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Opinion

Sam Delaney: ‘It’s really unsettling watching Liz Truss hurtle towards Downing Street’

The likely PM-in-waiting spouts populist trapclap – anything that will aid her relentless pursuit of power

It’s been really unsettling watching Liz Truss hurtle towards Downing Street. The barmy process by which the Conservative Party anoint a new leader revealed her to be the second least-hated candidate among her colleagues.

Not many of them actively wanted her as leader. They just disliked her opponents slightly more than they disliked her.

Personally, I’d have been too humiliated by that outcome to have wanted to carry on. But then, I’m not Liz Truss. Liz Truss doesn’t let the ambivalence of others erode her cast-iron self-belief or derail her rampant ambition. It’s admirable. But also quite scary. 

Now she competes with Rishi Sunak to say literally whatever it takes to win over the few thousand party members who will make the final decision on who gets the nuclear codes. Christ. 

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Not being funny, but Conservative Party members are a self-selecting group of the most awful weirdos in the country. Imagine paying £25 per year to join a party whose very name is a statement of its resistance to change. The mad bastards who actually join up are the sort who are constantly furious about the idea that younger people with different life experiences to their own might ever gain social or political traction.

I’ve always thought calling liberal folk snowflakes is a bit rich coming from the sort of weirdos and wet wipes you see at the Tory party conference. I’ve been to a few of those disturbing seaside get-togethers in a journalistic capacity and have never come across such a bunch of terrified people; the sort who are scared to walk out the front door in the morning because of the imaginary immigrants and transgender single mums who might mug them or offend them with their unfamiliar worldviews. The culture wars have seen saps somehow recast themselves as firebrands. Give me a break.

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Truss is beating Sunak because she seems to better understand the demographic she is talking to in this campaign: not the country as a whole (which, as every election result since 1945 shows, is a broadly social-democratic mix) but about 250,000 hardcore loons.  

Like Boris Johnson, she is flagrant in her pandering to whatever populist claptrap will earn her the quickest approval from her audience. Also, like Johnson, she has been happy to change the fundamentals of her political positions over time in the relentless pursuit of power. First she was a Lib Dem, then she was a Tory moderate, now she is a right-wing Brexit zealot.

It is an increasingly common trait in politics. Ambition is the one thing that Johnson, Truss (and their predecessor Cameron, for that matter) have in common.

They are driven not by social conscience or even the grand ideological zeal of their heroine, Maggie Thatcher. They are driven by a fixation with status. Their only goal is to be prime minister.

Ambition is a dangerous thing. If it overrides all your other instincts you end up trying to achieve stuff just for the sake of sticking it on your CV. The sort of politicians that succeed nowadays tend to be the ones with the greatest ambition. Which, by definition, makes them the least suitable for the position of leaders.

We’ve seen this with Cameron and Johnson and we’re about to see it again with Truss. Once she’s bullshitted her way into Number 10 it will dawn on her that she actually has a country to run: a country that is skint, divided, derided and miserable. Chances are, she won’t have a clue what to do about any of it beyond posting more corny pics on Instagram.

Nationalistic platitudes are OK for the campaign trail but pretty useless as a means of managing government. In Tory circles they probably call self-absorbed, hyper-driven characters like Truss “overachievers”. Among ordinary people they’re known as “busy bastards”. I really think it’s time we tried appointing a lazy but well-intentioned slob as PM.   

Read more from Sam Delaney here. Follow him on Twitter here.

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine. If you cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member.You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

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