Monday 25 July 2022

Truss's to Lose

Francis Maude is worried. The grandee is concerned that the Tory party is falling apart over the leadership contest and casting itself into the gutter. On the last point, his lordship evidently hasn't paid attention since July 2019. Speaking to the BBC this evening, he said:
One is obviously going to win the leadership, but if the behaviour of the teams and their language has been uncontrolled, and it has damaged the party’s standing or the way people see the party, then it could end up being a Pyrrhic victory.
It's true. I've never seen such a juvenile briefing and counter briefing from the candidates' teams. The irrepressible Nadine Dorries did Liz Truss a solid by contrasting Rish! Sunak's nice shoes and even nicer suits to Truss's five quid earrings from Claire's Accessories. Ouch. Similarly, beef has been traded over their respective schooling, after Truss was found to have massaged the facts about her alma mater.

The truth is Sunak's in big trouble. The favourite among the MPs, the margin between him and Truss is only growing - if we take YouGov's latest poll of members for good coin. In the sort of panic characteristic of the politically flat footed, his supposedly sensible Toryism is now junked and he's taken on even more right wing positions. Sunak has confirmed the privatisation of Channel Four, sticking with the Rwanda transportation scheme, tearing out anything smelling of China's influence in the UK, and going round describing his philosophy as "commonsense Thatcherism".

It's unlikely tonight's debate on the BBC did Sunak many favours either. Poor old Maude must have been at home despairing at the spectacle on his screen. Broadcasting from the holiest of holies (i.e. Stoke-on-Trent), it was testier than the previous outing with barbs routinely exchanged between the candidates. I will grant them this, there is a genuine difference between them. Sunak wants to keep his National Insurance rise and go for the higher moral ground of fiscal conservatism, whereas Truss wants to cancel it and get day-to-day borrowing to pay for it. For Sunak this imperils the "sound money" philosophy and stokes inflationary pressures, for Truss keeping the tax rises takes money out of people's pockets and makes recession more likely. To the average Tory member, abstractions like deficits and public sector borrowing count for nothing against increasing energy, petrol, and food prices. Truss understands this. For all her limitations, what she has picked up from Johnson is an approach where the economics should be driven by the politics - something Sunak has forgotten. And this is the main reason why she leads.

The BBC did their best to help both candidates. The inclusion of Chris Mason and Faisal Islam as politics and economics editors respectively gave the policy discussion more form when it might have become a simple slug fest, and the host Sophie Raworth provided some nice soft questions about fashion (recalling the Dorries attack), how people at home can tackle the climate crisis, and asked the candidates to speak words of friendly advice to each other. What an unparalleled bargain the TV licence is. Still, moments after the debate ended it was a hoot to hear Truss's camp saying "Rish! Sunak has tonight proven he is not fit for office ... His aggressive mansplaining and shouty private school behaviour is desperate, unbecoming and is a gift to Labour."

This doesn't mean Truss is fit either, but the anonymous briefer makes a good point. Sunak is both a smoother and more confident performer than the Foreign Secretary, and has clearly decided all-in means talking over Truss, interrupting her, and trying to edge her out of the debate with boorish, almost Johnsonian debating tricks. It looks bad, but obviously Sunak and co. think this might make Truss look weak and unable to defend her corner. Not good for her when she's made great play about standing up to Putin. Alas, a snap poll from Opinium of Conservative supporters had her down as the winner by 47% to Sunak's 38%. We've just had one Prime Minister brought down by arrogance. Members might be less than keen to invest in a candidate with the same character trait.

For Truss the first week of proper campaigning has got off to a good start. She has the initiative, and Sunak is forced to try anything to regain it. If tonight's entertainment is anything to go by, this contest is Truss's to lose.

Image Credit


Graham said...

Truss is Continuity Boris which is what the Tory members want.

More alarmingly I can see her Thatcher tribute act working well against Starmer. Despite what the polls are saying, I think she will find it easy to cast Starmer as an out of touch technocrat in contract the her "women of the people" pretence.

Blissex said...

«The truth is Sunak's in big trouble. The favourite among the MPs, the margin between him and Truss is only growing - if we take YouGov's latest poll of members for good coin.»

Actually 2/3 of Conservative MPs voted for kipper tory thatcherites Mordaunt and Truss, and only one third for globalist whig thatcherite Sunak. I have often wondered what that the plan of the whig globalist side of the Conservatives once they had done in Johnson, what fix they had in mind to ensure that both selected candidates for the members vote would be globalist whigs, or as in the case of May, there would be only one candidate. Appearances are that so far they only succeeded in getting rid of Johnson, and the kippers decided to sacrifice Johnson to replace him with another kipper. Perhaps the whig globalist thatcherites think it will take several steps to reconquer the party from the kipper wing.

«To the average Tory member, abstractions like deficits and public sector borrowing count for nothing against increasing energy, petrol, and food prices. Truss understands this.»

If she understands that then she has the same hallucinations as many leftoids, because Conservative members are affluent upper-middle class, and their real living standards are booming. They don't care about either deficits, borrowing, increasing costs, because they are enjoying rapidly increasing property prices and rents, even more rapidly than in the past 40 years.

They are fully protected by government and opposition, which enables for example landlords to have as standard clause in "Short Assured Leasehold" terms that rent increases are automatic by RPI+3% per year, and RPI currently is running at 12% (well ahead of CPI at 9%). And indeed:
«Average private rents in Britain have hit record highs, jumping by more than 20% in some areas such as Manchester, new data shows. The average advertised rent outside London is 11.8% higher than a year ago, while in the capital it is up by 15.8%, according to the property website Rightmove. [...] the various factors at play had “created an extremely competitive market for tenants, where many offer landlords over asking price in order to secure a property”.»

What better sign that "the economy" is booming?

I am still one of the few who think that most voters, and tory voters in particular, vote their interests, their "book", their wallet, but I must admit that virtually every political analyst (except for our blogger) reckons that class interests don't matter, or that values and personalities are by far the dominant influences on voting.