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    9 Important Questions After Liz Truss's Utterly Bananas Speech About Free Markets

    Of Gremlins, freedom fighters, and memes.

    Hello and here is the treasury minister Liz Truss. Prior to today you might have known her best for getting angry about importing cheese or becoming a GIF about pork markets.


    But today she's making a lot of headlines on the back of a speech she gave at the London School of Economics on Tuesday night. It generated a lot of questions, and here they are in full.

    1. Has Liz Truss even seen Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri?

    Fox Searchlight

    In her speech, Truss said: "A guy in my constituency, who brought in £10,000 a year to Mundford Football Club by setting up advertising hoardings around the ground, had to take them down, after one person complained to the council.

    If Frances McDormand can put up three billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri, why can’t we do the same in King’s Lynn, Norfolk?"

    In Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Frances McDormand's character pays for new advertising on a set of existing boards, which does not contravene any regulations. The fact that it does not is, to some extent, essential to the film's plot.

    Despite this, her actions result in a number of acts of extreme violence and arson. The perfect film about the need for effective billboard regulation doesn't exist, but if it did, it would be Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

    2. What is "a nation of Airbnb-ing, Deliveroo-eating, Uber-riding freedom fighters"?

    Thanks to @trussliz for joining us for a great discussion tonight - hope you like @rcolvile’s gift! Great example of our dynamic modern economy in action - under an hour from bad joke to finished T-shirt 💪👏 #uber-riding #Airbnb-ing #Deliverooeating #Freedomfighter

    In her speech, Truss followed up the latest use of her somewhat well-worn phrase to describe young people by quoting the British economist Lionel Robbins: “Every day, thousands of people cast their votes for the hundreds of products and services on offer, and from the competition to win votes, better and better products and services arise.”

    Her phrase literally describes consumers in a free market: a very limited type of freedom. There is little attempt to acknowledge that her vision of a society of perpetual consumers could itself be seen as advocating a form of totalitarianism, distracting us into giving up basic human rights by mollifying us with a daily cycle of mindless spending.

    Nowhere are the risks made clearer than in the case of the three gig economy companies she cites. As the 2016 Taylor Review into modern working practices recognised, workplace flexibility has contributed to record-high employment, but the report also recommended that workers for such firms be classified as dependent contractors, with all the benefits that entails.

    The review came after a number of gig economy horror stories had been reported by the media. BuzzFeed UK's reporting found serious allegations of workers being exploited – in one case allegedly being pressured while caring for sick relatives – and a lack of oversight for the whole sector. But some would say that's just the price of sweet, sweet freedom.

    3. Has Liz Truss even seen Gremlins?

    In her speech, Truss said: "Those familiar with the 1984 film Gremlins will recall how the cute Gizmo, when fed after midnight, turned into a slime-soaked baddie, Stripe.

    "In much the same way, there’s a tendency for governments and bureaucracy to multiply and exert further control. And before you know it gremlins are everywhere.

    "There is a temptation to feed these creatures after midnight."

    This is all over the place.

    Just so we're clear, what happened in Gremlins was that Gizmo, a Mogwai, got wet, which caused him to spawn other Mogwai, who then got fed after midnight, causing them to become gremlins, one of whom was Stripe. Gizmo is not Stripe. Gizmo in fact kills Stripe.

    It is unclear whether in this metaphor the gremlins are the government departments asking for further funding, or the government departments receiving further funding having already multiplied as a result of getting wet — or whether or not they can only be funded during daylight hours.

    4. When does Liz Truss think people started using microwaves?

    @rowena_kay Liz Truss thinks microwave meals are “new tech?”

    Quote: "Because British people love change.

    "From the adoption of the latest gadgets – the microwave meal to the smartphone – to being one of the most socially advanced, modern countries in the world…

    "This ancient rock of Northern Europe has always been at the forefront of progress."

    If we were being charitable, this is a reference to how quickly we adopted microwave oven technology at the time. Which was, erm, decades after the first oven was produced.

