HAS the Liz Truss bandwagon stalled?

It seems her dismissive remark about ignoring the “attention seeking” Nicola Sturgeon was regarded as far too cocky by many Scottish Tories.

Tory MSP Maurice Golden described the comments as “ill-informed for someone who could be prime minister”.

Former Tory MSP Mary Scanlon said the “inappropriate” statement meant she wouldn’t give Liz Truss her vote.

And according to Unionist commentator Alex Massie, her intention to ignore the Scottish FM, “rather as one might suggest a stroppy child should ideally be neither seen nor heard, [was] excruciating. It should not be difficult to [adhere] to the political equivalent of the Hippocratic oath – first do no harm. Yet, grimly, it seems to be beyond Truss.”

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Now, fair enough – some of these critics are declared supporters of Rishi Sunak.

But still, the uproar among her ain folk was clearly substantial enough to warrant a mini U-turn. Yesterday, the Truss team responded to a patsy question from the supportive Daily Mail, asking if she planned to ignore the democratically elected First Minister of Scotland or just calls for indyref2. Hint.

The answer was predictable – yes, of course Truss will happily work with the Scottish Government in order to blah, blah, blah. But while the climbdown wasn’t fulsome, it was mighty interesting – suggesting that however excited Exeter Tories got about her careless talk, others saw only the prospect of more rule-breaking and picking needless fights, a la Boris.

Among “ordinary voters” that’s a bit last season.

By announcing her determination to ignore Nicola Sturgeon, Liz Truss actually boosted the SNP leader’s credentials – evidently too powerful and eloquent to be heard – betraying a dangerous level of complacency about ‘saving the Union’ while creating a rod for her own back in a widely circulated, memorable video clip that’s ready to be cranked out every time Ms Truss purrs about a union of equals.

We all heard her words – unforced, cynical and disrespectful.

Now there’s no unhearing it.

But the Truss mini U-turn was significant, coming hot on the heels of another one.

Regional pay boards for public sector workers – saving around £9 billion a year – was too much for many in her own party. Simon Hoare, a Sunak-backing southern Tory MP, pointed out the bleedin’ obvious: “There is no regionalisation of electricity bills or petrol prices. They are constant across the UK. It’s also really bad news for Greater London and the Southeast, because it keeps the temperature rising in terms of people moving in. It’s the absolute antithesis of one nation Conservatism, politically suicidal, and economically illiterate.”

The FT’s George Parker said it revealed “the danger of photocopying a Taxpayers’ Alliance press release – adding a few billion – and presenting it as a programme for government.”

And another leading Tory, Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen declared himself “actually speechless” over plans to cut pay for 5.5 million people including nurses, police officers and our armed forces outside London during a cost-of-living crisis. “Not a policy we could possibly have going into the next general election.”

In fact, Houchen went much further on Channel Four News – acknowledging that the inequality to be overcome by “levelling up” in Britain was “equal to the gap between east and west Germany at the fall of the Berlin Wall.”


East and West Germany were two separate countries, with separate ideologies run by two separate governments whose people were kept firmly apart by a decades-long shoot to kill policy. Britain’s north-south wealth divide is equal to that?

Where was the follow up question?

It would have been delivered at lightning speed had a similar admission about the hopeless, entrenched nature of inequality been made by a senior SNP politician.

But Houchen’s extraordinary condemnation of British economic policy went seemingly unnoticed.

By then though, the Truss team was making headlines with its ungainly backtracking.

Noooooo, she never meant to cut public sector pay outside London.

Nooooo, (lower) regional pay awards were only ever going to hit new, not existing, staff (how that would ever save £9bn is a mystery.) And actually, she had been misrepresented by the Sunak camp. Trouble is, she hadn’t. Brandon “I see no problems” Lewis was sent onto the morning airwaves yesterday to square the circle. He couldn’t. Radio 4 presenter Mishal Husain softly delivered a killer blow; “Liz Truss cast herself as the straightforward candidate, the honest one. Instead, she put forward a policy she had no intention of enacting. It’s shades of the Boris Johnson approach that’s been widely discredited. Can we trust that her other plans will be taken forward – just not this one?”


And yet, it seems to have made no difference to her support.

The latest YouGov polling of Tory members (conducted over the last four days) shows the Truss lead has grown to 38pts, with 69% of the headline vote, compared to Sunak’s 31%. Plus, her supporters are far more likely to have made their minds up than supporters of Rishi Sunak. Though there are a few wee caveats.

According to Chris Curtis, head of political polling at Opinium, “a very large proportion of [Tory] members are old people in their 80s and 90s, who are less likely to be online ... I’ve never felt less confident in the polls I’m running than I feel right now.”

According to The Times, private polling carried out for Liz Truss suggests she’s just five points ahead of Sunak thanks to his popularity in southern seats which have truly massive Tory memberships.

SO, what does it all mean?

Firstly, Truss is now the captive of far-right folk like Jacob Rees-Mogg – still arguing about the benefits of lower public sector pay in “the regions”, even after Truss had knocked that policy on the heid.

These are the loons Liz Truss will hear when she’s busy ignoring democratically elected first ministers.

And as John Curtice observes, they won’t help her occupy the electoral centre ground once the slightly zooming Tory membership has spoken.

Secondly, there’s a pecking order in Truss’s Britain.

Scotland’s bumping around near the bottom, with possibly less significance than we ever had with Boris Johnson. At least he came for that ill-fated battle with the midges.

Yes, there was the climbdown.

But look at how long it took, how partial and how third-hand it was. No rushing over to the cameras by Liz Truss herself to make sure Scots didn’t get the wrong end of the stick.

We understand.

Offending Scots is priced in and a price worth paying for a cheap laugh.

Offending the north of England is a mistake so dire that it prompted comparisons with former prime minister Theresa May’s unpopular “dementia tax” and an immediate, grovelling u-turn.

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And what about the Welsh? It’ll be interesting to see if Liz Truss plans to ignore their First Minister Mark Drakeford too.

But clearly Scotland is already dead to her. That’s annoying, but also an opportunity.

If Truss wins, her disdain for Scotland will be resurrected each time she crosses the border while her scary, casual extremism will make her a recruiting sergeant for independence – almost as effective as Boris himself.

And frankly, Yessers could expect no better outcome from this Great Tory Farce.