The Daily Telegraph

Truss has proved herself to be a poor imitation of Mrs Thatcher

- DAVID YOUNG FOLLOW David Young on Twitter @Thelordyou­ng READ MORE at telegraph.co.uk/opinion

For some years now Liz Truss has claimed the mantle of Margaret Thatcher, appealing to Conservati­ves who rightly believe that we need a champion of enterprise more than ever. It carried particular resonance with me, as one of the few people left who started their own business in the 1960s and worked and suffered throughout the whole of the depressing, strike-bound 1970s, until we were all rescued by Mrs Thatcher.

I then spent the 1980s in government, serving Mrs Thatcher. When I returned to the world of business, it was transforme­d. All the talk was about enterprise, and there was an energy around that had simply not been there before. Most importantl­y, business had become a small firms, young people’s game. This led to decades of growth, when our great nation was restored as one of the leading European and world economies.

Yet by the early years of the new century, that message had been blurred and forgotten. Gradually taxes rose again and government became an exercise in redistribu­ting the pot rather than trying to increase it. The tax burden rose to its highest in 70 years and the economy was back on its downward spiral, this time hindered by the regulatory nature of Europe.

Throughout much of this latter period, Ms Truss had been in the Cabinet, preaching a Thatcherit­e message to great effect (although I must confess that some of her imitations of the great lady, such as that picture of her in a tank, made me wonder). When she threw her cap in the ring for the Conservati­ve leadership, her heartfelt commitment to liberalisi­ng policies seemed clear and I became an enthusiast­ic supporter. I wrote in these pages that she “very much has Margaret’s dream of restoring an entreprene­urial nation”.

But being able to preach the message and carry it out are two very different things.

While a surprise may be a very good thing for a birthday, or any celebratio­n, it is to be avoided at all costs in politics. What on Earth persuaded Ms Truss to launch her mini-budget on an unprepared electorate and an unsympathe­tic media? Who told her not to bother to spend the time necessary to explain why her new economic programme was essential and the advantages it would bring to the electorate in time? The approach Ms Truss took was diametrica­lly opposed to Mrs Thatcher’s principle of breaking down complex arguments into terms relatable to the general public.

Ms Truss made this distinctio­n clearer with the misguided decision to sack her chancellor when he was at the other side of the world, and at an IMF meeting of all places. It smacked of panic and, worst of all, echoed traits of disloyalty and a lack of empathy. In failing to speak to the public in the aftermath, she has allowed the opposition to shape the narrative. These mistakes have led me to the sorry conclusion that her position is now untenable. It is only a question of time before she will have to step down.

The real losers in this situation will be each and every one of us enterprisi­ng Conservati­ves. The growth agenda will be avoided by government­s of both parties for the foreseeabl­e future, who will spend their time dividing the pot rather than trying to grow it. A shame.

Ultimately, however, we will come to realise that Thatcherit­e policies, delivered properly, are the only way forward.

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