What can Wales expect from the new Prime Minister Liz Truss?

Liz Truss has previously described herself as a “child of the union”. Credit: PA

Nobody can accuse Liz Truss of not being clear about the approach she plans to take towards Wales as Prime Minister.

Describing herself as a “child of the union” she insists that she will spend money and take decisions for Wales even if that means conflict with the Welsh Government. 

In fact she seems to relish the prospect of conflict, describing First Minister Mark Drakeford as a “low energy Jeremy Corbyn” and has accused both the Welsh and Scottish governments of playing political games.

Bear in mind that in making these statements, she’s been until now speaking directly to members of her own party, the majority of whom are at least sceptical towards devolution and in many cases, completely opposed to it. 

However, while Liz Truss in office may temper some of her language towards the devolved governments, it’s worth noting that her criticism of them represents a continuation of the approach taken by her predecessor. 

Under Boris Johnson, the UK government unashamedly began taking decisions in areas that until recent years have been considered to be completely the responsibility of the Welsh government, using the post-Brexit transfer of powers and funding from the European Union as a mechanism.

It’s clear that a Truss premiership will continue with that approach, reiterating the long-held Conservative pledge to build an M4 relief road at Newport despite the plan being rejected by a directly-elected Welsh Government which holds power over the project. 

Ms Truss has voiced her support for an M4 relief road to be built in Newport, despite the plan being rejected by Welsh Government. Credit: PA

She has said: "Having grown up in Paisley before going to a comprehensive school in Leeds, I consider myself a child of the Union.”

She said that as Prime Minister her government “would put the Union at the heart of everything it does and ensure that all corners of our country are rightly championed at the very top of government.

“For too long, people in parts of our United Kingdom have been let down by their devolved administrations playing political games instead of focusing on their priorities. If elected prime minister, I will deliver for our whole country.

“We are not four separate nations in an agreement of convenience, as some would have us believe. We are one great country which shares a history and institutions, but also family and friends, memories and values.

“I would ensure that our entire family continues to get the attention, support, and investment that it deserves.”

While that’s not a new approach then, it is a strategy with a political risk of creating division and losing the support of pro-devolution Conservative voters.

However Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies has insisted that as Prime Minister Liz Truss will unite both his party and the UK. 

In an article that he wrote jointly with senior Conservatives from Scotland and Northern Ireland, the MS wrote that "Liz understands that if Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland prosper, so does the Union. And we know that if it does well, so do our nations – we are one and the same.

"Ultimately we believe that Liz is right to take our party and country forward because she is the best placed to bring what we need above all else – unity.

"We cannot hope to strengthen the ties of our Union, to deliver for the whole country, without uniting."

So the relationship between Westminster and Cardiff looks set to continue to be a bumpy one. 

Responding to criticism from both of the leadership candidates, Mark Drakeford said: "There's nothing that I could say about either of them that they haven't already said about each other."

They’ll be at odds over policy as well as approach to devolution. 

Although it’s widely expected that Liz Truss will have to act to help individuals and businesses affected by rapidly-rising energy prices, she has repeatedly said that her preference is for tax cuts rather than “handouts.”

As recently as this weekend she was defending tax cuts for the better-off as “fair,” referring to the controversial theory of “trickle down” economics. 

In support of her focus on cutting taxes and red tape she has cited the thinking and won the praise of free-market economist Patrick Minford, a professor at Cardiff University and a former adviser to Margaret Thatcher. 

She has the chance to put her theories into practice now that she’s won the support of her party and with a UK General Election no more than 18 months away, she will find out if she can also win the support of voters.