Opinion

Tom Collins: No matter what the problem, Truss will never be the solution

Tom Collins

Tom Collins

Tom Collins is an Irish News columnist and former editor of the newspaper.

Tom Collins
Tom Collins Tom Collins

IF ever there were cause to stop and ponder Northern Ireland’s role in the UK it is now, with the elevation of Liz Truss to the office of prime minister in a pantomime that displayed why Britain is no longer fit to be regarded as a global player.

For a farcical spell on Tuesday, the UK reverted to being an absolute monarchy after Boris Johnson’s resignation as prime minister.

The Scottish weather played havoc with the choreography for the handover of power. And while Truss circled Aberdeen unable to land, power passed at that point to the frail Queen Elizabeth II at Balmoral.

In its statement after Johnson’s audience, the palace said he had tendered his resignation as prime minister “which her majesty was graciously pleased to accept”.

You can hear the dripping sarcasm. ‘Pleased’ indeed – he had lied to her in exactly the same way he had lied to the rest of us.

In normal times, it would be churlish not to give Truss the opportunity to prove herself. But these are not normal times, and sadly there is more than enough evidence to suggest that she will be as vacuous as her predecessor. 

She has been at the heart of government for most of the Conservative’s 12-year reign, and in each of the offices of state she has held, she has singularly failed to impress. 

As her Instagram posts demonstrate, she is as self-serving as her predecessor; and as for her politics, she has U-turned more often than Jeremy Clarkson on a skid-track (and with as much decorum).

One thing is certain, she will be a gift for satirists. Truss is living proof of the maxim that it is better to sit quietly and look stupid, than open your mouth and prove it.

She doesn’t know if the French are friends or foes; was unable to identify a possum after criticising schools for not teaching children the names of animals, and she praised the introduction of dogs in prisons whose barking ‘deters drones’.

The Irish ‘tea sock’, as she described the taoiseach on national television, was publicly optimistic about the opportunity to reset relations with a new PM. 

Privately, he must be apoplectic at her election – as anyone with hope for a positive future for these islands will be.

At least she hasn’t been stupid enough to appoint Suella Braverman home secretary, cigar-smoking Thérèse Coffey to health, and climate change denier Jacob Rees Mogg to energy… what? She has?

The new Northern Ireland secretary does not excite confidence either. Yes, he has form, don’t they all.

As for Steve Baker, I am lost for words.

If I were a conspiracy theorist, I would suppose that she has appointed this cabinet to make Johnson’s bunch of numpties (a great Ulster Scots word if ever there was one) look good.

So there you have it, all the ingredients for a Westminster farce: A Ruritanian constitution; a corrupt and disgraced prime minister; a successor chosen by an electorate less representative of the British public than the islanders on Rathlin; and a political leader who cannot even pronounce the title of her nearest neighbour.

Why, one asks, are we allowing ourselves to be played along by this pack of jokers? 

There is nothing about the present constitutional arrangements in these islands that works for the readers of this, or any other paper, in this part of Ireland. 

Unionists need to read the room. India overtook the UK as an economic superpower last week. The UK’s economy is crippled; many are already below the poverty line, many more are facing an uncertain future; the beaches are awash with sewage; polio is making a comeback; people are dying because there are no ambulances for them; levels of educational attainment are in freefall. I won’t go on.

Yes, there are global pressures, but many of the UK’s problems are self-inflicted. 

This is not a government of all the talents. A stronger union is the answer to our problems, but an Irish one. Then we can start taking decisions for ourselves, and for the better.

In the months and years ahead, remember this: no matter what the problem is, Truss will never be the solution.