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'A title in search of a book' – Tim Loughton reviews: 'Ten Years to Save the West'

Image by: Justin Ng / Alamy Stock Photo

4 min read

Liz Truss has delivered a litany of blatant self-justification and blame, followed by a cursory examination of the threats we actually face

I left government in 2012 on the same day that Liz Truss first came charging into it, and to the same department, Education. So this book makes for an interesting exposé of what happened next, at least in the world according to Liz Truss – or “my truth”, as she terms it on page 26.

But what becomes clear from the get-go, when the reader alights on the contents page, is that Ten Years to Save the West is a title in search of a book, and this isn’t it. 

We hear instead an endless litany of all the domestic battles she waged behind the many ministerial desks she occupied; against the Treasury mandarins and the Bank of England establishment; against the unidentified anti-growth coalition about which we heard so much after she was ousted; the legions of bureaucrats out to thwart her at every turn.

She unconvincingly embraces the Wodehousian “boosterism” language so beloved of her predecessor with her sharpest barb saved for the hierarchy who focused on “the wrong priorities, notably a messianic zeal for net-zero and handwringing do-goodism”. 

The irony of her references to the biblical-scale flooding that she had to deal with as environment secretary whilst pouring scorn on anyone daring to endorse climate change is not wasted.

The purpose of the book is really an attempted antidote to the earlier tomes brazenly fast out of the traps and particularly Harry Cole and James Heale’s unmissable romp Out of the Blue, described by Laura Kuenssberg as putting you “in the passenger seat of the fastest car crash in recent political history”. Truss’ former ministerial colleague Rory Stewart didn’t pull any punches about his former boss in last year’s eminently readable Politics on the Edge either.

She accepts that communications around the mini-Budget were “not as good as they could have been”. No sh*t, Sherlock!

In contrast I am not sure the odd fellows quoted at the front of Ten Years, including Ted Cruz, Garry Kasparov and Boris Johnson, were the most mainstream endorsements to seek!

So sadly much of the book comes across as a rage against the various establishment groupings that were out to bring her down and make her the victim she portrays herself as.

Shamelessly brandishing her elevated position with the ultimate name drop on page one – “I had an appointment with Her Majesty the Queen” – even the late monarch inconsiderately dying on her watch entrenches her victim status: “Why me, why now?”

Yet her mea culpa extends only as far as an admission that even her best friends wouldn’t describe her “as a great people manager” – a job she clearly thought could be delegated to her equally ill-prepared deputy Thérèse Coffey given her legendary skills at hosting karaoke nights for the Parliamentary Party. 

As regards her biggest discombobulation, she accepts that communications around the mini-Budget were “not as good as they could have been”. No sh*t, Sherlock!

Ten YearsThroughout the chapters we are tantalised with the prospects of a more authoritative treatise about what exactly we have to do to save the West. References to the threats from China and Iran appear out of nowhere, but a few paragraphs later we are back to domestic wokery, gropey ministers and fleas in the No 11 flat. Which is a shame because on dealing with those two countries in particular the author can claim genuinely to have struck a blow for a different course and her record as a serial trade deal negotiator is a meaningful legacy she has left.

In truth it is only the 17 pages of the last chapter, helpfully named after the book, that bear any great relevance to the title itself. The previous 284 are a chronologically confusing warm-up act of pretty blatant self-justification, irrepressible use of hindsight and bouts of unlikely tears. I am not sure I have been “warmed up” enough to wait for a sequel that does genuinely deal with the important topic, if one is being contemplated by the publisher. 

Tim Loughton is Conservative MP for East Worthing and Shoreham

Ten Years to Save the West: Lessons From The Only Conservative In The Room
By: Liz Truss
Publisher: Biteback

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