LONDON — Liz Truss struck firmly to her guns in a defiant speech Monday as Britain’s shortest-serving prime minister defended her chaotic economic legacy.
Addressing the Institute for Government think tank, Truss blamed the media, the opposition Labour Party, and economic orthodoxy for her downfall during her 49 days in office.
And she argued that the “reaction” from the “political and economic establishment” to her policies was the reason they failed.
Pressed in the Q&A on the claim she “crashed the economy,” Truss shot back: “I do want to challenge this phrase ‘crashed the economy.’
“The fact is that since I left office both mortgage rates and gilt rates have gone higher than they were at the time of the mini-budget. So I do think you are repeating a line to take from the Labour Party when you say that.”
Truss’ mini-budget — officially billed as the “Plan for Growth” — aimed to slash taxes and cut regulations. But the debt-funded plan was not scrutinized by Westminster’s independent public spending watchdog, and a market rout followed its unveiling.
Most of its measures were undone weeks later, and Truss argued Monday she was “effectively forced into a policy reversal” before her ideas could work.
‘Fatten the pig on market day’
In the closest Truss came to a concession, the former PM said the mini-budget may have been rolled out too quickly.
“Some people said we were in too much of a rush, and it is certainly true that I didn’t just try to fatten the pig on market day — I tried to rear the pig and slaughter it as well,” she said. “I confess to that.”
However, Truss largely blamed what she has dubbed the “anti-growth coalition” for undermining her plan.
“The anti-growth coalition is now a powerful force, comprising the economic and political elite, corporatist part of the media, and even a section of the Conservative parliamentary party,” she argued, as she said her libertarian economic ideas were “simply … not fashionable on the London dinner party circuit.”
She urged the Tory party, now led by her successor Rishi Sunak, not to be “scared” of climate activists, “anti-capitalists and the … woke diversity brigade.”
Truss’ political opponents were quick to pounce on her re-emergence, nearly a year on from the mini-budget.
Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper said: “Liz Truss giving a speech on economic growth is like an arsonist giving a talk on fire safety.”
Sunak’s spokesperson was pressed Monday on whether the prime minister had tuned in. “No,” came the reply. “He was being prime minister, having meetings.”