The Daily Telegraph
Top team forged at the kitchen table in hope of keeping knives at bay
Appointing her neighbour Kwarteng as Chancellor is more than just a reward, it’s a culmination of friendship
NOT since David Cameron and George Osborne ran the country has a prime minister enjoyed the luxury of having a chancellor who had their best interests at heart.
Theresa May had Philip Hammond undermining her at every turn, and Boris Johnson fought constantly with Rishi Sunak (and Sajid Javid to a lesser extent) before they eventually killed off each other’s ministerial careers.
By appointing Kwasi Kwarteng as her Chancellor, however, Liz Truss is hoping she can enjoy the sort of symbiotic relationship that eluded her two immediate predecessors.
Tough decisions lie ahead for Ms Truss as she tries to steer the country through the worst economic crisis for at least 15 years, and she simply cannot afford the time or energy for policy arguments with her Chancellor, which is why she has turned to a man who is perhaps more politically aligned with her on economic policy than any other minister.
In Therese Coffey, her Health Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister, she has another long-term ally who will have her back without wanting to have her job, and it is on this trio that the Conservatives’ chances of winning the next election rest.
Both of them were around Ms Truss’s kitchen table when a handful of Tory MPS – also including James Cleverly, the new Foreign Secretary – gathered to plot the Truss leadership campaign when Mr Johnson resigned in July.
Ms Truss and Mr Kwarteng will live next door to each other at Numbers 10 and 11 Downing Street, but they are already neighbours: when Mr Kwarteng moved house last year, having started a family with his wife Harriet, they chose a home in Greenwich, east London, just a few streets away from Ms Truss’s family home.
They have been close friends, and even closer political allies, since they entered Parliament on the same day in May 2010.
The pair quickly set about trying to
‘Kwasi recognises that the chancellor is only the second lord of the Treasury, while the PM is the first’
change politics when they realised they shared the same worldview as new MPS, and together they set up the Free Enterprise Group of MPS in 2011, aiming to “free individuals to create, innovate and take risks”.
They followed up the next year by co-authoring the book Britannia Unchained, which in many ways still serves as a blueprint for Trussism, with its vision of a dynamic, free market, high growth financial system.
In a chapter written by Mr Kwarteng (though every chapter was signed off by all the authors who did not at the time specify who had written what), he wrote about the problem of “a bloated state, high taxes and excessive regulation” threatening to deflate the British economy.
The other authors of the book were Priti Patel, Dominic Raab and Chris Skidmore, and while they were frozen out of Truss’s inner circle, Mr Kwarteng has always remained in favour.
Mr Kwarteng, like Ms Truss, made clear his opposition to Rishi Sunak’s National Insurance rise and is vehemently opposed to a windfall tax on energy firms.
He was even prepared to argue the case even though the idea was wildly popular with the public.
Both are convinced that stimulating economic growth through low taxation is the key to solving the cost of living crisis.
Born two months to the day before Ms Truss, Mr Kwarteng, 47, knows his way around the Treasury, having been parliamentary private secretary to then chancellor Mr Hammond from 2017 to 2018. Also in the building at that time was Ms Truss, who was chief secretary to the Treasury throughout Mr Kwarteng’s time there.
One friend or Mr Kwarteng said: “They have a strong personal friendship and they see completely eye to eye on economic policy. More than that, Kwasi will not try to stand in Liz’s way, because he recognises that the chancellor is only the second lord of the Treasury, while the prime minister is the first.”