Liz Truss has been accused of many things over the past year, but nobody could level any accusations about her willingness to front up. Many politicians would have retired, tail very much between legs, to the outer reaches of our public life and sought the quiet life.
Not Truss, who today will reassert her position as the key free-market figure on the Conservative right. Whether that is a good thing for those free-marketeers we will leave to another time, but it is difficult to argue with her main complaint: that too much focus has been on the distribution of the pie, rather than on its growing.
The good news, such as it is, is that the need for economic growth has become accepted across our politics. The bad news is few seem willing to put their back into it. This newspaper is no fan of the Keynesian subsidies pumping through the US economy as a result of the Inflation Reduction Act, but Joe Biden has certainly put his weight behind it. Rishi Sunak has so far proven unwilling to show such commitment to desperately needed supply side reform; Labour’s economic policy remains more than a little unclear.
Truss’ contention that tax and supply-side reforms are required is correct. Our tax code has become complex beyond belief. Bureaucracy surrounding everything from housing to childcare slows down our economy.
But there is something else lacking from our politicians: basic competence. Truss’ philosophical reflections do not change the fact that she and her Chancellor botched their reform plans. Rishi Sunak’s warm words on turning the UK into the next tech powerhouse don’t mean a damn when measured against the Tory party’s inability to deliver HS2, which according to the latest reports will only run from Birmingham to Willesden. If the Conservative party of whatever stripe — free market or patrician, coalition-crazy or hard-right — cannot deliver, it is inevitable that it will be replaced.