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Liz Truss Gives Speech to Close 2022 Conservative Party Conference

Prime Minister Liz Truss delivered her first speech to Conservative Party Conference as Prime Minister to close the conference earlier today. The speech came at the end of what has been a chaotic conference for the Conservative Party.

In the speech she reiterated that “the status quo is not an option”, insisting that “we must stay the course” with the policies outlined in the recent mini-budget, despite the financial and political turmoil that resulted from the announcements.

The speech was perhaps most notable in the fact that it made no new policy commitments. Instead, Truss chose to restate her commitment to “growth, growth and growth” and continued to minimise the 45p tax rate cut as a small part of the wider budget, while stressing the importance of the Government’s cap on energy prices.

The speech was briefly interrupted by protestors from Greenpeace, who held up a sign that read “who voted for this” in response to the government recently recommitting to fracking.

Trussonomics Restated

The consistent message from the government regarding the U-turn on the 45p tax rate cut is that it was the right policy at the wrong time. Both Truss and Kwarteng have since insisted that removing the top rate is still something that they would like to do, but that it would not be sensible to pursue now given ‘political constraints.’

That message was no different today. Repeating the “I get it, I have listened” mantra regarding the U-turn, the Prime Minister insisted that she was in “lock-step” with her Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng.

Her speech provided an opportunity to restate her vision for growth, while seeking to reassure the markets as she assured the conference that she is committed to “sound money” and to bring down debt as a proportion of national income.

Amidst all of this, the Prime Minister continued to try to paint Britain’s problems as ones being faced across the whole world, referencing interest rate hikes in the US as well as the Ukraine war and the aftermath of the pandemic. Such arguments however, could not be reasonably applied to the disappearing act that have plagued mortgage markets with 1000s of mortgage products disappearing from the market.

Truss during speech
Liz Truss struggles during a water break in her speech

The Enemies List

As much as her speech outlined exactly what Truss stood for – a country focused relentlessly on economic growth (almost no matter the cost), it also did a good job of outlining exactly what, or more appropriately, who, she was against. In an odd, Nixonian off-shoot she revealed her list of political enemies, that she dubbed the “anti-growth coalition”. The list included:

  • Labour
  • The Liberal Democrats
  • SNP
  • Unions
  • “Vested interests dressed up as think tanks”
  • Talking heads
  • “Brexit deniers”
  • Extinction Rebellion

On these groups, she said: “The anti-growth coalition just doesn’t get it, because they don’t face the same challenges as normal working people.”

Final Thought

The bar for Liz Truss’s speech was to avoid making anything worse. It is a low bar indeed, but it is one that she managed to clear. By the very low standards of the conference, that she didn’t sew any more internal discord must be counted as a big win.

There were perhaps even some actively positive takeaways from her speech. There are rumblings from senior Labour party officials that they are very worried about the potential strength of the “anti-growth coalition” framing if the Conservative Party manages to get its act together.

However, amidst all of this she remains massively wounded. Truss’ strength is in the perception of her as a “do-er” who will “get Britain moving”. But if she cannot ‘do’ because her MPs (and some members of her cabinet) aren’t backing her, then what is she good for?

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