False Dawns & Misplaced Trust | Timothy Dennis

Desperation will make the average person do all kinds of things that they might not otherwise. Adrift at sea – swimmer or not – the creeping knowledge that the situation is getting away from you as you tread water begins to affect all but the hardiest of souls. Those well versed with stories of being lost in the desert will nevertheless be tempted to believe in the next mirage when so lost themselves. So it is in politics. Much of the electorate is exhausted by a parade of largely interchangeable politicians and broken promises, but it remains ever eager to latch on to the hope that an individual or group might re-invigorate the depressing treadmill of British politics.

As such it was incredible to see the rush on social media to anoint Elizabeth Truss, the Secretary of State for International Trade and the oddly titled ‘Women and Equalities Minister’ as an apparent champion of conservatives and saviour of the nation from the left on the basis of a single speech. Speaking on the 17th December 2020 Mrs Truss certainly addressed a series of controversial topics close to the hearts of many across the political spectrum, attacking virtue signalling, identity politics and narrative dominating minority groups. The Guardian was outraged enough to run a piece the same day counter-attacking Mrs Truss for the supposed deficiencies in the gender and ethnicity of her trade advisers. Music to the ears of many no doubt, however one speech does not warrant the inevitable suggestion of candidacy for Prime Minister nor descriptions of her being the  ‘Joan of Arc of the Culture Wars’ as one social media post raved.

Mrs Truss has been involved in politics for most of her life and was a Liberal Democrat until she joined the Conservative Party in 1996, being elevated to party prominence under the enthusiastic Blairite torch-bearer David Cameron. For every point that could be made in favour of her conservative political stances, Mrs Truss has also supported foreign intervention in Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq, voted in favour of the mass surveillance of the public’s communications, backed the expansion of centrally funded academy schools and their removal from financial or administrative oversight by local authorities.

With long experience of how political games are played Mrs Truss is certainly aware of the need to stay at arms length from the controversy engulfing the government’s handling of COVID-19 and the UK’s departure from the European Union. She has successfully done so whilst promoting her success in achieving trade deals – headlined with carefully selected images designed to cultivate her image – on the same social media platforms that she and her team can no doubt see the backlash against left or ‘woke’ politics playing out. It is difficult not to suspect that such an overt attack against identity politics and its cohorts is also a considered piece of political opportunism at a time when public opinion of her colleagues is so low and there is a strong undercurrent against the left-dominated political narrative.

It is easy to sympathise with those weathering the constant social and political storm in the UK for relief at some apparent opposition to divisive ideologies, but the reaction to Mrs Truss’ speech appears ill-considered and naïve. Established wisdom about politicians should not be forgotten amid the understandable haste to rush into the unsubstantial arms of the latest political mirage. 

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