    5. Why did one of Liz Truss's officials apparently email the ITV political journalist Robert Peston with a link of her taking the piss out of Michael Gove, in order to show she didn't take the piss out of Michael Gove?

    I have been asked to do this by one of ⁦@trussliz⁩ officials so I am. But I am not sure he’s right to draw attention to the chief secretary’s apparent second thoughts

    Here is the link he appears to have been sent: a video clip of Truss saying wood-burning "Goves" are an example of the "hot air" coming out of Gove's Department for Environment.

    It wasn't just Gove who was attacked – Gavin Williamson and Sajid Javid also appeared to come under fire for both demanding more money for their departments: "We have to recognise that it’s not macho just to demand more money. It’s much tougher to demand better value and challenge the blob of vested interests within your department."

    Or at least, that's who everyone thought she was attacking. The first cabinet minister to fire back was, uh, the education secretary, Damian Hinds.

    6. Why did Liz Truss conjoin a whole bunch of different things that had very little relevance to each other except they're vaguely to do with regulation or in some cases advice from totally different governmental bodies, and what does she plan to do about them?

    Flickr: timdobson, Antonio Guillem / Shutterstock,

    At one point in the speech, in the course of around a dozen sentences, Truss complained about:

    – Advice on "eating too many doughnuts" (unclear from whom).

    – Advice on drinking too much, presumably referring to the guidelines from the Department of Health on alcohol unit intake, produced by the UK Chief Medical Officers and supported by a review from the Committee on Carcinogenicity on alcohol and cancer risk.

    – The fact a man in her constituency had to take down some billboards, presumably at the behest of the local council.

    – "Restrictions against selling medium rare" burgers, presumably referring to new regulations on cooking burgers created by the Food Standards Agency following a consultation period, which are intended to stop people ingesting bacteria like E. coli. Truss pointed out that cooking times are lower in the USA – but not whether incidents of E. coli are greater.

    – An addition to the EU Copyright Directive which will make it harder to share content which includes copyrighted material, which she described as "a copyright law that could ban memes from the internet".

    – Truss had also been planning to complain about being told we shouldn't drink from disposable cups through plastic straws, possibly in response to any number of reports from scientists detailing the impact of such waste on the environment, or, indeed, the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee. But she didn't, perhaps because she'd found out about her boss, Theresa May, declaring plastic waste "one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world".

    It remains unclear what, if anything, these different issues have in common with each other beyond being randomly chosen examples of guidance or regulation, how they negatively affect people's lives (if at all), and what she proposes to do about them beyond believing we should "cut [red tape wherever we can]."

    7. What does Liz Truss define as an "overregulated occupation"?

    Me listening to Liz Truss trying to tell any joke at all.

    She said: "When well-designed, professional qualifications can ensure the public are protected from harm.

    "But for those without the funds or family connections to break in from outside, finding work can be frustrating.

    "In the 1980s, it was unions that were holding people back from getting jobs – now it’s overregulated occupations."

    Further details came there none. We can perhaps assume it's not being a teacher or a lawyer, since she's previously pointed out we've widened access to those jobs.

    8. Does Liz Truss really think fixing the housing crisis is as simple as she made out?

    Truss had a simple answer to solving the housing crisis: "Restrictions on building are holding cities up. ... That’s why I’m heartened by groups like London YIMBY, who want to open up planning." She added: "It’s restrictions that are causing problems, so we need to liberate."

    Which is fine. But planning is only one component of the crisis. There's also the problems of high land values, and the reality of overseas demand, including overseas banks investing in property – all of which creates a surplus of over-expensive homes. Weirdly, Truss didn't want to talk about the questions of market regulation or the need to build social housing that such issues raise.

    9. Did anyone at Downing Street see this speech before she gave it?

    3) Happy Christmas hedgehogs Liz Truss

    A pertinent question, given she appeared to declare war on half the cabinet and was very close to slagging off one of the prime minister's flagship environmental policies. It remains unclear. A Downing Street spokesperson refused to confirm whether or not the speech had been cleared in advance.

    Alan White is a news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

    Contact Alan White at

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