Restive in private for some time, the Young Lions of the Conservative Party are dashing out of the closet. The race is on to replace Theresa May, and the hope of many among the grass roots and newer MPs is that, in doing so, the Party will be able to skip a generation. This could well be an idea whose time has come, for it also offers the Tories a way to side-step the previous generation’s bitter EU divisions.
Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss warned in a speech last night that “higher and higher taxes” would be a “complete contradiction” of the Brexit vote and could leave the Tories “crushed” at the next election.
We should be a clear about a few things in relation to Ms Truss (left). Her husband is an economics academic, and she herself a Friedmanite monetary fanatic. She is pro Brexit, describing it in the speech as “a way to turbo-charge Britain’s future”. She is relatively un-pc, and she is only 42 years old. She is a radical on education, and has many times spoken on the subject of low academic standards, particularly in relation to mathematics.
Her shtick at the moment is very much one of kick out the old in the Party and give the young in the electorate a better opportunity to be entrepreneurial: she would cut immigration and increase investment in training. Her boss is Philip Hammond the Chancellor….and his Treasury too comes in for some rough treatment in her remarkably frank speech:
“I have to confess it can be lonely at the Treasury….It can sometimes feel like there’s always a party going on that you’re not invited to….”
But as I say, she is a dyed-in-the-wool neoliberal and user of the dreaded W word:
“While everyone around is spending money or at the very least talking about it, we are the preachers of prudence. Over the past 8 years, we have cut government waste whilst focusing on quality and value for money in our public services. Overall we’ve reduced government spending from a whopping 45 per cent of GDP to 39 per cent, meaning we could cut tax on the lowest paid whilst maintaining world class public services.”
So young and independent or not, Liz Truss is firmly a No Turning Back Thatcherite Tory. However, she’s clearly not lacking in guts: to take on the Leader, her boss, the Cabinet Remainers plus the ageing Big Beasts of the Cabinet in one go suggests she is either hopelessly naive or a Gal with a Plan. The latter seems more likely.
Look at the way her speech was professionally trailed and coordinated. She ensured a spacious piece in the Torygraph, made sure that every major title across the Fleet Street spectrum had a copy of her speech, and made her appeal both single-minded and populist: pro-Brexit, pro-Youth, anti-male Cabinet money-grabbing opportunism. In brief, her address said “Let’s stop nancying about, kick the faint-hearted farts out of the way, and turn Britain into an independent power-house”.
To many in the Party, this has gut-feel emotional appeal, while also making electoral sense: she would undoubtedly attract former UKippers, more female voters, and try to reverse the overwhelming advantage Labour has among the 20-somethings.
To the rest of us here on Planet Earth, she is bad news: unlikely to think economically outside the coffin we have made for ourselves, fiscally tight-fisted and likely to remain sternly opposed to relief for female SPA victims, something of a lightweight when it comes to longer-term social issues, but every inch a globalist and – sigh – yet another member of the Oxbridge Mafia.
Were the choice mine to make, I would keep her busy by setting her on Michel Barnier and the other thugs in Brussels. But Theresa May lacks either the creativity or balls to do that, so Liz will not be short of time in which to make trouble.
While at Oxford, she was (as you’d expect) Chair of the University Party. There’s just one surprise in her background: the Party concerned was the Liberal Democrats.