A Former Prime Minister Reveals Why the UK’s Blob Must be Destroyed 

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Liz Truss, compelled to resign after just 44 days, is here pictured as newly elected Prime Minister. 2022.

In 2023, the British Conservative Party decided to oust its leader, Boris Johnson, who had led them to a resounding electoral victory in 2019, over a slice of cake. He was succeeded by his Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss. I was delighted by this appointment; while Boris had been an excellent electoral leader, he didn’t have the grasp of the importance of free market economics that Mrs. Truss did. Yet fewer than fifty days later, the same forces that did for Boris did for her as well. The consequence, we will see soon, is likely electoral oblivion for the Conservative Party. 

In her book Ten Years to Save the West (Regnery), Mrs. Truss ably sets out just what has gone wrong for Britain and its most successful political party. She does so by explaining the difficulties she encountered at every stage in her Ministerial career, both from within the party and among the civil service advisers who were supposed to be working for her. 

In the education department, her attempts at small reforms around childcare were opposed at every step by what her then-boss, Michael Gove, called “the blob.” (Mr. Gove does not come out of this book without criticism, it has to be said.) The blob consists of a variety of civil service officials, charitable sector workers, journalists, and members of QUANGOs (“quasi-autonomous non-governmental organizations”) who represent the institutional status quo. The book demonstrates that there are blobs for each area of government policy, perhaps all sub-blobs of one enormous plasmid that represents the latest form of the famous British establishment

At the education department, the environment department, and the Ministry of Justice, it became apparent that little could get done without the appropriate blob’s consent. As she says towards the end of her book, the victories she did achieve over her career were tiny in proportion to the amount of effort needed. 

It is worth noting, as Truss does on several occasions, that the blob is a relatively recent invention. When I worked in the British civil service in the 1990s, it was seen as a matter of principle that the civil servant did the Minister’s bidding without fear or favor, even if the Minister chose to reject the servant’s advice (the clue is in the name). Yet during the Blair/Brown governments the civil service became politicized and — more importantly — vast powers were given to QUANGOs in the name of depoliticizing an issue. Thus, monetary policy was given over to the Bank of England and the naming of judges was entrusted to the Judicial Appointments Commission. At the same time, the charitable sector became more and more dependent on government grants. So did the blob feed and grow. 

Mrs. Truss’ chief lament is that the successive Conservative governments of David Cameron, Theresa May, and Boris Johnson himself did nothing to dismantle this new constitutional arrangement. Indeed, one of Cameron’s first acts was one of spectacular unilateral disarmament, by effectively giving over control of fiscal policy to a QUANGO called the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR.) With each such act, democratic accountability was removed from the process. 

Parallel to this lack of accountability, however, grew a bizarre reverence for the role of these institutions among the supposed watchmen of democracy, the press. The BBC and other media organs treat the pronouncements of the QUANGOs as if they handed down from the mountain, while the objections of conservative politicians (at least the few who still resist the blobs) are treated as venal and self-serving, despite them being the elected representatives of the people. 

It was this combination of forces that took down Liz Truss so quickly, despite her holding the highest office in the land. Interests at the Treasury, Bank of England, and OBR made a series of missteps following the Federal Reserve’s actions to raise interest rates following the post-COVID inflation that it had helped create and proceeded to blame the results on the Prime Minister’s modestly tax-cutting mini-budget, engaging in the recent British habit of briefing the press by leaks of memos and the like.  

Those missteps had led to a crisis in a financial instrument known as liability-driven investments (LDIs), which were basically a bet on low interest rates continuing. Officials at the Treasury were ignorant of the importance of LDIs to the British pensions industry, which led to a financial crisis. This establishment action was presented to the British public as the reaction of “the markets” to the mini-budget and led to the political crisis that brought down the Truss Ministry. Of course, it was nothing of the sort. 

The OBR comes in for particular criticism. Its forecasts are always presented to the British public as if one hundred percent accurate. Yet, as Mrs. Truss shows, they are always wrong. The economic blob is, she rightly states, deeply Keynesian in its approach. A dose of Hayek is needed. 

In American terms, it was the “deep state” that won. Yet, that administrative state is far more powerful in Britain than it is over here. It’s the reason so little works in Britain anymore, and the complete failure to do anything about it by Rishi Sunak, Mrs. Truss’ successor, is the underlying reason why his party is facing electoral oblivion. Yet, in its anger at the Conservatives, the British public looks likely to give the Labour Party, the party that created this monstrosity in the first place, a thumping majority. As the establishment figures in Britain’s satirical magazine Private Eye say, referring to a celebratory round of drinks, “Trebles all round!” 

The American edition of her memoir is therefore a warning Liz Truss extends to Americans — don’t let the administrative state get out of control and do your level best to reduce the powers it already has. She also warns against trying to use its power for “conservative ends” — the administrative state is deeply anti-conservative and will corrupt any who try to do so. 

While this is the main message of her book, there are other warnings embedded throughout. One that particularly appealed to me was her condemnation of the international environmental blob, and the way it has led the West to deindustrialize and thereby strengthen China. Indeed, perhaps the best idea she has is that free nations (specifically including Japan, a country for which she has a great deal of admiration) should form an “Economic NATO,” based on the power of free enterprise and free trade, to counter the power of China. Sadly, neither party’s dominant trade paradigm seems open to that idea, although I suspect it is the sort of thing that might paradoxically appeal to Donald Trump, should he win a second term. 

Another message relates to the more traditional NATO. Her warnings about the ambition and ruthlessness of Vladimir Putin’s Russia are stark. She leaves the reader without any doubt that the West must continue to support Ukraine against Russian aggression or face dire consequences. While this message might be unwelcome to America’s modern isolationists, it is a message that deserves a hearing. 

In her final chapter, Mrs. Truss outlines six lessons from her career. Her first is that Conservatives must be conservative. A friend with insider knowledge recently described the British parliamentary Conservative party as being made up of one-third Blairites, one-third careerists, and only one-third genuine conservatives. Thanks to the power of candidate selection, exercised most aggressively by David Cameron and Rishi Sunak, it is likely that the genuine conservatives will not survive the electoral decimation that is coming their way. Those hoping for a conservative revival in Britain may have to look elsewhere than the Conservative Party. 

The other lessons are: 2), Dismantle the leftist state (one might add, while you still have time); and 3) restore democratic accountability. These two lessons are, as I have explained, the core of the book. One can see the third lesson reflected here in various legal efforts to corral American agencies, such as questioning the constitutionality of independent agencies. The second lesson, however, will take Congressional action, most importantly in cutting off the funding that is powering the American version of the blob. This leads to her fourth lesson: Conservatism must win across the free world, particularly in the United States of America. Given the way European and British elections are going, that particularly carries a lot of weight. 

Her final lessons are that we must reassert the nation state, given the role transnational progressivism plays in both destroying democratic accountability and empowering international versions of the blob, and rejecting the appeasement of the unfree powers, particularly Russia, China, and Iran. 

If the image you have of Liz Truss is of a hapless figure, perhaps promoted beyond her capability, I urge you to read this book. You will see instead that she is a strong conservative, betrayed by her allies, just like her predecessor, to an unrelenting progressive establishment. It is that establishment that needs to be destroyed.