived parts of Berkshire, yet Windsor has its own needs that also require additional expenditure.

This is what Sunak said in the video:

I managed to start changing the funding formulas, to make sure areas like this are getting the funding they deserve because we inherited a bunch of formulas from Labour that shoved all the funding into deprived urban areas and that needed to be undone.

I started the work of undoing that.

Fair enough.

In Eastbourne, Truss said that, despite forecasts, a recession is not inevitable.

The Spectator‘s editor, Fraser Nelson, agrees with Truss. He wrote about Eastbourne the following day:

‘Forecasts are not destiny,’ said Liz Truss in last night’s debate: a remark that has drawn alarm in some quarters …

… I’d go further and say that the approach to economic forecasts is one of the biggest differences between the candidates. Rishi Sunak’s campaign is rather fatalistic: he seems to think we cannot really avoid a big-state, high-tax, low-growth future described by these forecasts. Under his plan then he’d need seven long years to reverse only half of his tax rises – and still leave us with the highest tax burden since the 1950s. Truss says there is another way, but she hasn’t said much about how she’d finance it.

… This dismal science has had a mixed record of late. A 2019 Bloomberg study looked at 469 downturns in national economies in the previous three decades and found only four had been predicted by the International Monetary Fund. In the UK, a recession was widely predicted after the Brexit vote. It didn’t materialise. Then we had the 2009 crash that, as the Queen pointed out, no one saw coming.

… And who saw inflation coming? As Niall Ferguson recently observed, if you go back to Easter last year only a handful of economic commentators were warning about what was in store

Does the above mean the experts are stupid? No, it just underlines the problem with economic models. They are a mixture of maths and subjective assumptions: if one of the many assumptions is wrong, the whole picture changes.

After the Eastbourne hustings, Team Truss released an open letter from the Foreign Secretary’s most prominent backers suggesting that Rishi Sunak should stand down.

Early Saturday morning, the Mail reported:

Liz Truss called last night for the Conservative Party to ‘unite’ to take on Keir Starmer‘s Labour as 21 current and former Cabinet ministers issued a declaration of support for her.

The Foreign Secretary, firm favourite to succeed Boris Johnson, appeared to put pressure on her rival Rishi Sunak to stand down as she shared the open letter from some of her prominent backers, including Lord Frost, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Sir Iain Duncan Smith.

The signatories, which include ten sitting and 11 past Cabinet ministers, argued that only Miss Truss ‘has what it takes’ and would break from the ‘tired economic managerialism of the past’ in a thinly veiled swipe at the former chancellor

… in their open letter, the 21 senior Tories say Miss Truss’s record as Foreign Secretary and low-tax promises should see her become prime minister.

They wrote: ‘For us, there is only one candidate who has what it takes: Liz Truss. She has shown she will do what is necessary and right, even in the face of great adversity.

‘In challenging times, Britain needs a prime minister who can be trusted to deliver. Liz has a clear plan to grow our economy, founded on true Conservative principles of aspiration, enterprise and freedom, which will help fund our public services and NHS.

‘She will unleash the huge opportunities of Brexit, break from the tired economic managerialism of the past and challenge failed groupthink.’

The backers include Tories from all regions of the country and wings of the party, such as Northern Research Group chairman Jake Berry, current Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi and former leadership rival Penny Mordaunt.

Miss Truss responded by saying, ‘it’s time to unite’, and said she would ‘unite our party, beat Keir Starmer, and… deliver for Britain’.

For his part, Mr Sunak has repeatedly insisted he will not quit the contest even if he falls further behind his rival.

I agree with Sunak. As much as it pains me to watch that technocrat doing his Tony Blair impersonation, it is only fair — even with another three weeks of this contest — that he stay in it. Many Conservative Party members are rankled enough that Boris was taken from them. To see a Theresa May-style coronation (her opponent dropped out in 2016) would upset them further.

Again, I do not have a vote. I’m merely an interested bystander.

In closing, here are the latest polls from Monday, August 8.

Only Liz Truss has a chance of beating Labour’s Keir Starmer:

Guido Fawkes says (emphases his):

Opinium’s latest polling puts Liz far ahead of Rishi amongst Tory voters, with 2019 Tories now giving her 26-point lead at 48% to 22%. The previous survey had Rishi ahead on “looking like a Prime Minister in waiting“. That lead has now evaporated: Truss is leading on all measures with the Tories.

Even worse for Rishi is his polling against Starmer. In head-to-head polling, Liz beats Starmer amongst all voters by 1 point at 29% to 28%. Rishi, meanwhile, trails Starmer at 28% to 24%. Rishi and his supporters are still pushing the polls from last month showing him best placed to beat Sir Keir. That’s looking like a pretty weak claim now…

UPDATE: Redfield & Wilton find the same outcomes; Liz beats Keir, Keir beats Rishi.

I will have more on the protesters in a separate post.

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