Like a battered boxer with a thick skull, then, Liz Truss lives to fight another day. On the ropes, yes, but not quite down and out. Yesterday’s speech was fine, as it goes, and not much more than that. It will keep her party in some degree of order for at least a week or so.
But at the heart of it was an unwillingness to tackle the uncomfortable truth that the ‘anti-growth coalition’ she described yesterday is made up in not insignificant part by her parliamentary party and by the voters she wishes to attract.
The former has spent twelve years unable to agree on any of the reforms that Truss talked up yesterday. Housing and planning reform has been consistently kicked into the long grass, and the only even half-hearted attempt to do something serious about our housing shortage ended the moment the Tories lost a by-election in Amersham. Truss’ speech about go-go-growth somehow sat alongside more blood and thunder rhetoric about keeping our borders safe, as if immigration hasn’t been proven over and over again to drive economic performance. There was barely a mention from Liz Truss of any of Britain’s world-leading industries, from our universities to our life sciences, nor how to support them, but there were welcome and heartfelt cries for lower taxes – which she’s just been forced to walk back by her own backbenches. To these riddles, Truss offered no answer. Persuading the voters that Britain can only grow by sticking a bypass at the end of the garden or letting in a load of foreign coders we know, too, has failed before.
Truss’ best friends in her growth plan are the people she doesn’t bother speaking to – the liberally minded, economically ambitious folk who by and large inhabit or work in our cities. Living in north London appeared to be sufficient to have you cast into the anti-growth coalition yesterday.
Yet should Truss lift taxes on London’s striving middle class, she might find some support – instead, for all the help it might offer, it remains couched in such bizarro fifth-column paranoia that it’ll never land. Good luck with the backbenches, Prime Minister.