With Boris Johnson looking a shoo-in for No. 10, his supporters are battling it out in a bid to win a top job in his Cabinet. The most coveted position is Chancellor and Sajid Javid, Liz Truss and Matt Hancock are seen as the frontrunners. This afternoon, Truss used her appearance at a Press Gallery lunch to set out her stall. Referring to her rivals, she said of Hancock that she wouldn’t ever feel ‘threatened by someone with fewer than 5,000 instagram followers’. As for Javid, when asked who was better at maths out of the two of them, Truss pointed out that she had a Further Maths A Level.
Discussing rumours that Jacob Rees-Mogg is being lined up for her current role, Truss joked that she would only be just down the corridor from him in the new regime – hinting that she would be Chancellor. However, there was also some more serious substance to Truss’s pitch away from the gags. The radical conservative used her speech to focus on the economy – and the opportunities presented by Brexit:
‘We’ve got a crucial opportunity now to change our country for the better. I think too many people think British politics has become managerial, that the government is keeping the status quo. And that we’re managing decline rather than stepping out to something new. We need to do the opposite. We need to leave the EU, we need to make Britain the biggest economy in Europe and the ideas factory.
We need to use the freedom that we’re going to have leaving the EU to create a more flexible nimble economy – setting our own rules and regulations in areas like financial services, technology and free ports. We need to be open to new industries and technologies – talking more about online opportunities rather than just online harms. We need to cut stamp duty and be prepared to make the argument that people keep more of their own money and we need to level up Britain’s infrastructure so we can unite our country.’
In the question and answer session, Truss was asked what she made of Jeremy Hunt’s attack on Johnson in the ITV debate on Tuesday for prioritising tax breaks for high earners. Truss was unapologetic and put in a defence of tax cuts – pointing to Nigel Lawson’s 1988 Budget. She said: ‘the reason that Boris is getting flak for this is that the Conservative party haven’t been prepared to make these arguments for at least a decade’.
In the Boris camp, there are figures who blame Truss for the policy which they see as the biggest PR policy misfire of the campaign. The argument that is made against giving Truss the keys to No. 11 is that she is a risky choice – her policies are more radical than many in the party would like and the Tories have no outright majority. In her latest appearance, Truss tried to pitch herself as a serious candidate. When Johnson was interviewed by The Spectator, he said he was surprised that lowering tax for high earners had become a ‘taboo subject’ in the Tory party. Time will tell if he really wants to appoint someone determined to break this taboo.