Liz Truss accuses Mark Drakeford of being part of an 'anti-growth coalition'

Liz Truss used her speech to the Conservative conference in Birmingham to defend her economic plans following extensive criticism. Credit: PA

The Prime Minister has branded the First Minister an “enemy of enterprise” and said he is part of an “anti-growth coalition.”

Liz Truss used her speech to the Conservative conference in Birmingham to defend her economic plans following extensive criticism, including from within her own party, and turmoil in the financial markets.

She made no apology for any of that, nor for her major u-turn on Monday when she and the Chancellor dropped their proposal to abolish the 45p rate of income tax paid by the highest earners. 

Instead she insisted that her long-term plan is to reduce taxes and regulation in order to boost economic growth. 

And she said that that aim was being opposed by an ‘anti-growth coalition’ before listing “Labour, the Lib Dems, the SNP, the militant unions, the vested interests dressed up as think tanks, the talking heads, the Brexit deniers, Extinction Rebellion and some of the people we had in the hall earlier” referring to Greenpeace protestors who had interrupted her speech.

And she included Mark Drakeford and the Scottish First Minister in that list.

Liz Truss accused Mark Drakeford of being an "enemy of enterprise" Credit: PA

“Mark Drakeford in Wales is cancelling road-building projects and refusing to build the M4 relief road", Ms Truss said.

“Nicola Sturgeon won’t build new nuclear power stations to solve the energy crisis in Scotland.

“Have these people ever seen tax rises they don’t like or an industry they don’t want to control?

“They don’t understand British people, they don’t understand aspiration.

“They are prepared to leave our towns and cities facing decline.”

Mark Drakeford won’t be surprised to find himself included in her list of political enemies and has been stinging in his own criticism. 

In the Senedd chamber this week he said that Liz Truss was leading “a government that believes in redistribution; it believes in taking money from the poor and giving it to the rich.”

When he faced loud rebukes from Conservative Senedd Members he responded by saying: “Just shouting, sitting there, does not alter the fact that the top 5 per cent—this is after Liz Truss was forced to abandon her decision to abolish the 45p rate of tax—of the population will still get a quarter of all the cash gains as a result of the remaining aspects of the budget package. 

“The richest 5 per cent of households will gain 40 times more—can you imagine that, Llywydd: the richest, top 5 per cent will gain 40 times more—than the bottom fifth of the population.

“It is so disgraceful that it is no wonder that that party is in complete free fall in the opinion polls. 

“And, of course, we will use all the powers we have and the capacity we have to defend people here in Wales from this onslaught.”

Threats of 'brutal' discipline

The dividing lines between parties haven’t been so clear for a long time. 

Liz Truss’ strategy is a deliberate attempt to portray her political opponents as part of a concerted group more concerned with the rights of protestors, an elite that she can rally her party against, a tactic that worked well for Boris Johnson and others during various Brexit crises. 

The problem with taking that approach now is that, firstly, it has been her party, the Conservatives, which has run the UK Government for the last 12 year and secondly, many of those who have been most critical of the plans set out over the last week by the Prime Minister and her Chancellor are not only within her party but in some cases within her own cabinet.

There have been threats of “brutal” discipline against any MPs thinking of rebelling against the UK Government’s financial plans when they are voted on in the House of Commons. 

But there remains huge concern at all levels of the Conservative about the shaky start Liz Truss’ time in government has had and her approach. 

She leads a divided party and those divisions may not be healed any time soon. 

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We are focused on growing our economy and delivering a stronger, fairer, greener Wales. 

"Contrary to the Prime Minister’s “anti-growth” claims, figures released by the ONS in September show GDP growth was strongest in Wales and Scotland outside London.”