Does Liz Truss have what it takes to be a good leader? Her income tax U-turn betrays lack of judgment in more ways than one – Scotsman comment

Good leadership can seem simple: stride off in the right direction and people will follow.

It is, however, more complicated. A good leader must recognise the limits of their power while remaining in constant contact with their followers, gauging their mood, their opinions.

For ten days, Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng marched confidently towards their misguided vision of sunlit uplands, refusing to accept their plan for unfunded tax cuts for the rich was causing chaos in the financial markets and widespread public horror.

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And, while welcome, yesterday’s U-turn on scrapping the 45p income tax rate betrayed another significant misjudgment – they had not even realised the depths of opposition to their plans among just 358 Conservative MPs.

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For all Kwarteng tried to insist the decision was taken based on wider soundings, it was the realisation they were facing a major rebellion by Tory MPs which was the decisive factor. That lack of awareness should ring alarm bells.

When Boris Johnson first announced the Covid lockdown, requiring the nation to stay at home apart from a solitary hour of outdoor exercise a day, he had to make a decision about what restrictions the public would tolerate and, in doing so, he relied heavily on the public’s respect of and trust in the UK Government. This was, of course, before the revelations about parties in Downing Street, accompanied by repeated lies, damaged that trust so badly.

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As the cost-of-living crisis deepens over winter, Truss’s leadership abilities will be put to the test.

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Does Liz Truss have what it takes to be Prime Minister? (Picture: Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images)

According to energy regulator Ofgem, there is a “significant risk” of gas shortages leading to a “gas supply emergency” because of Russia’s war on Ukraine.

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During the Conservative leadership campaign, Truss was asked about the prospect of energy rationing to deal with shortages. “I do rule that out,” she said, prompting some ridicule because she does not control the supply or demand for gas, and rationing is better than allowing it to suddenly and haphazardly run out.

A leader so obsessed with their own power and opinions that they are blind to such obvious realities and the views of others is unlikely to command the level of trust and respect required to deal with any national crisis.

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Just when we need our leadership to be sure-footed, Truss’s missteps are a deeply worrying sign.

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