Should you be in need of a slightly bitter laugh during your lunch break, we recommend you pop down an internet wormhole and find the video of Britain’s former business secretary and now Net Zero czar Alok Sharma proudly pressing the red button on the demolition of SSE’s Ferrybridge coal plant. It is just over a year old, but it has, it’s fair to say, not aged brilliantly in the context of an ongoing energy prices crisis triggered (in part, but only in part) by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
It is a helpful reminder of just how cack-handed our energy policy has been for decades, the results of which are now blindingly obvious. But it is not just energy policy that Liz Truss needs to get to grips with as she enters Number 10.
Britain needs to get building, sharpish. That will require being unpopular, no doubt – Tory Prime Ministers, and there have been rather a lot of them recently, readily commit to more housing and then reverse ferret at the first sign of an aggressive Lib Dem campaign in a south-east swing seat. But if Truss can do it she could, could, trigger a gear shift in the way Britain thinks about infrastructure.
The natural instinct on just about any major or minor project from local politicians, associations, and residents is to say no – witness Sadiq Khan’s opposition to the extremely gradual expansion of London City Airport. That must change if Britain is to get out of its low-growth, managed decline. Projects are stalled, delayed, binned – infrastructure is patched up around the edges.
Perhaps too Truss’ boldness and willingness to think differently can break some of Whitehall’s resistance to new ideas. The appointment of Matt Sinclair as her economic adviser is particularly welcome on that front, as is her commitment to tax reform as well as cuts. There are many questions about Truss’ premiership, but there is potentially much to like. One thing’s for sure: we don’t think it will be dull.