Liz Truss needs nerves of steel to end the new winter of discontent

WHEN Margaret Thatcher first stormed into Downing Street, there were as many boos as cheers from the crowd.

The year is 1979 and Britain is in a sorry state.

As a PM, Liz Truss must not accept nonsense from anyone


As a PM, Liz Truss must not accept nonsense from anyonePhoto credit: Getty

Inflation was skyrocketing, unemployment was sky-high and union strikes had plunged the nation into a ‘winter of discontent’.

No wonder the new Prime Minister felt she needed God on her side – quoting the 13th-century mystic Francis of Assisi from the steps of No. 10.

Dubbed Britain’s ‘new Iron Lady’, the less religious Liz Truss is also expecting mixed reactions from viewers when she inherits the crown from Boris Johnson in two weeks time.

After 12 long years in power, the Conservatives are exhausted and despised by many voters – and Truss is poised to inherit a spectacular mess.


Granted, it’s not quite as bad today as it was in 1979.

Unemployment was a much greater scourge then, and Thatcher’s historic showdowns with the miners and printers permanently weakened the unions.

In addition, Thatcher Truss paved the way, showing that tax cuts lead to higher growth.

But the parallels between the state of the nation and the turmoil Thatcher inherited from Labour’s Jim Callaghan are almost uncanny.

Then, as now, inflation was out of control, standing at 13.4 percent versus 10.1 percent today.

By 1980 it had risen to 20 percent – only slightly worse than economists at Citigroup think Britain might soon face.

Then as now, the share of public spending in GDP had risen to 44 percent.

Then, as now, there was an energy crisis after the fall of the Shah of Iran.

The Iranian revolution sent oil prices skyrocketing from $13 a barrel in mid-1979 to $34 a barrel in the mid-1980s.

Margaret Thatcher inherited a total mess when she became Prime Minister in 1979


Margaret Thatcher inherited a total mess when she became Prime Minister in 1979Photo Credit: Hulton Archives – Getty
The Iron Lady had to cope with rising inflation and striking workers


The Iron Lady had to cope with rising inflation and striking workersPhoto Credit: Hulton Archives – Getty

Fast forward to 2022, and almost every home and business is being rocked by rising energy costs.

A poor woman in Scotland was recently quoted nearly £17,000 a year for electricity in her modest home – prompting her to tweet that it was a rural three-bed bungalow, not a cannabis farm.

It would be funny if it wasn’t so serious.

Worst of all for Truss is that she has just 24 months to turn things around before Britain goes to the polls.

This terrifying time frame means there is not a minute to lose.

She must push through urgent reforms across all major Whitehall departments, as well as the police and NHS.

Like Thatcher, she must not accept nonsense from anyone.

In Kwasi Kwarteng she will have at least one fiercely loyal Chancellor who fervently believes in the subordination of No. 11 to No. 10.

Better yet, she has a very clear plan. It’s not just about tax cuts, although that’s at the heart of their agenda.

It’s not just about managing the energy crisis, either, although she’ll be happy to see the unexpected tax on energy companies scrapped, which she and Kwarteng have always been vehemently opposed to.

Intriguingly, Truss wants to do something far more profound — and difficult — than address these immediate policy challenges.

She wants to free her administration from the shackles of a civil service populated at the top with relics of the New Labor era.

Unable to overcome their aversion to Brexit, these people shy away from pursuing wealth accumulation.

They are still struggling to realize – or even accept – that a rising tide lifts all boats.

Truss is determined to transform this stultifying operating environment.

With the economic challenges ahead, such a cultural shift will be most important at the Treasury.

Gordon Brown may have left in 2010, but his ghost still haunts the corridors of power.

His legacy was an overbearing and intrusive machine conspiring to thwart everything from manifesto commitments to daily ministerial directives.

Team Truss blames this sprawling sleeper cell of left-leaning meddlers for obstructing Brexit and preventing Conservatives from being truly Conservative.

The regime change will come as a shock to Her Majesty’s treasury.

There have been few challenges to Rishi Sunak’s treasury orthodoxy.

Having only entered Parliament in 2015 and Cabinet in 2019, he was inexperienced and malleable.

Deferential by nature, he was neither inclined nor prepared to contend with such a powerful institution.

In contrast, Truss is a fearless insurgent who has already held high office in the state.

The bell will ring for any mandarins not on board.

After a series of meetings with PM’s leader over the past week, these faceless figures can already feel the chilling winds of change.

Households and businesses across the UK will be rocked by rising energy prices in 2022


Households and businesses across the UK will be rocked by rising energy prices in 2022Photo credit: Getty


In recent days, Boris Johnson has privately worried that Sunak could claim a shock victory in the leadership contest.

The outgoing prime minister is still fuming over what he sees as a betrayal by his former chancellor and is haunted by the idea that somehow he could win.

Barring one extraordinary surprise, however, that’s not going to happen.

About 80 per cent of Tory party members have already cast their vote and Whitehall is now actively preparing for a Truss government.

When Thatcher first entered Number 10 on May 4, 1979, she stated that she was “very excited”.

When Britain went to the polls again in 1983, it had won the Falklands War and deserved another term.

Truss cannot hope to defeat President Putin to cement her place in history.

Nevertheless, she is just as enthusiastic as her predecessor about the task ahead.

Even among close friends, she shows no trace of nervousness.

That’s a good thing, because they have to be made from the finest, strongest British steel.

Rail strikes throughout the year have added to Britain's problems that Truss needs to solve


Rail strikes throughout the year have added to Britain’s problems that Truss needs to solveCredit: EPA Liz Truss needs nerves of steel to end the new winter of discontent


DevanCole is a Dailynationtoday U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. DevanCole joined Dailynationtoday in 2021 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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