Liz Truss MP was our speaker at The Next Generation – the ASI's under-30s movement – last night. She is the Conservative MP for Norfolk South West, which she won over the opposition of the 'Turnip Taliban' wing of her Party, and a former deputy director of the excellent think-tank Reform. A former Liberal Democrat activist, she recently wrote a paper for the LibDem think-tank Centre Forum in which she argued that the the current, trendy education system's bias against serious academic subjects was actually trapping the poor and reducing social mobility – and that it must be reversed.
At TNG events the talk is (usually) limited strictly to ten minutes, and Truss came in on time and on message with her remarks about Corporatism and the Free Market. The theme, basically, was that there was too much of the former and not enough of the latter. She is, indeed, one of the soundest new MPs. She was particularly critical of all those quangos that exist, as she put it, in the 'twilight zone' between independence and state control – bodies such as the BBC, local authorities and health boards. By thinking of themselves as something of an independent, almost private body, they justify paying themselves salaries on the private-sector scale. And many BBC executives earn more than the Prime Minister. But, she says, these twilight-zone bodies don't face real competition, and their executives' jobs are more like civil-service appointments, and should be remunerated accordingly.
Too many quango bosses are prepared to take the upside rewards of being supposedly 'independent' and pay themselves huge amounts – while forgetting and resisting the downside risk that is common throughout the private sector, that failure means your organisation goes bust or you get fired. These corporate quangos can't really have it both ways.