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A little “heartless Conservatism” might just make us richer

Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng: growth is a moral issue. Leon Neal/Getty

“It’s not exactly news that Britain has a growth problem,” says Robert Colvile in The Sunday Times. But for Liz Truss and Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng, it’s “the only problem” that really matters. Kwarteng fired Tom Scholar, his chief civil servant, because he believes the Treasury has become too focused on “sharing out the cake rather than increasing its size”. When Liz Truss was recently confronted with a chart showing that her proposed tax cuts “would predominantly advantage the rich”, she unapologetically retorted that “growing the economy benefits everyone” – the same argument “as her icon Margaret Thatcher”.

This approach might be “politically incendiary”, but it’s right. Annual GDP growth per capita fell from 2.5% in the 1980s to 1.1% before the pandemic, “the difference between doubling every 30 years and doubling every 65”. The average Briton is now two thirds as rich as the average American; “our economy is on course to be overtaken by Poland’s”. Anything that holds back housebuilding, entrepreneurialism, and infrastructure development “punishes not just our future selves, but everyone else around us”. Policies like removing the limits on bankers’ bonuses might seem “the very caricature of heartless Conservatism”, but if they help growth, they’ll make a positive material difference to people’s lives. “Growth, in short, is a moral issue.” If Truss and Kwarteng’s reforms succeed, the country will become “a far better place”.