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Liz Truss rails against ‘anti-growth coalition’ including speech hecklers

Prime Minister Liz Truss railed against what she called an “anti-growth coalition” in her Tory conference speech (Jacob King/PA)
Prime Minister Liz Truss railed against what she called an “anti-growth coalition” in her Tory conference speech (Jacob King/PA)

Liz Truss launched a blistering attack on what she called the “anti-growth coalition”, a group of “enemies of enterprise” in which she included the protesters who disrupted her Tory conference speech.

The Prime Minister railed against those she accused of trying to hold back her pro-growth agenda, including Labour, “militant” unions, “Brexit deniers,” Extinction Rebellion and “some of the people we had in the hall earlier”.

Downing Street did not rule out that Jamie Oliver and independent think tanks were also part of the list of enemies.

Ms Truss was accused by some of those on the list of using her rant to obscure the real reasons for years of low growth.

During her first conference speech as Conservative Party leader, which was interrupted by heckling by Greenpeace protesters, Ms Truss accused her enemies of preferring to “talk on Twitter” than take tough decisions, and of taxiing “from north London townhouses to the BBC studio to dismiss anyone challenging the status quo”.

But she would not let them prevent her Government from pursuing its tax-slashing agenda to grow the British economy, she declared.

The Prime Minister told the packed hall: “I will not allow the anti-growth coalition to hold us back.

“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.

Conservative Party Conference 2022
Greenpeace protesters interrupt Ms Truss’s Tory conference speech (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“The fact is they prefer protesting to doing. They prefer talking on Twitter to taking tough decisions.

“They taxi from north London townhouses to the BBC studio to dismiss anyone challenging the status quo.

“From broadcast to podcast, they peddle the same old answers.

“It’s always more taxes, more regulation and more meddling.

“Wrong, wrong, wrong.”

Ms Truss accused Labour leader Keir Starmer of wanting to “put extra taxes on the companies we need to invest in our energy security,” Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford in Wales of cancelling road-building projects, and Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon of refusing to build new nuclear power stations.

In response, Ms Sturgeon tweeted: “Ranting about an imaginary ‘anti growth coalition’ is just an attempt to obscure the hard reality that the biggest brake on UK growth is Brexit – and that’s on the Tories.”

In her speech, Ms Truss asked: “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” because “they don’t face the same challenges as normal working people”, she claimed, adding that “their friends on the hard left tend to be the ones behind” strikes and protests.

The Prime Minister went on to declare that she is on the side of workers and commuters.

“The anti-growth coalition think the people who stick themselves to trains, roads and buildings are heroes.

“I say the real heroes are those who go to work, take responsibility and aspire to a better life for themselves and their families.

“And I am on their side.”

After her speech, the Prime Minister’s press secretary was asked which think tanks she likes.

“She obviously likes ones which are more on the centre-right of things,” he said.

He suggested there could be a scrapping of the planned ban of buy one, get one free offers, saying: “You’ll have to wait for announcements on that.”

With Jamie Oliver supporting that ban, the press secretary was asked if he is part of the anti-growth coalition.

“I’m not going to name individuals,” he responded, later adding: “Obviously people are free to voice their opinion but the economy has not been growing as it should be for a very long time. Why is that? There are obviously some people who influence certain policy decisions which isn’t conducive to growth.”

Liz Truss
Prime Minister Liz Truss delivers her keynote speech (Jacob King/PA)

Therese Coffey echoed the Prime Minister in branding the protesters in the conference hall as part of the group of enemies.

Asked how the demonstrators made it inside, the Deputy Prime Minister told BBC’s Politics Live: “I don’t know. Disappointing, but never mind. Dealt with, got on with it, and Liz showed her resolve.

“And exactly the sort of anti-growth coalition which she’s concerned is holding our country back.”

The Prime Minister’s tirade also drew criticism from union chiefs.

Rail, Maritime and Transport general secretary Mick Lynch said: “It is ironic that trade unions are labelled the anti-growth coalition when it is the Conservative Government who are cutting services, jobs and billions of pounds’ worth of investment from our railways.

“Unions represent the hopes and aspirations of ordinary working people across the country by winning better pay and conditions.

“Instead of maligning unions, the Prime Minister should turn her attention to the national rail dispute and help foster a negotiated settlement on job security, pay and working conditions.”

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said if Ms Truss really wanted to grow the economy, she “would not dismiss as ‘militant’ the nurses, drivers, refuse collectors, dockers and the tens of thousands of workers taking action on pay up and down the country so they can pay their bills and defend their families”.

She added: “In truth, it is trade unions delivering for working people. If Liz Truss thinks she can prevent us getting more money into pay packets and using all our (strength) to do that, she is yet again miscalculating and she will have a fight on her hands”.