Truss’s damage will take a long time to repair - Lorna Slater

Just 44 days was all it took, but in that time Liz Truss did damage that will be with us for years to come.
Lorna Slater is the minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity. Picture: PALorna Slater is the minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity. Picture: PA
Lorna Slater is the minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity. Picture: PA

Her impact will be felt every time we pay more in shops, and by everyone who has seen their mortgage rates soaring.

Now, after a disastrous six weeks, it looks like she will be replaced by the man who she saw off in her leadership campaign.

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Rishi Sunak and his supporters are painting him as a safe, moderate and reliable pair of hands. He is unlikely to inflict the kind of wild and radical economic experiment that Liz Truss did in her disastrous mini-budget. But that doesn't mean that he is offering the positive change that we need.

Although he eventually withdrew his support for Boris Johnson when partygate and the other scandals became too much, he stood right by him throughout almost all of the terrible decisions that characterised his Premiership.

That included Brexit, which Sunak supported and helped to deliver. The deal that he and Johnson worked on has cost jobs, increased prices, removed the rights to travel freely and ensured a harsher environment for people moving here.

When it comes to the single biggest issue we face, climate change, he has shown the same environmental disregard as Liz Truss.

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He used his leadership campaign to call for another round of new oil and gas licences for the North Sea and has supported fracking.

When energy bills were increasing across the country, his approach was one of inaction. By the time he left the Treasury, Sunak had introduced some of the lowest support measures out of any comparable European economy.

He eventually introduced what was presented as a windfall tax on fossil fuel giants. But even that left a lot to be desired.

The tax level itself was far too low, particularly when contrasted with the eye watering profits that were being published. But, beyond that, it offered a discount incentive to companies that increased oil and gas drilling.

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The same disregard for consequences was apparent in his approach to benefits. During the COVID pandemic he chose to cut Universal Credit by £1000 a year, a move that the Joseph Rowntree Foundation showed would plunge 200,000 people into poverty.

A telling point will be who he appoints as his Chancellor. Jeremy Hunt has already made clear that his continued tenure will mean more cuts, telling the BBC that "nothing will be off the table" when it comes to budgets.

It will be the most vulnerable who pay the price.

In August the New Statesman obtained a video of Sunak telling an audience of Tory supporters in Tunbridge Wells that, as Chancellor, he had inherited funding formulas that "shoved all the funding into deprived urban areas" and that he had "started the work of undoing that."

Is this really the future that we want?

For those of us in Scotland, this will be the fifth Tory Prime Minister in 12 years that we didn't vote for and can't remove.

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Whether it is David Cameron, Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak, the problem is not just the individuals, it is the system that allows their misrule to continue without any kind of mandate.

Lorna Slater is a Lothian Green MSP and Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity