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Liz Truss: How to grow pie

Liz Truss wants to grow the pie | Cartoon: Iain Green

Liz Truss: How to grow pie

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. The rate of inflation in Germany. How to grow pie. These are all issues the Treasury minister would much rather be talking about than how his bosses are absolutely tanking the economy. 

But sadly, for Andrew Griffith MP, here he was, having to defend KamiKwasi Kwarteng’s don’t-call-it-a-Budget before eight in the morning on the BBC.

He began by waving the mini-Budget document – sorry, fiscal event document – in front of himself a couple of times, apparently hoping to distract viewers and Naga Munchetty.

“There’s a great deal of detail,” Griffith declared. “40 pages of detail!” he added. That is quite a lot of detail.

Certainly more than Liz Truss provided throughout her bid to become Tory leader and prime minister. It’s probably also longer than any book she or Griffith have read.

Anyway, that’s why the Office for Budget Responsibility was told not to prepare forecasts off the back of it. The document was simply too detailed. It had nothing to do with the Treasury essentially becoming the Office for Budget Irresponsibility, the OBR’s archnemesis.

Munchetty wasn’t fooled by this clever ploy, though. The OBR regularly produces forecasts for the full Budget, never mind mini-Budgets, she highlighted.

“This growth plan is full of detail about how this count-, this parli-, this government is going to grow the economy, 40 pages!” Griffith insisted, only slightly fluffing his pre-approved lines.

“Detail of infrastructure plans that have been long held up that we’re going to crack through, detail about how we’re going to bring forward the clean energy revolution,” he continued. 

How many pages is the average Budget then, asked Munchetty. Is it less than 40 pages? Griffith here got a bit sheepish. It tends to be “quite chunky,” he admitted.

There may not be a magic money tree but apparently there is a magic pie bush.

But you see, this is a “really big fiscal intervention”, the minister said. “It’s very important that we can talk to the country about how we’re going to pay for that. That’s going to take time.” Well, yes, it will take quite a lot of time if ministers continue to refuse to answer pretty basic questions. 

How long will it take to get real answers? “You’ve got to have the right level of detail” for OBR forecasts to be worth having, said the minister. Which is why the government is refusing to release those forecasts before the end of November. By then it will have had the right level of spin. No, sorry, the “right level of detail”. 

He insists, though, that the “growth plan” will definitely deal with the challenges the UK is facing. Like the strikes, for instance. Those have “held growth back,” he says, and will continue to “grind this country to a halt” unless something is done about those pesky people asking for more cash to be able to afford the bills the government is barely doing anything about. 

The government will take action which “grows the overall size of the pie,” he says. There may not be a magic money tree but apparently there is a magic pie bush. It’s just a shame that if that if that pie does somehow grow, some people around the dinner table are set to receive a bigger slice while others must go hungry or ask their local food bank for crumbs.

But his boss has convinced him that pie growing will save the UK economy, much like pork markets and selling tea to China. Truss truly believes the UK could become a world-leader in pastry innovation. Never mind feeding 4,000 with a loaf of bread, try feeding 67 million with a traditional Yorkshire pie (with a side of haggis – she is a child of the Union).

She had told local BBC journalists the day before about the importance of growing the pie “so that everyone can benefit”. The word ‘everyone’ does not mean what you think it means, though. Or perhaps she just missed out a few words. Everyone that donates to the Tory party, for example. Everyone that is a millionaire. Everyone that is not the average household.

How does she think the risky steps announced by her chancellor have gone, Truss was asked. She paused, before mumbling something about lower taxes. 

How is any of this fair, she was asked by another journalist. She paused again, cogs whirring as she tried to come up with a response. “It’s not fair to have a recession,” she eventually replied. 

Another radio presenter wondered she was ashamed of what her government had done. Again, a pause. “We have to remember what situation this country was facing.” 

Well, indeed. It was facing unmanageable energy bills, rising food costs and a winter of discontent.

Thanks to this intervention and its subsequent U-turn, we can now add mortgage concerns, a struggling housing market and tin-eared chancellor to that list. 

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