The New Statesman by Henry Oliver
The Trussites in the Conservative Party have started the new year dreaming a delusional dream. Former members of Liz Truss‘s cabinet are sick of Rishi Sunak’s lack of a growth policy. Her reforms have been abandoned and there is talk of an industrial strategy. The party of business is becoming the party of busybodies. The Trussites’ response? A new free-market think tank, led by the former prime minister.
This is a terrible idea. I say this as a former employee of Truss and one of the few people in the country who feels sorry for her, who has written that she was right and will be vindicated, that she’s not as doctrinaire as she looks and is really quite bright. I say this, in short, as one of the last remaining people who is on her side – for God’s sake, Liz, don’t start a think tank.
I remember the heady days of 2012 when James Forsyth, then political editor of the Spectator, predicted at the Institute of Economic Affairs that Truss’s Free Enterprise Group was the intellectual future of the party. Too bad Truss ended up putting over an energy policy that would have made the Labour chancellor Denis Healey blink with its audacious statism. Now Forsyth works for Sunak, his successor is reporting on plots by former Truss cabinet members, and the Tory party is mostly interested in trying to take the number of houses built this year to as close to zero as possible.
Which is exactly why Truss needs to back away from any think tank plans. In the future she’ll be seen by the party as a figure like Barry Goldwater, the Republican who lost the 1964 presidential election but laid the foundations for Reaganism. The right ideas at the wrong time. As it is, Truss’s association with any proposal is going to make it harder for it to get any traction. We don’t lack ideas for right-wing economics – look at Sam Bowman and Sian Westlake’s essay “Reviving Economic Thinking on the Right“, or “The Housing Theory of Everything“. Look at the proposals of Policy Exchange. Look at the new campaign Britain Remade. We don’t lack credible pro-growth thinking. We don’t lack a new generation of thinkers.