When Liz Truss announced her intention to run for Leader of the Conservative Party nearly two months ago she sounded, well, rather conservative.
“I’ll fight the election as a Conservative and govern as a Conservative,” Truss said, vowing to cut taxes on Day One; cancel a planned rise in corporation tax; reverse the recent increase in national Insurance rates; and take immediate action to help people deal with the cost of living.
By the grace of 160 Tory party members, Truss is set to inherit a party known for ousting its leaders. She’s the fourth prime minster in six years, and many of her Conservative predecessors have been shown the door by their own party. Defeating #Ready4Rishi and @Teamsaj means “Liz for Leader” must report for work tomorrow with a radical new approach to business and economics lest she become a cautionary tale; like the helmeted female warrior once pounded onto Roman coins in the 2nd century.
Slipping toward recession, labor strikes, and the cost of living crisis are at stake for this Foreign Secretary, who, at just 47 years old, can actually countenance Queen Elizabeth’s Christmas message in her own.
Yet behind the lights, camera and action lies a shrewd political infighter with breathtaking range; chanting “Maggie Out” at anti-nuclear marches, whilst simultaneously portraying her in a mock election at the West Primary School, age eight.
More recently, Truss’ half twist double back from Brexit opponent onto a Global Britain platform means not only that she can cut, copy and paste Britannia onto former EU trade deals (Northern Ireland, notwithstanding) but that this economist by trade is setting Britannia up for a re-do.
Although she shares an alma mater with her opponent and predecessor, Liz Truss’ three-pronged trident — sovereignty, self determination, economic freedom — seems squarely aimed at a British Renaissance.
The British Empire
It was the largest empire in history, and, for over a century, the foremost economic power in the world. By the dawn of the 20th century, the British Empire held sway over 412 million people, 23% of the world population, and presided over ¼ of the earth surface. The sun perpetually shone on at least one of her territories resulting in a constitutional, economic and cultural footprint of colonialism, security and trade.
While Britain achieved her territorial peak in 1921 during the reign of HM Queen Mary, a de-colonization effort followed characterized by a quest for independence from the British Crown.
The Suez Crisis confirms Britain's decline, and the transfer of Hong Kong to China mark for many the end of the British Empire. Britain joins the European Community in 1973, effectively assimilating the former empire into a 27-member state.
The question of sovereignty was discussed at the Foreign Office and a document entitled, "Areas of policy in which parliamentary freedom to legislate will be affected by entry into the European Communities" notes that customs duties > agriculture > free movement of labor > services and capital > transport > social security for migrant workers were all at stake. The document concludes;
It’s advisable to put the considerations of influence and power before those of formal sovereignty.
Pound Shop Maggie
Today, household energy bills are spiking, inflation has soared into double digits, and the Bank of England is warning of a prolonged recession. U.K. residents will see an 80% increase in their annual household energy bills, the country’s energy regulator announced Friday. That brings the average cost a customer will pay to £3,549 per year. Prices are expected to rise again to £4,000 in 2023.
Truss vows to cut taxes, discard remaining European Union regulations, and shrink the size of Britain’s government. Sound familiar?
Britain's economy during the 1970s was so bleak that Foreign Secretary James Callaghan warned of "a complete breakdown of democracy.” The GDP declined by 3.9% and a global Oil Crisis led to the “Winter of Discontent.”
Margaret Thatcher's economic policies were influenced by Milton Friedman, and her unprecedented response to the Recession of the early 1980’s was to raise taxes despite 364 leading economists warning, “there is no basis in economic theory for the belief that by deflating demand they will bring inflation permanently under control.”
In the first year of the Thatcher-led Tory government inflation rose to 15.3%, but then fell to 5% by the time of their election win in 1983.
Inflation and mortgage rates had fallen to their lowest levels in 13 years and overall economic growth was stronger. Rejecting state socialism, Thatcher said, “the problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.” A decade on inflation was low, the economy stable, Britain was strong.
Lowering taxes, shrinking government, resilient international relations was the embodiment of Thatcher’s 1976 "Britain Awake" foreign policy speech which lambasted a Soviet Union "bent on world dominance” and global strongmen. It captures the U.K.’s longest serving female Prime Minister’s statecraft, and the attitude with which she wielded her soft power.
