This morning’s Daily Telegraph reports that Liz Truss, the Treasury minister, has warned that the Conservatives need to protect companies such as Uber and AirBnB from Labour’s assault on the so-called ‘gig economy’.
Accompanying this was an op-ed – mysteriously absent from their site, but here’s a picture – setting out the case for free markets as the best way of not only tackling major challenges such as housing but protecting individual liberty too.
It’s a good line, especially on housing, and just the sort of thing we might expect from the MP who headlined the launch of Freer. Several other Tory MPs, of the newer intakes, seem to be thinking along similar lines.
But aiming this fire at Labour feels a little premature when the liberals have so much work to do to get the Tory house in order.
Remember that during the last leadership contest, Boris Johnson was supposed to be the candidate flying the liberal flag. Yet the assault on Uber in London began whilst he was Mayor, with an absurdly lop-sided ‘public consultation’ that allowed the ride-sharing app’s critics to breeze through, clicking ‘Yes’ to leading questions, whilst dissenters had to spell out their objections on every point.
It was also this Government which had to beat an embarrassing retreat from a bid by Philip Hammond to put the National Insurance squeeze on self-employed workers, and ministers continue to send out worrying signals about flattening the so-called ’employment wedge’ between employees and freelancers by giving the latter extra rights in exchange for higher taxes.
As I’ve explained before, for people trying to out-compete traditional employees extra entitlements do not compensate for higher taxes, they’re just another burden to bear. And all this is before we even turn to other parts of the Government’s agenda, such as its retreat into the lifestyle authoritarianism of David Cameron’s administration, let alone the Windrush fiasco.
It’s good to see somebody in the Party writing and speaking as if they’re excited about the future, and Truss deserves credit for that. But the defence of freedom is more than anything about the fighting of unpopular battles and powerful interest groups. If she and her allies want to turn Freer’s libertarianism into the basis of a new Tory programme, let alone sell it to the country, they have a lot of persuading to do.