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The shadow of Margaret Thatcher is looming large over Tory leadership race

23 Jul 2022 6 minute read
Margaret Thatcher on the doorstep of Number 10 Downing Street after winning the General Election in 1979.PA Images
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has so far drawn most associations with Margaret Thatcher, the first female prime minister whose personality and policies defined the last quarter of 20th century Britain.But it was Rishi Sunak who on Saturday appeared to consciously cultivate a more direct link with Mrs Thatcher, giving a speech to the party faithful in her birthplace of Grantham, Lincolnshire.

The former chancellor has been quick to associate his own steady-as-she-goes approach to the public finances with Mrs Thatcher, although he declined to get into too much detail about the location choice when pressed on it by reporters.

Instead, he said what he proposes is “common-sense Thatcherism”.

Ms Truss recently hit out at comparisons to Mrs Thatcher, who died in 2013, calling them frustrating.

But it has been suggested the comparisons have not been unwelcome to Ms Truss, pointing to some of her eye-catching photo opportunities, even if the Foreign Secretary herself has tried to scoff such an idea.

Ms Truss donned military gear and perched in a tank for pictures during a visit to Estonia, echoing an image of former prime minister Mrs Thatcher in a tank in West Germany in 1986.

More recently, an outfit worn at one of the televised leadership debates bore uncanny similarities to the attire once worn by Mrs Thatcher.

But Ms Truss told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I am my own person.

“I’m from a very different background. I grew up in Yorkshire. I went to a comprehensive school. I am somebody who has worked all my life to get things done. And that’s what I want to do in the job.”

Brexit

Mr Sunak used his speech today to take aim at his rival’s Brexit credentials warning about the dangers of inflation and the need for a new “radicalism” in government.

Speaking to a mostly friendly crowd, he called himself the “underdog” but stopped short of naming Ms Truss personally.

He told the crowd: “The forces that be want this to be a coronation for the other candidate. But I think members want a choice and they are prepared to listen.”

Pressed by reporters to be more specific, he said he was talking “generically”.

Elsewhere in his speech, Mr Sunak sought to create a clear dividing line between himself and Ms Truss as he implicitly criticised her proposed tax cuts, which she says will help decrease inflation.

“If we are to deliver on the promise of Brexit, then we’re going to need someone who actually understands Brexit, believes in Brexit, voted for Brexit,” he told the crowd, to cheers.

In a speech punctuated by frequent applause, he also said: “We have to tell the truth about the cost of living.

“Rising inflation is the enemy that makes everyone poorer and puts at risk your homes and your savings. And we have to tell the truth about tax.

“I will not put money back in your pocket knowing that rising inflation will only whip it straight back out.”

He called for the need for radicalism in politics, telling the crowd: “Real change is there, I swear it.”

That change includes a promised plan to tackle NHS backlogs, driven in part by a so-called “vaccines-style” taskforce.

Warning against “privatisation by the back door”, Mr Sunak announced plans to eliminate one-year NHS waiting times six months earlier than planned by September 2024, and to get overall numbers falling by next year.

It is a theme Mr Sunak focused on in an interview with The Times newspaper, where he said he would put the UK on a “crisis footing” from his first day as prime minister to deal with inflation and a host of other challenges.

“They’re challenges that are staring us in the face and a business-as-usual mentality isn’t going to cut it in dealing with them,” he said. “So from day one of being in office I’m going to put us on a crisis footing.”

Credible

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab, a supporter of Mr Sunak, said the former chancellor had set out a “credible” plan on the economy and on the NHS.

He did not rule out someone from the private sector taking charge of the taskforce to tackle the NHS backlog in England, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I don’t think Rishi has set out who that would be.

“One thing we learned is that you can bring people in, either from across government where we’ve got excellent officials, or people with experience, and particularly the hybrid experience.”

Ms Truss is also on the campaign trail on Saturday, where she is expected to defended her economic vision.

A spokesperson for Ms Truss said: “Liz‘s plans for tax cuts will reward people for their hard work and effort, allowing them to keep more of their hard-earned money. You cannot tax your way to growth.

“We have the highest tax burden since the 1940s and as Prime Minister Liz will take immediate action to prioritise growth and cut taxes.”

Describing herself as an “insurgent” who wants to change things, she told the Telegraph newspaper of her vision of the UK as a “high growth, high productivity, powerhouse”.

On her plan to bring down inflation, she said: “I believe it is right that inflation will come down because inflation was caused by a global supply shock. But it was exacerbated by monetary policy. What I have said is in the future I’m going to look at the Bank of England’s mandate. It is set by the Treasury. It was last set by Gordon Brown in 1997.”

Pressed on her thinking on the Bank of England’s mandate, she added: “What I want to do is look at best practice from central banks around the world, look at their mandates, and make sure we have a tight enough focus on the money supply and on inflation.”


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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
16 days ago

Liz Truss must pinch herself every morning…

Mick Tems
Mick Tems
16 days ago

The bitch is back…+

Andrew
Andrew
16 days ago

When you have lost your shadow, you have nothing left to lose. The only shadow Maggie now cast’s, is the one from the stone placed at the head of her grave.

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
16 days ago

With Sunak in Grantham and Truss in a dream that she is Maggie, the race is Thatchering up but now we hear Bojo is not going away so we’re in for a summer long 3 way mudslinging extravaganza. What a wonderful way to watch the Tories completely destroy themselves.

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
16 days ago

Thatcher’s savage policies, which resulted in the destruction of large swathes of the welsh economy, did much to revive the cause of welsh devolution after it looked dead following the 1979 referendum disaster. A Truss neo thatcherite tory leadership will be a massive boost to the cause of Welsh indy im sure

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
16 days ago

Might I suggest that we are witnessing a politically perverse non-sexual personality driven ‘menage a trois’ at work while the ghost of Grantham weaves a diabolical web of intrigue and deception around the players and those 22 minstrels plucking the strings from the back benches to the tune of Royal Britannia…

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
15 days ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Yes indeed. You well might.

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
16 days ago

Truss is trying to model herself on Thatcher because she is void of any personality herself and is hoping the party faithful will turn all nostalgic. The country is on its knees with a cost of living crisis while the Tory party is, once again, wrapped up in itself performing its usual insular, undemocatic pantomime. No empathy, no compassion, no care – why does England put up with them?

Peter Cuthbert
Peter Cuthbert
15 days ago

Well, we do have interesting times! The general consensus, supported by hard evidence, is that the 30 year experiment of Thatcherite, Rand inspired Neo-Liberalism has been a disaster for 99% of the population. We now have two Tories running around shouting “I’m more Thatcherite that you are!” and expecting the voting public to think that they are intelligent well informed politicians capable of getting us out of the Thatcherite hole in which we are stuck. Perhaps it is a good thing that the electorate choosing one of these two is perhaps just 150,000. If it was a real election my… Read more »

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
15 days ago

Raab, Truss and underdog multi-millionaire Sunak all speak with forked tongue…

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