I stand before you tonight in my Red Star chiffon evening gown, my face softly made up, and my fair hair gently waved — the Iron Lady of the Western world.
Like her predecessor, Truss suggests the U.K. should arm Taiwan against China, and insists the U.K. will not be complicit in the Xinjiang Conflict via supply chains. "But does this expose the hypocritical face of old-school British imperialism,” asked ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin? “Imagine Scotland colluding with foreign forces to secede from the U.K.”
Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman described her as “bloodthirsty and extremely destructive,” and Truss, together with other members of the U.K. government, is banned from entering the country. While the former President of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, is buried this week with "elements of a state funeral," according to Moscow, neither Truss nor her counterparts in the Western world are welcome to pay their respects. Though credited with ending the Cold War, Gorbachev inadvertently re-ignited an imperialist regime; a warning to Britain not to ignore the lessons of her imperial past.
Has Truss swathed herself in the economic and foreign policy of Thatcher — an anti-Communist warrior, free-market evangelist and conservative icon — or is she living in and now governing a parallel universe of economic hardship and strongmen from the 1970’s?
To get to Truss’s office, you must first stand before a giant mural depicting Britain’s allegorical rise to imperial glory: The Seafarers Claim Britain as Their Bride. Britannia, the female manifestation of Britain, is shown shielding England’s Colonies from Viking raiders.
It was completed in 1921 — at the peak of Britain’s geographical apex — but U.K. Labour Foreign Secretary Robin Cook was uncomfortable with its message at the time. Even the installation of the murals was controversial when Lord Curzon, then foreign secretary, objected to its message of Colonial imperialism. However, both were overruled by Prime Minster George Lloyd who explained, “we shan’t turn them down because they were given to us for free.”
Can Truss resuscitate Britannia’s prestige by calling on the G7 to be more institutionalized; the WTO to defend its members against Chinese economic coercion; even the United Nations to ensure free economic trade? London and Washington still write the biggest checks to all three, but has that distorted the West’s perspective of history?
“She’s a pound shop Maggie,” said Tony Clark, a voter from Birmingham, using a colloquialism that refers to a discounted version of a great figure. Education > Environment > Justice > Treasury > Foreign and Trade Secretary be damned, Thatcher was Leader of the Opposition when she ascended Downing Street in 1979; a scrappy infighter who brought Thatcherism to the world stage: a mixture of free markets; financial discipline; firm control over public expenditure; tax cuts; nationalism; privatization; and a dash of populism.
Truss’ 2012 manifesto, “Britannia Unchained; Global Lessons for Growth and Prosperity,” observes, “In Britain, there has been too great a tendency to attribute results to fortune or background.” Britons may be less statist and more liberal than classist Victorians or Thatcherite's, but unleashing the “feckless work shy” via the incentives of liberal economics isn’t entirely new.
Englishman Thomas Newcomen's atmospheric engine and the subsequent steam pump > boat > engine > ship > and railways of the Industrial Revolution effectively stitched the seams of our hemispheres together. But when did this magnificent, technological and economic win for the empire come at the cost of a murky colonial quest? Truss, known for locking her daughter's cell phones away in a box from time to time, somehow knows that liberty's best angle has a conservative point of view.
Pax Britannia may have created a period of relative "peace through strength" via economic and military coercion, but Brexit Britain will sail with a regatta of individual freedoms, liberal democracy, and a network of alliances toward a new world order. Like her predecessor, Margaret Thatcher, we highly suspect "the lady is not for turning."
The UK’s 67+ million people create a GDP of 3+ trillion today and represents the world’s sixth-largest economy after the US, China, Japan, Germany and India. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II may have presided over the Information Age, but when Truss ascends the stoop at 10 Downing Street tomorrow the remit is clear; lower inflation, cut taxes, revive the woke from their statist slumber, invigorate the service industry, resuscitate liberal economics, and — God willing — rescue Britannia from mediocrity and preside over Global Britain's Renaissance.