The English debacle, a lesson for us


Having lived in England for a long time, I have never ceased to be interested in what is happening in this fascinating country with its history, traditions and culture. “If you’re tired of London, you’re tired of life,” said Samuel Johnson three centuries ago – and his joke is still relevant today. I therefore followed day by day, on the BBC, the psychodrama which led Liz Truss to resign after only 44 days as Prime Minister.

Let’s summarize. Affected by several scandals, the indescribable Boris Johnson resigns on July 7th. A struggle begins within the Conservative Party to replace him. The Tories have the choice between the improbable Liz Truss, who promises them to be the reincarnation of Margaret Thatcher, and Rishi Sunak, the former finance minister. (The official title is “Chancellor of the Exchequer” because in the Middle Ages a table in the shape of a chessboard was used there to calculate taxes and duties. This attachment to the oldest customs and denominations makes the charm of the English.) Liz Truss promised the moon, Sunak refused to make rash promises. The party chooses the moon…sorry, Truss.

Lesson 1. Between demagoguery and seriousness, always choose demagoguery – if you want to ruin your country.

In power, Liz Truss concocted a plan so stupid that the most useless of my students, when I was teaching macroeconomics, would have had no trouble proving its futility. Taxes are lowered for the richest and public spending is increased, which immediately digs a hole in the state budget.

How are we going to fill this hole? Truss doesn’t say. The financial markets deduced that the country was going to go into even more debt, which was going to devalue its currency. Nobody wanted the pound sterling any more, abroad: very logically, its course collapsed. To try to put it back on the water, the Bank of England intervened massively. Among other measures, it increased its interest rates (to make the pound attractive) which automatically increased the cost of loans granted to households, in particular mortgages. Despair of households who could no longer pay their drafts, collapse of the real estate market, chaos…

Lesson 2. Between incompetence and professionalism, always choose incompetence – if you want to ruin your country.

Faced with disaster, Liz Truss renounced her disastrous “plan”. To save her skin, she fired her Chancellor of the Exchequer, Kwasi Kwarteng. That is to say, instead of assuming her mistake, she discarded it on Kwarteng when everyone knew that they had concocted the government program together. They were also the best friends in the world – let’s bet they are not anymore.

Lesson 3. Between the sense of responsibility and the it’s-not-me-it’s-him, always choose the it’s-not-me-it’s-him – if you want to ruin your country.

Shameless, the Conservatives got rid of Liz Truss and put Sunak in her place. They also almost took Boris Johnson back, which would have been a big joke since he is still the subject of several investigations. Shame. The Tories deprived us of another, even more instructive lesson.

Lesson 4. Between a clown and a respectable man, always choose the clown – if you want to ruin your country.

NB: Any resemblance with certain politicians of our beautiful country would be purely coincidental.

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The English debacle, a lesson for us

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