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Truss Takes a Bold Economic Gamble. Will It Sink Her Government?

During the campaign, Ms. Truss modeled herself on another female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, who also announced a series of free-market measures after taking office and endured a turbulent couple of years. Unlike Ms. Truss, though, Thatcher worried about curbing inflation and shoring up public finances; she even raised some taxes during a recession in 1981 before reducing them in later years.

But Thatcher came in after an election victory over an exhausted Labour government, which gave her more time to weather the downturn and for her deregulatory measures to take effect. She also got a lift after Britain vanquished Argentina in the Falklands War in 1982, which uncorked a surge of patriotism.

“Thatcher was thinking in 1979 that I only need to give voters something they like by 1982,” said Charles Moore, a former editor of The Daily Telegraph who wrote a three-volume biography of the former prime minister. “Liz Truss hasn’t got this amount of time.”

The better analogy to Ms. Truss, he said, is Ronald Reagan, with his emphasis on tax cuts and other supply-side policies, as well as his relative lack of concern for their effect on public deficits. Like Thatcher, Reagan weathered a recession before the United States began growing again in 1983. And like her, he had a cushion before he had to face voters.

Ms. Truss, by contrast, has taken office after 12 years of Conservative-led governments, and three years into Mr. Johnson’s tenure. She will have to call an election by the beginning of 2025, at the latest. The Labour Party, which had been divided by Brexit and internal disputes, has been galvanized by the new government’s chaotic start, in particular Mr. Kwarteng’s plan to cut the top tax rate, which has allowed Labour to stake out a clear contrast on issues of economic equity.

Speaking at the party’s annual conference in Liverpool on Tuesday, the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, declared that the Conservatives “say they do not believe in redistribution. But they do — from the poor to the rich.”


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