BY STEPHEN BOAKES, Editor-in-Chief
When Elizabeth Truss came to the University of York on the 15th March, championing economic and social liberalism to the youth of this country, little did anyone know that she would surprise everyone by confronting the strike-supporting student occupation of Heslington Hall. This is the story of how Liz Truss came to York, and how she stole my umbrella.
The current Chief Secretary to the Treasury and MP for South West Norfolk, who has been in government in some capacity since 2012, grew up with what she describes as ‘to the left of Labour’ parents, she was President of the Oxford University Liberal Democrats and a member of the national executive committee of its youth wing, before she made the journey to the Conservatives in 1996. As a former Lib Dem, social and economic liberalism are what drive Truss, with her beliefs in individuality being why she found a home with the Conservatives.
She spoke of how the UK can learn from the rest of the world as it endeavours to build a post-EU Britain, describing herself as a ‘re-leaver’ and convert to the cause, championing the need to deregulate. She points to Singapore for its entrepreneurialism, South Korea for how it delivers energy, and to France and Spain for their deregulation of childcare previously blocked by Nick Clegg. Truss rejects the communist term ‘capitalism’ in favour of ‘freedom of enterprise’, believing freedom and liberty to be the driving force of prosperity.
In answering questions, Truss reaffirmed her concern for London’s reliance on Russian investment and European reliance on Russian gas. But is more concerned by China and Xi Jinping’s “Life Presidency”. Russia is a declining influence in the world, and while China has made big strides to liberalise economically, this latest move is a step back for the values of liberal democracy which the West seeks to promote.
With the UK being highly centralised compared to similar nations, Truss also lends her support to devolution, which she states has worked well in Manchester and would work well in Yorkshire. But fears over-regulatory councils, the likes of which seek to ban Uber and restrict the gig economy, an issue the Conservatives wish to battle Labour for the youth vote. She is a big fan of the Australian system of governance whereby Ministers have more power over their Civil Servants, to curb the ‘Yes Minister’ style of governance the UK suffers.
In terms of future leadership bids, Truss rules herself out of any race, but intriguingly notes her belief in the unspoken rule that you have one opportunity to stand and cannot do so again. Perhaps ruling out the chances of Boris and Gove in favour of candidates who have not previously stood: Jacob Rees-Mogg and James Cleverly, who currently have soaring popularity both inside and outside of the party.
She finished with a rallying cry for young Tories to fight back against censorship and “snowflake culture”; to be louder, more rebellious, and more “offensive!”.
Having confessed her disappointment to have not crossed a picket line, leading from the front with my umbrella in-hand, Truss led a small band of young inquisitive students, Tories, and journalists through the rain to confront left-wing students who had taken up occupation of the Heslington Hall reception area in a bid to support striking staff. Here she engaged with the occupiers on the industrial dispute, as well as wider issues regarding housing, education, public sector pay, and austerity generally.
Truss, pictured with umbrella, conversing with students occupying Heslington Hall in support of industrial action [Image: Joseph Silke]
Having completed her mission to champion her party and economic liberalism at the University, part of a Conservative Party directive to go after the youth vote on their home turf, Truss swiftly left, my umbrella still in hand*.
*Her team have since been in touch and returned my umbrella.