Liz Truss has never been one to shy away from the limelight. A cursory flick through her well-stocked Instagram feed will tell you that in thirty seconds flat. But beneath this veneer of double entendred puns and despatch box selfies lies a worrying political naivety, if her speech to the London School of Economics on Tuesday evening is anything to go by.
It started off well (despite being littered with the awkward jokes Liz has become known for), and included everything you would expect from a Conservative Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Free-market thinking. Check. Fiscal conservatism. Check. A strong case for low taxes and reduced debt. Check.
So far, so good.
But that’s not what caught the attention of the press. Instead, it was her criticism of her Cabinet colleagues – Jeremy Hunt, Sajid Javid, Michael Gove and Gavin Williamson (fair play on the latter) – that made the front pages.
Now, there’s a few things wrong with this. First, Truss’ accusation that lobbying for more money isn’t “macho.” Shouldn’t we expect our politicians to be a little more adept at constructing an argument, and have a better grasp of the English language, than to pitch a public rebuke in such terms?
Second, can’t Liz, and for that matter, everyone else in Government, learn to air their dirty laundry, and consign what is clearly political jostling, to the Cabinet? It doesn’t portray anyone in a good light. We don’t want to see it.
More concerning is her condemnation of what she perceives to be “unfair regulation.” Under this epitaph she includes moves to discourage the use of disposable cups, the clampdown on single-use plastics, and guidance aimed to reduce childhood obesity. To most, this would seem sensible, well-targeted stuff. It’s also, of course, Government policy.
But it would appear Liz missed the memo on that one. Indeed, based on some completely misplaced notion that this is a burdensome, overzealous attack on liberty, Truss, the self-proclaimed “disruptor in chief”, believes, left uncorrected, the Conservative Party will be punished for it at the ballot box, especially by younger voters.
Why are senior, election-hardened politicians still making fundamental mistakes like this? It’s utterly tone-deaf to what people want. Rather than tapping into today’s green policy zeitgeist, it blindly sticks to the worn out Conservative mantra of laissez-faire government and libertarian politics, regurgitating the same rigid nonsense as before.
Of course, we shouldn’t become some nanny state in which the authorities prescribe every right and wrong, but it’s a mistake to peddle the myth that more regulation is bad regulation. Are we really to believe that voters, particularly young ones, choose who to elect based on some obscure political philosophy the Conservative Party has historically been associated with? Do they heck! The masses vote for pragmatism, not ideology.
People want responsive, effective politicians that rise to the key social and economic problems of the day. The policies Liz Truss knocked on Tuesday are not only incredibly popular, but necessary. By failing to grasp this pretty fundamental point, she has shown herself, once again, to be out of kilter with what a modern Conservative Party needs to be.
To quote vintage Liz: That. Is. A. Disgrace.
Liz Truss’ speech to the LSE on 26 June can be read, in full, here: