Oh baby, we’re back. After a seismic few weeks away from the House of Commons, Liz Truss completes her transition from backing vocalist to lead singer, launching her eponymous debut album, Trussenomics, on the nation’s biggest stage.
This was a solid display out of the blocks, given Liz Truss is not the most naturally-gifted performer. Hers is not a voice made for singing. Her on-stage persona lacks either the charisma of her predecessor Boris, or the slickness of the likes of David Cameron and Tony Blair, while the jury remains out over her new, intensely loyal, backing band.
But today Truss was composed, growing into the performance the longer it went on, if still failing to provide a convincing argument that there’s any substance behind her controversial song; her song, one so many experts deem to be a fairy-tale while she continues to defend its veracity. It is this debate that will ultimately define Liz Truss’ tenure as the frontwoman of Britain.
Today was just about first impressions, however. Unsurprisingly, she opened with ‘Honoured To Be Here’. Reverence for the House of Commons and the office of the Prime Minister is a stark contrast to the bombast of Boris, and restraint defined Truss’ delivery in comparison.
Campaign classics such as ‘Determined to Deliver’ and ‘[Get Up] Stand Up To Russian Aggression’ soon followed, a few early nerves ensuring they sounded as hollow as ever, while the pair of warm up acts – one red, one blue – were largely forgettable.
The battle of Truss vs. Starmer was coming and that’s what the crowd were here to see.
When it arrived, it was a little underwhelming truth be told. I suppose both sides will leave feeling they were successful, but this was foreplay – the first round of a 12 round bout – neither Truss nor Starmer searching for a knockout blow.
That’s not to say it lacked bite altogether. Today’s showdown was dictated by policy in a way a Johnson-led dance never could be, but still some one liners stung: Truss’ inability to persuasively respond to Starmer’s exasperated tune ‘Who’s Going to Pay?’ was the main hit for Labour, however the new PM’s improvised track ‘Labour Doesn’t Understand Aspiration’ also landed well.
These tracks proved that with Truss now at the helm of the Tory ensemble, the nation’s two leading bands are back in a predominantly ideological divide. Their musical output will be dictated by topics over taxation and the Magic Money Tree; personal jibes, Brexit and Covid primarily referred to as causes for the present, as opposed to debates unto themselves.
Why is it that all three female prime ministers have been Conservative? asks former PM Theresa May
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) September 7, 2022
Anyhow, once Starmer’s song was sung, today’s concert seemed to rather meander towards its conclusion. Truss grew in confidence, praise heaped on her by raucous Conservative MPs (many of whom may already have their no confidence letters drafted), and Theresa May’s guest feature was appreciated by a sitting PM for the first time since May herself left office. (Incidentally, the question of female leadership is not going anywhere for Labour; in what is likely the most right-wing cabinet in recent British history, the UK’s major offices of state are all occupied by non-white men and the home secretary, deputy PM and PM are all women – neither of those have happened before.) Opposition accusations about Truss’ involvement in the current predicament – what with a dozen years in government and all – were not enough to rock her.
Those accusations will only ramp up now she’s in the top job, though, and be levelled at her week round – not just on the Commons stage.
For Truss can continue to belt out tracks such as ‘People Want to Keep Their Own Money’ and ‘I’m on the Side of the Public’ for the next couple of weeks, but taking the top job when she has means she’s going to have to be much more than an adequate singer.