From the outset, I’d like to clarify this is in no way an endorsement of Liz Truss nor the Conservative party at the next general election. However given the recent Tory slump in the polls, the likelihood of an early general election seems diminished. Thus it is an inescapable truth of the current parliamentary arithmetic that the only chance of securing liberal reform in this parliament must come from within the Conservative Party – and it is my belief that this will only happen with Liz Truss at its helm.
With her eccentric speeches on Pork Markets or bizzare passion for British Cheese it can be easy to caricature the rise of Liz Truss as a product of the flippant nature of politics in Boris’ Brexit-Britain. However, a combination of the foreign secretary’s economically liberal and internationalist credentials with her seemingly Thatcherite appetite for radical reform, leave her in a unique position within the Tory Party to tackle some of the most important difficulties facing Britain today.
It is impossible to overstate the severity of the housing crisis to Britain’s prosperity. So many of the issues that plague modern Britain can be traced back to our crippling housing shortage: productivity stagnation; CO2 emissions; rising generational and regional inequality; falling socioeconomic mobility; and in turn rising political populism and polarisation. The solution is simple: BUILD MORE HOMES. More practically this means supply-side reform to deregulate the barriers to housing: restrictive land-use and planning permission rules which cater to NIMBY regulatory capture.
Truss, it seems, is one of the very few in Westminster who understand this. She blasted the “rigid planning rules” that make it easy for developments to be blocked by existing homeowners, who she branded the “worst vested interest we’ve got”. Although any reform would certainly be met with considerable backlash from the suburban blue-wall, Truss (a clear admirer of Mrs Thatcher and her radicalism) has made clear her ambition to rip up the NIMBY consensus in her party in the pursuit of economic liberalism. In 2018 she told Conservative Party members “We need to build a million homes on the London Green Belt” – such is her evident and unashamed YIMBY ambition.
In addition to an impressive stance on housing, her foreign policy vision is demonstrably more liberal than her colleagues. A strong believer in liberal internationalism, she is clear in her commitment to defend what she refers to as “the frontiers of freedom” against threats from autocratic regimes. With the looming threat of Russian aggression in Ukraine, it is promising to see Truss ally with Germany’s new foreign minister Annalena Baerbock. Both have stressed the importance of European and Transatlantic cooperation against Russian aggression, and have called for a suspension of Nord Stream 2, which would mark a welcome step towards tackling Europe’s dangerous reliance on Russian natural gas.
Truss has an equally hardline stance on Chinese authoritarianism. Explicitly calling out China’s genocide of its Uighyr population, she demonstrates a clear shift from the appeasement of Raab’s Foreign Office. Equally, she has been outspoken against the National Security Law and erosion of democracy in Hong Kong. Whilst Johnson said he would not “pitchfork away Chinese investment”, Truss has made clear her stance against Chinese investment in critical infrastructure, and as Trade Secretary she strongly advocated for Britain’s membership in the CPTPP, a step to curb the pacific region’s economic reliance on China.
As a trans woman it would be remiss to neglect my personal distaste for Truss. Her role in axing planned reforms to the Gender Recognition Act was a significant setback to the basic liberties of trans individuals. Likewise her attacks on “wokery” are certainly at odds with the progressivism at the heart of liberal politics. However we would do well to remember that Truss is not competing with our vision for liberal Britain, but instead with her rivals for the helm of the Conservative Party: namely Johnson and Sunak. A continuation of Johnson is an endorsement of sleaze and a complete lack of coherent vision for Britain. In Sunak, we find a figure who has already shown cut-throat willingness to throw young people under the bus in pursuit of fiscal conservatism. As someone who is genuinely passionate about liberalising Britain and defending freedom globally, it is clear that Truss is the pragmatic choice to steer this country to 2024.