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Liz Truss targets ‘trans activists’, Blair and ‘quangos’ as she explains political meltdown at right-wing US conference

‘Now people are joining the civil service who are essentially activists – they might be trans activists, they might be environmental extremists – but they are now having a voice within the civil service in a way I don’t think was true 30 or 40 years ago, so we just have a wholly new problem’

Andrew Feinberg
Washington DC
Thursday 22 February 2024 00:24 GMT
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Liz Truss: Conservatives have not taken on left-wing extremists

Former Prime Minister Liz Truss is now placing blame for her meltdown after just 49 days in Number 10 Downing Street on Sir Tony Blair and a slew of government agencies who she says do not care about the lives of average Britons.

Speaking alongside ex-Brexit Party and Ukip leader Nigel Farage at an "international summit" on the eve of the Conservative Political Action Conference outside Washington, Ms Truss told attendees her tenure as prime minister was marred by a "huge establishment backlash".

She also said some people joining the civil service “who are essentially activists – they might be trans activists, they might be environmental extremists” were part of a “wholly new problem”.

Her comments about “trans activists” come after her successor as UK prime minister, Rishi Sunak, caused a storm with a joke in the House of Commons about trans people on the day the mother of Brianna Ghey – a trans teenager whose brutal murder shocked Britain – was visiting Parliament.

Speaking in Washington DC on Wednesday, Ms Truss said: "What has happened in Britain over the past 30 years, is power that used to be in the hands of politicians has been moved to quangos and bureaucrats and lawyers. So what you find is you find a democratically elected government actually unable to enact policies,.”

Interrupted by moderator and former Trump deputy national security adviser KT McFarland, who asked about the meaning of "quangos," Ms Truss replied that she meant "Quasi-Non Governmental Organisations". Quangos are administrative bodies outside the civil service that receive funding from the government, such as the Forestry Commission and the British Council.

"In America, you call it the administrative state or the deep state, but we have more than 500 of these quangos in Britain, and they run everything. So we've got the Environment Agency, we've got the Office of Budget Responsibility. We've got the Bank of England, we've got the Judicial Appointments Commission," she said before turning to criticism of Sir Tony, who she blamed for eliminating the Lord Chancellor's traditional role as head of the judiciary and instituting a British Supreme Court in place of the Law Lords.

Sunak refuses to apologise to Brianna Ghey's father over trans jibe at PMQs

"He got rid of the traditional role of the Lord Chancellor, who sat in the cabinet and was the head of the judiciary he instead put control of appointments in the hands of a quango. So what you have is rather than democratically elected politicians being accountable for decisions, often those decisions are now in the hands of people who aren't elected," she said.

Ms Truss continued venting to the assembled crowd of conservative activists about a group she described as the "economic establishment" who "didn't want things to change and ... didn't want their power taken away," apparently blaming them for the catastrophic reaction to her 2022 mini-budget, which sent the pound into a nose dive and sparked a crash in the markets, leading to her eventual defenestration from Number 10.

"I think that's the issue we now face as conservatives, is it's not enough just to will conservative policies and say, we want to control our borders or we want to cut taxes, or we want to reform our welfare system, because we have a whole group of people now in Britain with a vested interest in the status quo, who actually have a lot of power and power has been taken away from democratically elected politicians. And it now sits in the hands of bureaucrats. And people don't want to admit that no minister wants to admit that they can't actually do things. And I think that has become a big problem in Britain," she said, adding later that a future Conservative PM should be "prepared to be unpopular at London dinner parties" by taking on the civil service and people who "work in big corporates".

"Unless you are prepared to be unpopular with those people, you will not succeed as a conservative in actually changing things," she said.

The former PM also lashed out at civil servants and complained that the British government lacks sufficient political appointments to control the apparatus of government.

"We get 100 political appointees, and these political appointees aren't heads of department. They are special advisers that sit alongside. So we have a major problem with our administrative bureaucracy not being responsible, responsive, and democratically accountable," she said.

"Now people are joining the civil service who are essentially activists – they might be trans activists, they might be environmental extremists – but they are now having a voice within the civil service in a way I don't think was true 30 or 40 years ago, so we just have a wholly new problem. And frankly, 100 political appointees, doesn't even touch the sides in terms of dealing with that."

Her comments about “trans activists” come after Mr Sunak challenged the opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer to “define a woman” during Prime Minister’s Questions. The jibe came on the day that Brianna Ghey’s mother Esther was at Parliament. Amid the uproar over the prime minister’s comments, Brianna’s father Peter Spooner said he was “disgusted” and called on Mr Sunak to apologise.

Brianna Ghey's mother discusses potentially meeting parents of daughter's murderer

The prime minister refused to do so, saying his comments were "absolutely legitimate" because he was attacking Sir Keir's indecisiveness and claiming it was "sad and wrong" that the Labour leader had linked his comments to Brianna.

Asked if he would apologise, he said: "If you look at what I said, I was very clear, talking about Keir Starmer's proven track record of u-turns on major policies because he doesn't have a plan."

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