The Tories are the most powerful part of the anti-growth coalition
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Good morning Liz Truss used her conference speech to spell out who her enemies were: Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the SNP, Talking Heads, podcasters, people who live in big houses in north London, Extinction Rebellion, the British anti-growth coalition’s shock troops.
It is not yet clear where Fitch, which has downgraded the UK outlook to negative from stable, lies on the axis of evil. Somewhere above those of us with small flats in North London I hope.
Inside Politics is edited today by Abby Wallace. Follow Stefan on Twitter @stephenkb and please send gossip, thoughts and feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I would do anything to grow, but I won’t
Liz Truss is undoubtedly right about one thing: there is a powerful anti-growth coalition in the UK.
And it is undoubtedly correct to say that some of these anti-growth forces can be found on the benches of the opposition. Indeed, we saw some of that thanks to the anti-fracking protesters who disrupted the Prime Minister’s speech. But a problem with Truss’s conference speech is that the most powerful single branch of Britain’s anti-growth coalition sits within the Conservative Party.
At Suella Braverman says her “ultimate pursuit” In a bid to reduce immigration to the UK to tens of thousands, she is part of the anti-growth coalition. When Brendan Clarke-Smith, a junior minister, celebrates Prevention of the construction of a solar park in his constituency he belongs to the anti-growth coalition. When Grant Shapps, then Secretary of State, plans blocked to redevelop the area around Cockfosters Underground – he is part of the anti-growth coalition.
Again, the anti-growth coalition goes far beyond the conservatives. Matthew Pennycook, Labor shadow housing secretary, just last year against new buildings on brownfield sites in his constituency. But it is the Conservative Party that has been the largest party in local government since 2004 and has been in office since 2010. Ultimately, it is the Conservative Party’s anti-growth bias that matters most because it is the one that holds and wields real power in Westminster. It’s the part of the anti-growth coalition that Truss must defeat if it is to succeed.
One reason successful leaders need to accurately name their opponents is that if you can’t, you can’t defeat them. When Tony Blair said he had “scars on his back” from civil service reform, he didn’t pretend his real problem was William Hague. Margaret Thatcher was also not afraid to point out that some of her main opponents came from the Tory party.
Of course, the big difference between Truss and either of these politicians is that both were much stronger than Truss is at the moment. But in politics, weakness tends to reinforce itself: Truss is too weak to actually name her most dangerous opponents because she’s too weak to even stand a chance of defeating them. Being too weak to defeat them, she has no real hope of achieving her goals.
Another cup of coffee before I go
That Miscellaneous What was missing from Liz Truss’s speech was a sense of what exactly she could cut to achieve her goal of making healthy money. If anything, quite the opposite: she had a lengthy passage on how her friend and close political ally, Health Secretary Thérèse Coffey, would tackle the NHS backlog – not something it is apparently be brought into line with the real spending cuts that inflation is imposing on public services.
She was particularly well received for her comments on the war in Ukraine and Britain’s defense spending target – another budget that looks set to grow, not shrink.
This is certainly Truss’ biggest problem, politically and politically speaking. There is no workable tax and spending policy that is not opposed by some faction in her party, and she is too weak to even name, let alone defeat, her internal opponents.
Georgina is on vacation. Before leaving for a well-deserved break, she wrote a fascinating article for the FT Opinion Department about visiting the RAF base in Hampshire where her father lived as a refugee 40 years ago:
Living in buildings not marked on any official map, Sopley’s 2,885 residents lived a limited existence – caught between war and peace, international aid and domestic indifference.
Top stories today
“It’s like a family wedding” | Business leaders criticized the ruling Conservatives for their commitment to the economy at the convention, when they urged the party to focus on reviving the economy and ending infighting. “It’s like a family wedding where there’s been a huge row and they can’t be polite to the guests anymore,” said a senior lobbyist.
Caledonian sleeper | Serco’s contract to operate the Caledonian Sleeper train will be scrapped from next summer. The news raises the prospect of nationalisation, but Holyrood said no decision has yet been made on that front.
Tax threshold freezes outweigh headline cuts | People will lose more than they will gain by freezing tax and benefit thresholds, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said. A senior research economist said freezes would draw “more millions” into the tax system.
Pension insurance warned of risks | The UK’s largest private sector pension scheme, the Universities Superannuation Scheme, invested more of its members’ assets in leveraged hedging, despite opposition from sponsoring employers.
Tories mull catastrophic conference | Conservative MPs have pondered a conference marred by cabinet power struggles and a breakdown in party discipline. “I just went back to my hotel room and cried,” said an ally of Truss.
https://www.ft.com/content/5ee51b8c-ee78-472c-90c1-9870f4910d78 The Tories are the most powerful part of the anti-growth coalition