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UK politics

Taking a leaf out of Lenin’s book

Lenin: a believer in chaos. Shepard Sherbell/Corbis Saba/Getty

“The worse, the better” is an old Leninist creed, says The Economist. For things to improve, the thinking goes, they must first become so dreadful people are driven to action. Lenin stole the idea from a 19th-century Russian novel – What Is to Be Done? – that Martin Amis called “insuperably talentless” but also “the most influential novel of all time”. Lenin read it five times in one summer and named his manifesto after it. And today its core message has gripped Britain’s leaders. “The nihilistic cynicism that shaped Russia’s miserable 20th century now rules British politics.”

By the logic of this “Leninist fervour”, Liz Truss’s catastrophic start is really a good thing. “Cheerleaders applaud the chaos.” The Telegraph’s Allister Heath, who called the mini-Budget “the best I have ever heard”, insists that market turmoil is part of a “necessary transition”. Yes, he says, the result may be “traumatic” and might “trigger a vicious global recession, higher unemployment and bankruptcies”, but things need shaking up. In other words, “ends trump means” – as any good Leninist knows. Well, that’s Heath’s view. But voters might not be so keen on the “creative destruction being pursued in their name” – they have energy bills and rising mortgage rates to worry about. For Truss and her allies, people living comfortable lives simply don’t understand the need for radical change and must be shaken out of their torpor. “The worse, the better.”