Liz Truss and the tyranny of ‘the markets’

Globalist cliques have far too much power over democratic life.

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill
chief political writer

Topics Politics UK

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Britain’s chattering classes have a new hobby: mocking Liz Truss for crazily believing there’s such a thing as ‘the establishment’. They have a hearty chortle every time Truss, famously the most shortlived PM in British history, says ‘deep state’ or ‘the blob’. Why’s she always droning on about a ‘so-called establishment’, wonders that most establishment newspaper, the Guardian? Her new book, Ten Years to Save the West, has caused an epidemic of eye-rolling. Once again, ‘up pops Britain’s shortest-serving prime minister’ to moan about the ‘economic establishment’, says one sniffy review.

In her book, Truss claims the crashing and burning of her 49-day premiership in late 2022 was in large part down to meddling bureaucrats and bankers. As she summed it up in her weird chat with former Trump gopher Steve Bannon, it was the ‘deep state’ with its ‘wokenomics’ that put paid to her position. They loathed her ‘Trussonomics’, she says, particularly because of its tax cuts. And so they briefed against her until her rule became untenable. Here she goes again with her ‘deep-state delusions’, said the Institute for Government this week.

Far be it from me to go out to bat for Ms Truss, far less for ‘Trussonomics’, which was always thin and unconvincing. But the idea that she’s an Icke-like crank merely for mentioning an ‘establishment’ is clearly bunkum. You would think the wet left side of British politics would know this. These people have been churning out stuff for years about ‘the shady network’ that ‘broke our country’ and the ‘unaccountable network of people who wield massive power’ and the ‘shadowy global operation‘ behind Brexit. And yet if a right-winger so much as whispers the word ‘blob’, they’ll yell ‘conspiracy theorist!’. Pot, meet kettle.

What’s more, there’s far more truth to Truss’s story about a globalist revolt against her premiership than there is to the Guardian’s fever dreams about evil billionaires masterminding Brexit from their yachts. Sure, she sometimes overdoes the martyr act, as if she were St Sebastian to the deep state’s Roman archers. And I’m sure that for all its breathless Truss-bashing, the Institute for Government has a point when it says politicians sometimes try to cover up their own failings by insisting they were thwarted by the pesky machine.

And yet it is unquestionably the case that unaccountable actors, sometimes bundled together as ‘the markets’, helped to topple Truss. And we forget this at our peril. She became PM on 6 September 2022, following the ousting of Boris Johnson over the Chris Pincher scandal. She brought in a mini-budget that she promised would be radically free market. It wasn’t, not really, but nonetheless her promise to challenge ‘the Treasury view’, to face down ‘the orthodoxy’ of the economic experts, was enough to get the ancien regime plotting her downfall.

Their knife-wielding was swift and unforgiving. ‘The markets’ went batshit. Global investors in the UK were said to be ‘spooked’ by Truss’s plans. Soon there was a run on sterling. Then the International Monetary Fund issued Truss with what the Guardian called a ‘stunning public rebuke’. It warned of a ‘sustained confidence shock arising from market concerns’ if Truss went ahead with her ‘fiscal strategy’. It was an astonishing intervention into the democratic life of the United Kingdom by globalists based in Washington, DC. Or perhaps I’m also suffering from ‘deep-state delusions’?

Truss was pressured to sack her chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, and he was replaced by Jeremy Hunt. Why Hunt? Because he’s a bloodless technocrat who couldn’t spook a horse, never mind global investors. As James Forsyth, then at the Spectator, put it, Hunt was seen as far more likely to be ‘guided’ by ‘institutions of the state’ such as the Treasury, the Bank of England and the Debt Management Office. Shorter version: he’d obey the experts. Not long after, Truss herself stepped down. It was a coup in all but name: a supposedly trouble-making PM elbowed from power by the expert class and suits in DC none of us could name.

Those currently chuckling over Truss’s new book and her tales about ‘the blob’ should look back on some of the headlines from that little coup of 2022. Back then there was no doubt that her premiership was smashed by ‘the markets’. ‘How the markets broke “Trussonomics”’, said a headline in the FT. The BBC was even more explicit. Truss has suffered ‘humiliation’ at the hands of ‘the markets’, it said, with more than a hint of glee. ‘The markets’ have blown this government ‘off course’, trilled the Beeb. The media did their bit, too – their fretting over economic shocks and sterling collapse heaped further pressure on Truss to ditch her plans and eventually sling her hook. Economic cliques and media elites overturning a PM’s policies – are we allowed to say ‘blob’ yet?

What exactly is this mysterious force called ‘the markets’ that apparently decided Truss was unfit to lead? The BBC depicted it as almost a natural phenomenon: it is ‘impossible to locate, with no central neural function, and with a reputation for being skittish, herd-like, irrational and ethically challenged’, it said. This vision of ‘the markets’ as a kind of hurricane, blowing national leaders this way and that, obfuscates the truth of what was done to Truss. Namely, that people in positions of power made decisions and took action to force her premiership to retract its policies and obey economic diktat. It wasn’t a ‘herd’ – it was people. It isn’t ‘impossible to locate’ – they’re at 700 19th St in Washington, DC.

Too often, a term like ‘the markets’ serves only to mystify power relations. It denies the agency of economic policymakers by attributing everything to an alien-like entity with ‘no central neural function’. As Matt Stoller has argued in the American context, talk of ‘the markets’ can end up ‘remov[ing] agency over our institutions from the realm of man by denying they are in fact institutions’. The truth, says Stoller, is that markets don’t ‘actually say anything… policymakers do’. Indeed. It wasn’t ‘the markets’ that broke Trussonomics, as the Financial Times claimed – it was the decisions and actions and intrigue of actual human beings.

The phantasm of ‘the markets’ can make politics, and democracy itself, seem utterly pointless. Apparently, there is nothing mere nations can do to change economic course because before long that skittish, herd-like beast called ‘the markets’ will ride in and impose its edicts. Few shed any tears over Truss’s ousting by ‘the markets’. But we should all be alarmed by the idea that governments, and by extension we the people, must always bow to ‘the markets’ or risk being ‘humiliated’ by them, as the BBC said about Truss. It might only have been Trussonomics that was ‘humiliated’ in 2022, but in 2009 it was the people of Greece when, during the Eurozone crisis, ‘the markets’ decreed that they must swallow the Troika’s harsh economic medicine.

‘The markets’ is really a codeword for the ideological outlook of the tragic technocrats who dominate Western thinking today. The victory of ‘the markets’ over troublesome governments is in truth their victory over democracy. It’s time to bring economic decision-making back to ‘the realm of man’. We should no more live at the mercy of ‘the markets’ than we should live at the mercy of God or nature.

Brendan O’Neill is spiked’s chief political writer and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. His new book – A Heretic’s Manifesto: Essays on the Unsayable – is available to order on Amazon UK and Amazon US now. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Politics UK


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