A wanna-be Margaret Thatcher will lead a divided nation

The lioness of the hawkish foreigh policy of the United Kingdom is now the prime minister of the United Kingdom. Can she succesfully lead the divided nation through the perils of the socio-economic collapse, towards anything else than more catastrophical developments? What shall we expect from the politician who now moves to 10 Downing Street?

For some of the commentators, the choice, even if not totally unexpected, is hard to imagine and/or understand.

“Cameron has some Tony Blair spirit in him. Theresa May, before she imploded, seemed to be publicly spirited and trusted to babysit your kid. Boris Johnson turned London, the Labour city and won in the marginal seats some new votes. She is odd in my opinion. (…) She is wooden, uncharismatic, charmless and she is dogmatically right wing”said Owen Jones on LBC. In his view, Truss would need to embrace more interventionist policies to face the challenges that await her. However, her trust in neoliberal dogmas could effectively stop her from doing so, bringing the social conflict on a dangerous level. After non-ideological Boris Johnson, Liz Truss seems to be extreme.

At the same time most of the Tories supporters are in favour of nationalisation of energy concerns. It might happen that with the harsh winter and cost of living crisis, there will be more and more supporters of nationalising, also when it comes to water or railway systems. Truss does not seem to be fit for those changes. 

Gregor Gall from Novara media writes that:

One thing you can rely on the Tories to be is anti-union. Earlier this year – as hot strike summer progressed, with everyone from journalists to Amazon workers taking industrial action – Liz Truss promised to usher in a new crackdown on strikes within 30 days of winning the Tory leadership election. 

But nowhere has she said that she will actually ban strikes outright. Instead, she’s promised to increase the notice period unions must give before taking action, from 14 days to 28, allowing employers even more time to make counter-preparations. She also wants to increase the threshold needed to make a ‘yes’ vote lawful, and expand the scope of this second support threshold stipulation from certain public services to apply to any strike ballot, whether in the public or private sectors”.

So, it is possible that Liz Truss will wage a psychological war against the workers. Making the strikes futile in the long run, just like Margaret Thatcher did.

It is very likely, as Gall points out, she might introduce minimum service provision requirements during strikes. And we know that it would make some strategic sectors, like transport, schools, communications and utilities, excluded from the right to strike. The whole idea comes from Tory manifesto written in 2019. 

She also wants to introduce a so-called ‘cooling-off’ period… which means that unions won’t be able to strike at the pace chosen by theme, there would be a legal period between strike to strike action. 

Gall ends his essay with the words that might put some fear into left-sided hearts:

“Whether Truss makes good on her 30-day promise or not, her particular blend of egotism along with a desire to make her mark at any cost means she is a real and present danger to the union movement”.  

In Poland and USA her appointment might be seen as strengthening the anti-Russian stance of the United Kingdom. Extreme militarism of Truss may cost her fellow British citizens their lives, but not everyone cares. As it was put by one of the main speakers and advocates of American interests in Poland, Sławomir Sierakowski: 

“Liz Truss the new UK Prime Minister. This is excellent news for Ukraine! In July she said that: – ‘As Prime Minister I will, like Boris Johnson, be Ukraine’s greatest friend and I will devote myself entirely to measures that will make Putin defeated in Ukraine, and Russia meaning less in the world. Such are the times that not every left party can be cheered, and many right-wingers should be cheered in order to win the war”.

But not every Polish commentator is so blinded and hexed by the neo-conservative agenda like Sierakowski. Some of us think that the shock therapy that is going to make the United Kingdom “more profitable and competitive” resembles the one introduced in Poland by western economists and their student Leszek Balcerowicz. As philosopher Łukasz Moll writes in essay entitled “The British will get a female Balcerowicz. The real one”: 

“This dogmatist, pulled from the depths of the 1990s, with ideological horizons out of a textbook for a free enterprise acolyte, means not only that even darker clouds are looming over the UK than under Johnson, who, for all his clowning and hypocrisy, wanted to sometimes cynically please his oppressed compatriots. Truss will be a wind in the sails for liberal forces in some European countries, including Poland, for whom inflation will become a pretext for attacking ‘handouts’ and for prescribing ‘shock therapies’. Such a policy will also lend credence to the voices that here are heartless cuts being applied to us by the same people who are pumping inflation by banging the war drum. These voices, legitimate at the time, will eventually join the chorus of Russian propaganda which, in the absence of an anti-liberal left, will become the only anti-liberal narrative towards the crisis. 

Moll, however, points out an important thing: the right-wingers got power, because they had a vision. Apparently, their political rivals lacked such.

From a left perspective, on the other hand, it is necessary to understand that Truss and liberals in other countries will win not because they have been ‘imposed’ on societies, but because they promise hope, rebound, growth – their visions, however flimsy, respond to the need for aspiration and belief in a better future. And that is why it is not enough to demonise liberals and expose their policies as purely hypocritical ideology. It is not enough to warn people that the drug they offer will prove to be a detox. Rather, it is necessary to be a better dealer, a seller of dreams”.

This lesson should be learned by Keir Starmer, the Labour leader. So far, he is not going to deliver his ideas from the campaign for the leadership of the Labour – so there won’t be no support for trade unions, no unity in the party, more sacking of MPs who support the strikers. He is going just to wait for the fall of the Tory’s government, just like he has been doing since the start of his leadership. There won’t be any Labour dealers of better dreams. Those who lead the fight are trade unionists like Mike Lynch and Eddie Dempsey, accompanied by the help of Sanders and a group of courageous MPs like Sultana. 

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said:

“Liz Truss should act in the national interest and play a positive role in helping to settle the rail dispute. This means investment in the railway infrastructure, unshackling Network Rail and the rail companies so we can come to a negotiated settlement on job security, pay and working conditions. This would be in the best interests of the travelling public, the rail industry and railway workers”.

Which is, looking at her last regards on the strikers, pretty impossible. Her first moves in this manner would be some anti-union policies. Another much needed policy is the implementation of the  program dedicated to the energy price crisis, which would be funded by a  £100bn package to freeze bills.

When it comes to her cabinet Jessica Elbot from The Guardian writes that: 

“Key cabinet appointments are expected to be made later on Tuesday with junior roles following over the coming days. Truss is expected to appoint a cabinet of loyalists, including Kwasi Kwarteng as chancellor, James Cleverly as foreign secretary and Suella Braverman as home secretary. Other key appointments are expected to include Thérèse Coffey as health secretary, but there will be no role for her defeated leadership rival, Rishi Sunak. Several roles are still in flux after a standoff over jobs for other key leadership rivals, including Penny Mordaunt, Kemi Badenoch and Sajid Javid. Senior sources said offers of transport, culture, education and Northern Ireland posts were among those that had not yet been assigned”.

This might mean the end or, in the short future, a renaissance of Rishi Sunak career. We never know how long this government will last, with polls saying that Labour has 15-20% more support among Britons than the future cabinet. So it might seem that Sunak, as not blamed by the Truss upcoming problems, might have yet another chance for living in Downing Street 10. 

All of this Shakespearean drama is accompanied by the hot summer strikes. The most important are those in rail, buses, schools, the whole education system, logistics, post and barristers. A lot is going to happen in the upcoming weeks.

Will this government be stable, will there be new elections, or maybe a blackout during the winter, with thousands on the streets, or maybe Tories have some aces down their sleeve? 

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