Liz Truss has said this generation of young people are “natural Conservatives” as she said the party needs to show “we are on their side”.
Speaking at the Tory leadership hustings in Eastbourne, Sussex, on Friday, the favourite to succeed Boris Johnson referred to the entrepreneurial spirit of under-30s as shown by an enthusiasm for start-ups and “side hustle”.
Truss and rival Rishi Sunak have slugged it out over their differing views on the economy against the backdrop of the Bank of England’s stark warning on Thursday that the UK faces an outright recession and 13% inflation.
Sunak, the former chancellor, said that unless inflation is brought under control, “we can kiss goodbye to winning that next election”.
At the hustings, Truss was asked what her pitch was to a young generation who only knew a world from the 2008 financial crash onwards, which has seen the turmoil of Brexit roll into a pandemic and now an economic downturn.
She said: “The generation of people who have grown up recently, under 30s ... first of all I think that they are natural Conservatives.
“They are more likely to have started up their own business than older generations. They are more likely to have a side hustle in whatever work they do. They’re doing something alongside it.
“I think we’ve seen a generation of real self-starters who have had to deal with the difficulties of Covid. I have two daughters – aged 13 and 16 ... I know it has been tough for them being out of school. I do think it has also created a certain kind of resilience.
“I think we’ve got an incredibly talented generation coming through. I think we have to show, as Conservatives, we are on their side.”
The foreign secretary added that the UK must not talk itself into a recession.
Truss said: “Fundamentally, what we need to do is we need to show people that there is hope, and there is an optimistic future ahead of us. And as I’ve said, we’re brilliant at start-ups, but we need to be better at funding the scale-ups. So one of the things I would do is unleash more investment into our economy, through reforming solvency too.
“I met some investors in the city this morning. They told me that if we get on and do that we could release tens of billions.”
She said that the UK can create the British Silicon Valley.
“We can create the British version of Silicon Valley, we can create real opportunities,” she said. “We have a talented generation of young people ready to take those opportunities on, but we need to get the growth.
“I know there are difficult forecasts out there, but forecasts are not destiny. And what we shouldn’t be doing is talking ourselves into a recession. We should be keeping taxes low.”
On policies to help young people, she highlighted plans to allow people to use rent payments as proof of mortgage affordability, a review of student loan interest rates and holding universities to account over face-to-face tuition.