Express & Star

Truss points the finger of blame for failed economic growth plan

No 10 will be watching to see if her intervention leads to new demands from Tory MPs for tax cuts.

Liz Truss

“I am not claiming to be blameless in what happened,” says Liz Truss as she set out for the first time her detailed defence of her turbulent and short-lived premiership.

Nevertheless her article for The Sunday Telegraph is hardly the mea culpa that some might have expected following her chaotic 49-day tenure in No 10.

Over the course of 4,000 words she identifies a series of culprits far and wide who, she argues, led to her government being made a “scapegoat” for longstanding economic woes.

They start off with the Bank of England, which she said failed to curb inflation by cutting interest rates more aggressively in line with the US Federal Reserve.

There were the Treasury officials who failed to alert her to the exposure of pension funds to so-called “liability-driven investments”, which meant the Bank had to make an emergency intervention to stop them falling over when her disastrous mini-budget sent the cost of government borrowing soaring.

Liz Truss
Former prime minister Liz Truss outside her home in London on Sunday, hours after her defence of her premiership was published (Jonathan Brady/PA)

There was the Office for Budget Responsibility, whose official economic forecasts undervalued the kind of reforms she was propagating resulting in an “inexorable” cycle of tax rises.

Then there was the Downing Street communications machine, which she said was unenthusiastic about her radical agenda for tax cuts and de-regulation and was not up to the task of explaining to voters what she was trying to achieve.

Overseas, there were critics like the International Monetary Fund and US President Joe Biden who undermined support for her policies, describing them as a “mistake”.

Closer to home there was her own the party, the Conservatives, who had given up making the case for the kind of programme once pursued by Margaret Thatcher in favour of “triangulating” with Labour.

Liz Truss with her chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng
Liz Truss with her chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng, whom she sacked as their economic plans unravelled (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Above all, however, there was “a very powerful economic establishment” which was resistant to any challenge to the “orthodox economic ecosystem”, Ms Truss said.

It manifested itself in the Treasury where “pessimism and scepticism” about the growth prospects for the UK economy were “sadly endemic” and Brexit was seen as “a damage-limitation exercise rather than a once-in-a-generation opportunity”.

The former prime minister wrote: “Frankly, we were also pushing water uphill. Large parts of the media and the wider public sphere had become unfamiliar with key arguments about tax and economic policy and over time sentiment had shifted left-wards.”

Despite one of her first acts in office having been to sack the top Treasury official Sir Tom Scholar, Ms Truss said that in the face of such opposition her plans never had a “realistic chance” of being implemented.

Predictably, such arguments were greeted with derision in some quarters – with Labour as well as some Tories accusing her of failing to face up to her own shortcomings.

However they will resound among others in the party – including the 50-strong Conservative Growth Group of MPs – who believe her blueprint for growth was fundamentally right, even if the execution was flawed.

With Ms Truss promising further interventions in the coming days – including a full, sit-down television interview – No 10 will be watching closely to see if it leads to a renewed push for tax cuts in the run-up to next month’s Budget.

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