Browse through social media and you will find plenty of references to the “stupidity” of our about to be new Prime Minister Mary Elizabeth Truss. I disagree. She is a well educated woman who, just out of Oxford with a decent Degree, joined Shell as a Graduate entrant , and Shell doesn’t often recruit “stupid” people !
Individuals’ intelligence doesn’t increase over time much, but how we learn to apply it does. We become more effective ( there are exceptions !) Successfully applied intelligence is when a smart person learns (knowledge) and then adds value to this by applying their intelligence.
So decision-making, at its best, is when bright and knowledgeable people apply their knowledge and brains to a problem and come up with a good solution. Often (but not always) this is done with others – the “Two heads are better than one” syndrome.
Let’s return to Ms Truss. Accept for a minute that she’s academically bright. Accept also that she has twelve years experience as an MP and ten as a Minister during which you would have thought she will have acquired a broad knowledge of issues. And she’s only 47 – an ideal age you might think. So what’s the problem?
Here we need to go back to David Cameron who became Prime Minister at the age of 43 and who had a rather better Oxford degree than Truss. The problem with “Dave” was that he was completely remote from the real world. Eton, Oxford and a couple of handy sinecure jobs before becoming an MP. He had intelligence but had never applied it. In short he had no social intelligence. Much the same applies to Boris Johnson who though he was a good (if somewhat dilettante) journalist and writer had also never acquired social intelligence
Liz Truss comes from a much more middle class mould than Cameron or Johnson, she is not a Toff. But like them she has never really done a job of substance outside politics. A job in which engagement with ordinary people is required. When she speaks Truss sounds like an alien from another planet. To paraphrase CLR James “What know they of politics who only politics know ?”
Truss’s record as a Minister is patchy at best. In February this year the Financial Times said: “Her keynote speech on foreign policy last year, in which she talked of rebuilding the “muscle” of “Global Britain”, was described by one former UK ambassador as “the biggest load of drivel I’ve ever heard”. Her early ministerial career was a flop and, until recently, her national profile has been relatively low.”
Circumstances too bizarre to contemplate have given us Elizabeth Truss as Prime Minister, arguably the most “accidental” PM since Alec Douglas-Home in 1963. She is a political nerd who from time to time spouts “drivel” . The disgrace of imported cheese and Pork Markets for example.
Truss in “Nerd” mode is comfortable with the shallow ideology of the Right but there is little or no depth in what she says, and certainly no pragmatic and thought-through proposals. She will soon find out that leadership is about more than using trigger words or references to Margaret Thatcher to get applause.
So we have replaced a buffoon in Number 10 with a nerd. Someone who from time to time engagingly made us laugh with someone who will send us to sleep or drive us to drink. She’s not likely to be a PM who fails because she lacks academic intelligence but one who fails because she isn’t the full deal. She’s not Thatcher, Major or Blair. We’ll soon find out what she is though. The auguries are not promising.