The Daily Telegraph
Liz Truss is about to prove the declinist Remainer class humiliatingly wrong
The PM’S critics fail to see that she is deadly serious about boosting growth and overturning orthodoxies
There is a new nasty party, and it isn’t the Tories. Our declinistremainer class has outdone itself, demonising and dismissing Liz Truss, and working itself up into a frenzy of self-righteous rage and indignation at the supposed incompetence of her new Government. Even for those inured to the extreme tribalism and coarseness of modern political discourse, the insults, double-standards and prejudice have been something to behold. There was a time when, in the national interest, everybody wished new governments, especially those born in the midst of a crisis, the best of luck: today, the Left wages total war on anybody who has the temerity to disagree with the orthodoxies of our age.
I’m optimistic about the Truss Government. Yes, of course, nobody can possibly know how well it will do – whether it will outwit the Blob to push through genuine improvements. But it is absurd to state, almost as self-evident fact, that it is bound to collapse, that it cannot last even two years, based in part on an insulting dismissal of the credibility and intellect of all of the members of the new Government.
It is astonishing that pundits with no understanding of economics dismiss the Prime Minister’s ability in this area: she actually worked as an economist for Shell (ideal in the current climate) and as an economic director for Cable and Wireless. The first accountant ever in No 10 – she holds the qualification from the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants – she is more financially literate and comfortable with complex policy matters than almost all of those who patronise her. The fact that she is reflexively written off as lightweight, a dilettante even, is more a reflection of the bizarrely misogynistic and classist minds of some of her more extreme critics than of any objective reality.
Kwasi Kwarteng, the Chancellor, holds a PHD in economic history from Cambridge, perhaps the ideal qualification for the moment; his War and Gold and Ghosts of Empire remain timely. Thérèse Coffey, Truss’s deputy, is another PHD: in her case, in chemistry, showing how much more intelligent she is than the ignoramuses who hate her.
Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, is an extremely competent, bright and personable lawyer who drives the Left crazy. Kemi Badenoch holds degrees in engineering and law, and is fiendishly clever. Jacob Reesmogg, with his background in finance, is the perfect pick for Business (and Energy), given the technical and intellectual complexity of his mission. Kit Malthouse, the Education Secretary, another accountant, has experience running a medium-sized business; Chris Philp, the Chief Secretary, has a degree in physics.
The list goes on. Of course, some ministers are weaker than others, but the average quality is a great improvement on many past governments. Matthew Sinclair, one of Truss’s advisers, is the best free-market economist of his generation in Britain today.
The paradox is that it is a policy that I’m uncomfortable with that is likely to send the Government’s poll ratings surging, discrediting its Leftist critics. Truss’s energy plan is rightly a big bazooka; it is regrettable that, for a variety of practical and political reasons, she appears to have decided to freeze all energy bills, rather than to opt for targeted subsidies to small firms and the bottom half of earners. The Government’s bill will be at least 5 per cent of GDP, with enormous potential liabilities. This is the biggest welfare programme in British history, one that helps the well-off as much as the needy.
But we are where we are. The Government felt that an alternative, non-universal plan could not be targeted correctly, that the cliff-edge from means testing would be too extreme, that the public’s allergy to high prices had become too toxic. Truss feared she would be destroyed on arrival if she didn’t go for broke. Her gambit is that the scale of this intervention will cripple the Left: it’s a statist umbrella protecting her freemarket reforms.
It is vital that this intervention is framed judiciously, as an exceptional wartime move that will be ended as soon as possible and which doesn’t presage a permanent expansion of the welfare state and the final de-responsibilisation of the individual. Kwarteng must make it clear that he hasn’t discovered any magic money trees, and avoid boasting that the Tories are spending more than Labour would (Rishi Sunak, tragically, fell into that trap).
Crucially, Truss is right that the solution to the vast majority of the UK’S problems – including the higher national debt she is planning, as well as the UK’S generalised lack of resources – is to grow the economy. Boosting the
The PM likes economic growth, not just because she values material prosperity, but because she buys into the very idea of progress
trend rate of growth – eroded by a series of grievous errors over 20 years – is the true magic ingredient. Truss, who was a member of the Oxford University Hayek society, a libertarian group dedicated to the great Austrian economist, is also right that higher taxes are bad for growth, and that the answer is to unleash corporate investment.
To understand Trussonomics, you could do worse than to read Virginia Postrel’s classic The Future and its Enemies, where she opposes the “stasism” proposed by reactionaries and technocratic control freaks to the “dynamism” of the entrepreneurial market. Truss would also largely agree with Tyler Cowen: the US economist argues that our top moral priority should be improving humanity’s future by maximising sustainable economic growth, subject, of course, to human rights and freedom.
Our new Prime Minister likes economic growth, not merely because she values material prosperity, but because she buys into the very idea of progress, of improvement. Boris Johnson agreed in theory, but didn’t understand what to do. Unlike Theresa May, Truss is inherently antimalthusian: her Chancellor talks of growing the economy, rather than arguing about how to redistribute a stagnant pie, the vanishing “proceeds of growth” taken for granted by David Cameron.
Yes, Truss will address our immediate crisis via costly, short-term policies. But she’s deadly serious about principled long-term measures to accelerate the economy by boosting energy output, housebuilding, private investment, scientific innovation and entrepreneurship. It will be tough, but the Twitter Lefties are entirely wrong to be betting so emphatically against her.