1 August 2022

Liz Truss is the candidate who will do what she says and deliver for the British people

By Lord Philip Harris

The Conservative leadership campaign has been dominated by one question: who is the true Thatcherite, Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss? Having worked closely with Margaret Thatcher for most of her premiership, alongside subsequent Conservative prime ministers, I can say without doubt that Liz Truss fits the bill.

Lady Thatcher believed passionately in the power of the individual; in the great things that come from giving people as much as freedom as possible to live their lives as they pleased. She believed that economic growth, jobs and prosperity come from the actions of individuals, not from intervention by the state.

Liz shares these fundamental values. She is on the side of people who work hard, who do the right thing, who take individual responsibility, and aspire to a better life for themselves and their children. Liz also knows that to let individuals flourish, you need a small state and low taxes. It is only when people have enough money not just to live affordably, but enough to put aside a small amount of wealth, that they can act entrepreneurially.

Those savings can be used to start up companies, whether they be one man bands, small businesses, or – as I was lucky enough to accomplish myself, despite leaving school at 15 with one O level – large employers. Companies that can provide jobs, services, and crucially economic growth. Thatcher set out to create a UK where that could happen. She succeeded.

Of course, both candidates agree with that idea (they wouldn’t be Conservatives otherwise), but Thatcher was not just a talker, she was a doer. I judge a person not just on their words, but on their actions; and Sunak’s words have been the opposite of his actions. He says low taxes, but he has been the Chancellor that has overseen the highest tax burden for 70 years, and a ballooning state that shows no sign of slowing.

First, Sunak said it was crucial, even morally right, to keep taxes high. Now he has changed his mind, and promises to immediately lower VAT. But the British public have – as Sunak told them! – been calling for a Prime Minister they can trust, who will keep the promises they have made. If the Conservative Party heeds their calls to elect someone who the public can trust not to go back on their words, then I don’t see how we can – it seems to me we shouldn’t – elect Rishi Sunak.

With Liz Truss, on the other hand, the word is equal to the deed. Not everyone will know that she is the Cabinet minister who has had by far the widest range, and longest span, of experience. In every job she’s had, she has always been committed to fulfilling her promises and delivering for the British people.

I have seen this first hand. One of the benefits of doing well in business is that you can give back to the community. In 1989, when Lady Thatcher asked me to take over a badly run comprehensive in Crystal Palace, little did I know that it would be the start of my charity, The Harris Federation. It is now the most successful academy chain in the country; educating 42,000 children in 51 state schools, improving the educational outcomes and life chances of children from all backgrounds ever since, getting double the average number of kids into Russell Group universities, including over 200 students into Oxbridge.

It was through my educational work that I met Liz. Early in her career as an MP, Liz was given a job in the Department of Education, helping to put Michael Gove’s education reforms into practice. From my interaction with her at that time I quickly learnt that we were kindred spirits. She shared my core belief that the best way to set up the future generation was by giving them a top class education. She knew that introducing free market principles, and real choice for parents when it comes to schools, would accomplish that. Most importantly, she was one of the few ministers in Education who understood the challenge, rolled up her sleeves, and got things done.

In my career I have experienced many different kinds of Prime Minister; from Theresa May, who in her electioneering was indecisive, to Boris Johnson, who had the right beliefs and intentions but, despite some landmark successes, did not get to deliver what was needed.

Prime Minister Truss will be different. She has laid out a coherent strategy, and I know that she will implement it, and get the country growing again. She understands complex problems, and if she says she is going to sort a problem, she gets on and does just that.

We face a crucial choice in electing our next Prime Minister. In two years there will be a general election. The nation will not forgive the Conservatives if we have not materially improved things by then. We can’t afford to put someone in the job who has been Chancellor for two years and in that time has created an economy that, far from promoting growth, is encouraging stasis and decline.

There is a reason both candidates chose Margaret Thatcher as the greatest modern leader of the Conservative Party; primarily, it is because she fundamentally changed this country for the better. So if we want to achieve the same, and deliver for the British people, then there can only be one choice: we must elect Liz Truss to the leadership and Prime Ministership.


Read the case for Rishi Sunak, from John Glen MP – Rishi Sunak is best placed to unite our country with a new style of leadership


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Lord Philip Harris is a Conservative peer.

Columns are the author's own opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of CapX.