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Liz Truss: A Prime Minister for the Super-Rich

The number one priority of the frontrunner to succeed Boris Johnson, is to protect the bottom lines of energy bosses pushing millions into poverty, reports Adam Bienkov

Liz Truss. Photo: Scott Heppell/Reuters

Liz Truss will be a Prime Minister for the Super-Rich

The number one priority of the frontrunner to succeed Boris Johnson is protecting the profits of energy bosses pushing millions into poverty, reports Adam Bienkov

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There was a highly revealing moment during last night’s Conservative Party leadership hustings when Liz Truss was asked about the huge profits now being racked up by energy companies. 

Asked about the fact that oil and gas firms have made an average of $3 billion in profits a day over the past 50 years, while millions of British consumers are being pushed into poverty, Truss leapt to the defence of the energy giants.

“I don’t think profit is a dirty word,” she told the Telegraph’s Camilla Tominey, adding that “the fact it has become a dirty word in our society is a massive problem”.

The frontrunner to succeed Boris Johnson, who worked for Shell before entering politics, said that while oil and gas companies “should be held to account”, the real risk came from those who in any way threatened the status quo.

“The way we bandy around the word ‘profit’ as if it is something that’s dirty and evil, we shouldn’t be doing that as Conservatives,” she said, adding that this risked “playing into the hands of people like Jeremy Corbyn who want to completely undermine our way of life.”

It’s not entirely clear whose “way of life” she was referring to. However, recent estimates suggest that up to a third of British households are set to be pushed into fuel poverty this winter, with millions forced to choose between heating their homes or feeding their children.

For many people, including a significant chunk of the previously-comfortable middle-classes, our “way of life” is going to be seriously undermined.

As even Truss’ rival Rishi Sunak pointed out last night, her plan to abandon the British people to market forces will “leave millions of incredibly vulnerable people at the risk of real destitution” and would be “a moral failure”.

Yet for Truss, the number one priority appears to be tackling the “massive problem” of anyone suggesting that the energy giants should see their profits in any way hit.

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A Bonanza for the Super-Rich

Asked repeatedly to spell out how she will help people affected by crippling heating bills, Truss has said only that she is opposed to “hand-outs”, while insisting that her own priority is cutting taxes.

But, for those most affected by the coming price rises, Truss’ planned tax cuts will make little or no difference. 

As Sunak again pointed out last night, reversing the social care and NHS levy will benefit people on minimum wage by little more than £1 a week and will not benefit pensioners at all. Meanwhile, those earning as much as Truss herself will be thousands of pounds a year better-off.

Her plan to suspend the green energy levy will actually increase bills in the longer-term by helping to embed the UK’s continued dependence on fossil fuels, while hampering efforts to help people make their homes more energy efficient.

The Foreign Secretary’s other big plan to cut taxes on corporate profits will also do nothing to help protect the living standards of most British people. As Sunak was again forced to point out last night, the UK already has one of the lowest corporation tax levels in the world and cutting it further is not likely to make Britain any more competitive.

“We’ve tried [cutting corporation tax] for 10 years,” Sunak said. “And, let me tell you all, business investment in this country today is no greater than it was a decade ago.”

That a potential Conservative Party leader should be defending some of the wealthiest companies in the world, at the expense of the vast majority of people in the country, is not hugely surprising. Under Boris Johnson, corporate profits have soared – while the wages of most working people flatlined and slumped.

Yet, the big difference between the two politicians is that, unlike Truss, Johnson was able to mask this basic economic reality with populist policies and genuine assistance to the poorest.

As Byline Times has documented at length, the pandemic was a bonanza for corporate friends of the Conservative Party. However, at the same time as handing out billions of pounds in PPE deals, Johnson and Sunak also spent billions more on helping the general public through the crisis.

Under Truss’ logic, such “hand-outs” would have been stopped for being ‘socialist’ and a threat to our “way of life”.

The other big difference is that, while Johnson was successful in distracting the public from the reality of his plans, through announcing populist policies, Truss has instead focused on issues that are, if anything, anti-populist.

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Whether it’s pledging to restrict the spread of solar farms during a climate crisis, cutting the wages of public sector workers outside London, or introducing fracking in rural areas, Truss’ policies often hit the sour spot of being obviously designed with the sole intention of helping corporate interests, while also being deeply unpopular.

Listening to her speaking to Conservative Party members in recent weeks has often felt like taking part in a game of bingo, where each winning ball is another ‘culture war’ talking point.

Yet Truss’ attempts at inflaming public divisions on issues like trans rights, ‘cancel culture’ and the Civil Service have merely seemed deeply out-of-touch at a time when polling shows that the vast majority of people really want to hear about the economy instead. Her determination to pursue these issues, in the face of apparent public indifference, suggests that her real, intended audience is the newspaper proprietors who have spent so many years pushing these issues.

And while the Conservative Party continues to spend its time talking about gender-neutral toilets and the ‘threat’ of solar panels, the UK will continue to head into an economic and public sector crisis, the likes of which it has not seen for decades.

The grim reality is that the coming winter is set to be an outright disaster for millions of British people, as a deep recession combines with soaring prices and crumbling public services, in a perfect storm for living standards in the UK.

For our likely next prime minister, the number one priority will not be helping the public through that storm – but protecting the bottom lines of those who most stand to benefit from it.

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