This was the headline in bold capitals in the Daily Express newspaper on 3 August 2022.
‘TRUSS: ONLY I CAN DELIVER THE GROWTH BRITAIN NEEDS’.
The Daily Mail swung in strongly behind on the same day, with its front page declaring:
‘She has the boldness, vision and strength of conviction to build on what Boris began.’
Sir Kier Starmer was quoted recently as stating that Labour was in favour of:
‘Growth, growth, growth’.
Wow. Some claim. Some promise. But I was sceptical.
Postmen deliver letters, midwives deliver babies, but claiming to be able to personally ‘deliver’ growth of the UK economy, which in fact is made up of millions of individuals and businesses and many moving and inter-related policy parts and internal and external variables, seems to stretch the ‘delivery’ concept to breaking point.
There is no sure-fire way to achieve national economic growth, as many past Prime Ministers will testify. So for Truss and the Daily Express to imply that there is, and that Truss will do it, reminds me of the sunlit uplands that Johnson claimed that Brexit would provide.
Of course Britain needs economic growth of some kind, but so does every country in the world, so this is hardly news. Why imply that Truss has such unique insight into matters that everyone knows?
As Aditya Chakrabortty reported in The Guardian on 4 August:
Rishi Sunak vows to make the UK “the most prosperous place in the world”, while Truss issues promises about “unleashing”, “unshackling” and “unchaining” Brexit Britain.
This is all pure gaslighting.
The Truss Plan for Growth
Based on her recent utterances, Truss will:
- Cut taxes ‘now’ (including revoking the increase in NI contributions, the planned increase in corporation tax, and the green levy)
- Unshackle businesses from burdensome regulation
- Scrap all EU-derived laws by 2023
- Work with industry leaders to regulate for British businesses and consumers
- Low tax, low-regulation investment zones
- Revisit the Bank of England’s mandate.
The Will Hutton Critique
In a devastating and coruscating article in The Guardian on 14 August, Hutton writes that the Truss plan is ruinous nonsense. It contains all the mechanisms from a reality-free, evidence-free and prejudice-rich right-wing playbook. It is persistently anti-Europe, obsessed with tax cuts and buys into the faith that nameless regulations are shackling business. But above all, it maintains that a weak political class and a deep state have combined to make Britain quasi-socialist (despite 12 years of Tory rule).
According to Hutton, the Truss ‘supply side reforms’ amount to:
- removing the few remaining employment protection laws (when UK has already the least regulated labour market in the OECD),
- putting a union jack on regulations (thereby diverging from regulations and standards in our biggest market, Europe),
- permitting fracking (in a country where the risks of damage and subsidence are particularly high),
- scrapping incentives to go green (when the world and the UK is suffering hugely from climate change), and
- investment zones (where the evidence shows that these displace economic activity rather than creating new).
He notes that successive UK chancellors have cut the UK corporation tax from 26% to 19% since 2010, and the UK still remains bottom of the G7 league for private business investment.
Hutton’s verdict is that all this ‘ruinous nonsense’ is ‘populist bullshit’. It is Truss the insurgent, carrying the Thatcherite flame to lead a deranged and factionalised Tory ecosystem of Party, think-tanks and media outriders.
The Current State of the Economy
The UK Economy and particularly public serves have taken a battering in recent years. James Kirkup writing in the Financial Times on 13 August said that
‘Public services will wither unless the UK makes hard tax choices’.
After the 2008 credit crunch, came a decade of Government-induced austerity followed by Brexit, the Pandemic, and now the Ukraine war. In education, teachers have seen a large decrease in their earnings, and school buildings and other facilities are in poor shape. In health, there are 100,000 job vacancies and a shortage of beds. The NHS relies on foreign doctors and nurses to an unhealthy extent, medical facilities are understaffed, and waiting times for treatment are long. In social care, nothing has been ‘fixed’. In agriculture, crops are left to rot, pigs are slaughtered and their carcasses burnt, all because the relevant labour is in short supply. Farmers are facing cheaper and environmentally-below-standard imports from Australia and New Zealand. Transport is suffering from shortages of lorry drivers, airport luggage and customs chaos, long queues at Dover, and rail strikes. Police services are struggling with shortage of manpower, internal discipline problems, and low public confidence. Local Government services have been severely reduced due to Central Government reducing grants.
Households are experiencing hardship and falls in living standards due to general inflationary pressure, below-inflation wage rises, and enormous rises in energy costs.
And now the Bank of England Monetary Policy Report for August 2022 forecasts a recession for the UK (two successive quarters with negative growth), and inflation to reach 13% this year. Interest rates are rising.
A New Prime Minister
In spite of all this, Ms Truss insisted (Independent 5 August 2022) that a recession was “not inevitable” and repeated her belief that her plans would provide economic growth.
But expecting Truss to come in as a new Prime Minister and turn the juggernaut that is the UK economy round with her plans for economic growth is pure moonshine.
That Daily Mail headline should have read:
“Truss has the ideological conviction of the deranged to worsen the deeply damaged UK that Boris has helped to cause”.
And the Daily Express headline should have read:
“Truss: Only I can deliver the changes that the UK desperately doesn’t need”.
Economic Growth will not be ‘delivered’ by sound-bites but only by an intelligent, informed, open-minded and caring Prime Minister, which Liz Truss does not appear to be, and a competent Government, which this one is not.