Way back in 1979 the United Kingdom could do what America could not, boast its first de facto (if not de jure) woman leader of the country. Forty-three years later and the score is now three to zero. Enter Prime Minister Mary Elizabeth Truss. But you can call her Liz.
While it’s true that a prime minister is not a perfect analog to a president (British prime ministers are not heads of state), it’s the closest thing we’ve got. But if you’re still worried about it, Britain’s head of state also happens to be another Liz, likewise a woman.
Now the question remains, why the hell must Britain’s third woman PM also be another Conservative? In every case, first with Margaret Thatcher, then with Theresa May and now with Liz, every single one has been a member of the Conservative Party. At what point is Britain going to put forward a woman leader of the Labour Party or the Liberal Democrat Party?
And because she’s a Conservative she’s already made her first mistake in her first official utterance as prime minister-elect (she officially assumed the role on Tuesday, September 6, today as I write this). She said that she’s going to cut taxes, “deliver on the energy crisis, [deal] with people’s energy bills, but also [deal] with the long-term issues … on energy supply.” She also promises to “deliver on the National Health Service.”
How the hell does she propose to do that while cutting taxes? It’s not going to happen. You cannot dig yourself out of the colossal hole Britain is in without money. If anything she needs to increase taxes, notably on the rich. Once the economy is fixed, the worst of the energy crisis has passed and inflation is under control, perhaps then she can think of cutting taxes. But she made cutting taxes her very first priority in this time of extreme crisis because it’s the promise that got her elected by the most rightwing and dangerous elements of the Conservative Party.
She was elected not by the people but by a majority of the 141,000 voting members of the Conservatives. And she was elected the head of the party, not PM. It is Queen Elizabeth II who anoints prime ministers in an ancient ceremony known as “kissing hands,” where the monarch asks the head of the majority party to form a government.
Once the government is formed, Liz Truss will begin her error in earnest. The disastrous road she will pursue was seen clearly by her principal rival, Rishi Sunak, who came in second. Mr. Sunak did not promise to cut taxes because he knew it would lead to disaster. And that, paradoxically, is why he lost the election. You see, the people who voted for her were the thousands of mostly affluent members of the Conservative Party, and they want taxes cut. The average working stiff can go straight to hell, as far as they are concerned.
The prognosis is not good for other reasons. She’s already said she will grant 130 new oil drilling sites. And for her the “jury is still out” on whether or not Emanuel Macron is a friend or foe. (If she hasn’t figured out that Macron, and therefore France, is one Britain’s staunchest allies, then she is either way, way out of her depth or she’s doing an impersonation of Donald Trump, which is essentially the same thing.) And speaking of Trump, she won’t confirm one way or the other if Trump is a friend or foe of that idiot, as if it’s hard to figure out. I see serious problems ahead with slippery Liz.
So, as the venerable old adage goes, as much as we wished for an end to Boris Johnson here in Britain (and I was one who emphatically so wished), we should have been careful about what we wished for. Hopefully Liz Truss will see the light before it’s too late. But I doubt it. Right now we need to focus on global warming and green energy. But with Conservatives still in charge there’s little chance of that happening. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.