Liz Truss thinks an anti-growth coalition is responsible for the UK’s problems - it must include her own party

The PM sought to shift the blame onto unions, Labour and even Exctinction Rebellion for 12 years of Tory misrule

“For too long,” said Liz Truss, to the gathered Tory faithful in Birmingham today, “our economy hasn’t grown as strongly as it should have done.”

The new prime minister described the need to “get Britain moving,” warning the audience that “we cannot have any more drift and delay at this vital time”.

She contextualised all this as taking place not just in a moment of crisis, but at the backend of a long period of decline.

Potentially lacking from her analysis though was a consideration of power.

If the country is in such dire need of growth and to be put “back on its feet”, then who or what has brought it to its knees?

With the primary theme of her first speech to Conservative Party conference as leader, Liz Truss provided an answer to this question: a set of interest groups she labelled the ‘anti-growth coalition’.

These groups, she said, “don’t face the same challenges as normal working people,” and “prefer talking on Twitter to taking tough decisions”.

“They don’t understand British people, they don’t understand aspiration. They are prepared to leave our towns and cities facing decline.”

Labour and the Liberal Democrats, “militant unions,” Brexit deniers and Extinction Rebellion were all name-checked as members of the anti-growth coalition.

Before she reached the anti-growth coalition part of her speech, Truss reminded the audience of the state of play when she entered Downing Street, one long month ago.

“Average energy bills were predicted to soar above £6,000 per year,” she said, “we faced the highest tax burden that our country had had in 70 years.”

“Families would have been unable to heat their homes, businesses would have gone bust, jobs would have been lost, and we would have had worse public services, including the NHS.”

Which member of the anti-growth coalition can take responsibility for the mess Truss inherited? Unless Boris Johnson has quietly joined the Lib Dems since leaving office, none.

Truss stressed throughout that growth will benefit everyone, and that, as such, her three priorities are “growth, growth, growth”.

The PM is not unique in claiming that her priority is economic growth. Indeed, it would be highly surprising to hear any politician say they want to see stagnation - the opposite of growth - or refer to themselves as ‘anti-growth’.

In July, Labour leader Keir Starmer laid out “some of the plans Labour has to reboot growth,” during a speech in which he used the word 38 times.

He said: “A strong national economy needs everyone making the best contribution they can. Whatever their circumstances, wherever they live.”

Later, he added: “To do all that we need three things: Growth. Growth. And growth.”.

So if even the man in charge of the ringleader party in Truss’ so-called anti-growth coalition says he wants to focus on economic growth, the difference must be in how they seek to achieve it, and their respective party’s records.

Overall economic growth between 1997 and 2009 averaged 2.1% per year, while between 2010 and 2021 the average rate of annual growth was 1.5%. Recent analysis by the TUC shows that from 1970 until 2007 real wages grew by an average of 33% a decade, though this fell below zero in the 2010s.

But low growth, Truss said, “isn’t just numbers on a spreadsheet”.

“Low growth means lower wages, fewer opportunities and less money to spend on the things that make life better.”

In burnishing her credentials as a fighter, Truss told the conference hall that she has fought for pay rises in the past.

All this would suggest that Truss shares a dim view of falling wages with the members of the militant unions who’ve been taking industrial action in pursuit of better pay, much to the chagrin of her and her government.

The PM sees achieving growth as the driver behind all her policy decisions so far, including the now-deceased 45p tax-rate cut, and cutting benefits in real-terms in hopes that it spurs more people into work.

If these really are policies which would drive growth then some of their most fervent or at least most effective opponents have not been members of the coalition described by Truss, but members of her own party, who forced a U-turn on the former just days after it was set out and look sure to do the same for the latter before it has even been officially announced.

Tying it all together for the PM, the animus behind her political worldview, is a “firm belief in the British people”.

“I believe that you know best,” she said of the public - though presumably she wasn’t referring to fracking.

Whether this belief is reciprocated by the public remains to be seen - coming into power as she did on the votes of around 80,000 Conservative members.

Recent polls show her approval rating at -59, and put Labour on course to win a majority of around 100 at the next election.

Perhaps that means the public too are just part of the anti-growth coalition.