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The Tory party

The Tory problem: “politics without policy”

Truss in Taipei: enjoying her freedom. I-Hwa Cheng/AFP/Getty

Liz Truss is “having a whale of a time”, says Bagehot in The Economist. She began last week at the Copenhagen Democracy Summit, calling on Western countries to stand up to China, before heading to Taiwan as a guest of the Taipei government. “I’m enjoying freedom,” she said, “being able to do things I wasn’t able to do when I was in government.” You may wonder why anyone listens to Britain’s “least successful prime minister”. But her hosts are always impeccably polite. Of the disastrous tax cuts that torpedoed her premiership, her biography in Copenhagen said only: “Regrettably these reforms did not command sufficient political and economic support.” It brought to mind the Japanese emperor’s statement, after America dropped two nuclear bombs on his country, that “the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage”.

Easy as it is to mock her, Truss is “emblematic of deeper problems”. The first is that her views – “low taxes at all costs”, a deeply hawkish foreign policy – still have a lot of support within the party. She may be gone from Downing Street, but her ideas “live on”. The second is that her complaints about being powerless in government are all too common among Tory ministers. “Michael Gove, the minister responsible for housing, bemoans the fact that there is too little housing.” Suella Braverman “froths” that as many one million people migrated to Britain last year, “without mentioning that she is responsible for immigration policy”. It has become the Conservatives’ mantra: “politics without policy”.