AN UNPOPULAR politician is usually a short-lived phenomenon. It appears Liz Truss is hoping that by the time the impacts of her unpopular decisions will be felt, the benefits will be so obvious the electorate will forget their initial teeth-gnashing.
She may well be right.
Even this column would accept that removing the bankers’ bonus cap and dropping corporation tax are not silver bullets to get the UK economy moving.
But they are a hell of a more positive move in the right direction than we’ve seen for some time in declaring that Britain is in fact open for business.
Consider the past decade’s political slogans.
Global Britain – but one that still can’t agree on airport expansion. Winning the global race – but refusing to invest at scale in life sciences, fintech and Britain’s other growing industries. Strong and stable – well, write your own punchline on that one. Boris’ ‘levelling up’ makes even less sense now than it did when he was in power. The new Prime Minister appears to be trying out two – ‘go for growth’ and an ‘aspiration nation’. The latter sounds like a historically awful team name in the Apprentice, but the first has some promise.
Ask most folk in Westminster and indeed the City what Britain’s problems are and they can usually identify two or three key elements. We don’t build enough. We don’t take bold decisions. And we’re not as agile, inventive or competitive as fast-growing economies both near (Estonia) and far (Singapore). Leaving the European Union eliminates the easy path of being attached to an occasionally stultifying but undeniably large trading bloc. Scrapping the bankers’ bonus cap is at least one sign that post-Brexit ‘freedoms’ might actually be pursued, even at the risk of riling the electorate or our friends across the channel.
So things must change, and some are – and it isn’t all Truss’ doing. For all the bleating in the Square Mile, the Financial Conduct Authority is moving at pace to upskill and think more about competitiveness (indeed a regulator reshuffle, occasionally hinted at by the PM, would only slow that process down). Other regulators are also slowly getting on board. Truss’ ministers may have to face down some public anger, and it’s only a start – but one has to start somewhere.