After her brief and disastrous stint as prime minister, it was assumed Liz Truss’s political career was over. For Matt Hancock, bathing in maggots, the matter is beyond doubt. But after a few days’ hiding from the glare of humiliation, Truss found her second wind. After all, it wasn’t her £30 billion she had lost.
During a prime minister’s questions before being forced out, she announced (bizarrely quoting Tory hate figure Peter Mandelson): “I am a fighter, not a quitter!’ So after her defenestration, she began to regain her confidence. She let it be known that she was looking to bounce back.
Voters being taken for a ride again
Only last weekend, our very own Mr Pecksniff in his Diary was sceptical about her chances but didn’t doubt either her ego or her self-delusion:
“We are told that, having blown £30 billion of our money on a three-day vanity project, Liz Truss has decided to reinvent herself as a caring constituency MP. The shine will be taken off the plan for her voters, however, with the knowledge that once again they are being taken for a ride. Ms Truss has had 12 years to establish herself with her constituency, but has instead treated their problems with brutal indifference. Any pretence at this stage would only confirm that they have been allotted a new role as grateful peasants in the new grand project to Make Liz Truss Great Again.”
With immaculate timing, immediately after the diary was written but before publication, EAB received a press release from King’s Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital. It included a quote from Liz Truss.
“I was very glad to visit QEH once again and to show my support for a much-needed new hospital,” Truss declares. “My fellow local MPs and I are of one mind that the situation at QEH is very serious and urgent action must be taken…”
Shameless attempt to ingratiate herself
Truss does not lack chutzpah. “Urgent action must be taken” indeed. She has been an MP for 12 years and this is her voters’ local hospital. She has had the power to take that action, but she has done nothing.
The release was accompanied by pictures of Truss being shown round the hospital. The quote from QEH’s acting chief executive Alice Webster seemed terse. It began: “We were delighted to welcome Ms Truss to QEH once again. She is well-versed in the challenges we face.”
“Well versed” meaning we have been complaining till we’re blue in the face. The hospital’s chair, Chris Lawrence, was more diplomatic: “Ms Truss has been a stalwart friend and supporter of the Trust and we appreciate the time she spent with us today.”
Truss has ignored the hospital for 12 years
What the release fails to mention is that the hospital visit, so swiftly arranged to support the Truss renaissance, is her first for at least 16 months. While the state of the building has often featured in the national news, Truss has been bombarded with requests for help – as local MP and also a member of the cabinet, then of course as prime minister. She has ignored them all, and she has never spoken about the hospital in the Commons.
Truss has always had her eyes on the big prize, and she maintained her position in cabinet over eight years by not rocking the boat. She was always supportive of whoever was PM, and never caused trouble by sticking up for her own voters against a lacklustre government. So having her in cabinet was almost a guarantee to hospital supporters that she would do nothing.
Jo Rust is the independent borough councillor for the Springwood ward in Kings Lynn where the hospital is sited, and she is also lead organizer of the ‘Save the QEH’ campaign.
Decision promised, but running out of time
“Truss hasn’t responded to any tweets and that was before she was PM,” she says. “It was this time last year that campaigners presented North West Norfolk MP, James Wild, with hundreds of letters asking to be on the shortlist for a new hospital.” Did it ever reach Truss? Should it even need to?
“Despite being given date after date for an announcement, none has yet to come,” Rust goes on. “This year we’re being told that the decision will be made ‘Later in the year’, but as we head into December there’s not much of the year to go.” Will the voters of South West Norfolk see through the shameless attempt by their MP to reinvent herself? The one thing we can be sure of is that any decision in the hospital’s favour will be claimed by her. But then, she will have to fight for the spoils with every other local MP who has done nothing either.