I watched the party Leader’s speech to the Tory Party Conference this morning. The protest was fun – Greenpeace interlopers unfurling a large yellow banner that read ‘Who voted for this?’ – which was greatly to the point; although it wasn’t a point that was picked up by the BBC commentators immediately afterwards. That point being, of course, that Truss was voted into Number 10 by only a very small minority of Tory party members, not even MPs, who didn’t represent anybody but their own reactionary and Right-wing kind. It would require another General election to legitimise her democratically; and especially when she’s abandoning many of the promises on which her party was elected (under Johnson) in 2019. She may find this is a weakness in the months to come. Looking at their faces in the hall, I’m not sure that most Tories like her much.
The speech had one basic theme, and one only: ‘Growth’ – the word repeated, I guess, about fifty times. That of course is a fundamental late-capitalist slogan, the thing that is supposed to justify the system, and may well do that to a great extent. What Truss added to it was the old idea that growth could only be achieved by unleashing individual enterprise, specifically by lowering taxes on individuals and companies – and very little more. (‘Low taxation’ was another of her repeated mantras.) That’s the theory, a simple and easily grasped one, and one that obviously appeals to anyone – like most Conservative party delegates – who have pots of money that they would like to keep. For those few among them who do care about the poor in their society, there’s always ‘trickle-down’ to ease their consciences.
But there’s little practical evidence for the ‘low tax’ theory. I presently live half my time in a country that is notorious for its high level of taxation, and therefore of social welfare expenditure, but still out-performs low-tax Britain in industrial production, inventiveness and material prosperity. (It produced a Nobel prize-winner only a couple of days ago.) Growth and high taxation are not mutually incompatible, but often the reverse. But of course only low taxes will enable the already wealthy to become obscenely rich.
Truss kept talking about an ‘Anti- Growth Coalition’ as the main obstacle to her entrepreneurial plans. That puzzled me. What is this ‘Coalition’? I’ve never heard of it before. How can I join?
It’s not economic growth per se that’s important but GDP per capita, and particularly for ‘levelling up,’ how extra wealth (growth) is actually distributed. The Truss Project is unlikely to say much about these.