Who is Patrick Minford - the economist cited by both Liz Truss and Margaret Thatcher?

Patrick Minford (l) with Kenneth Clarke and  the then chancellor’s other economic excerts in 1996  (Reuters)
Patrick Minford (l) with Kenneth Clarke and the then chancellor’s other economic excerts in 1996 (Reuters)

Patrick Minford has been publicly making the case for radical tax cutting for more than 40 years. So it is little wonder that he was cited by Liz Truss as an economist who backed her economic strategy.

But it is not the first time that the veteran 79-year-old Cardiff Business School professor has been wheeled out in support of apparently unpopular policy choices by senior Conservative politicians.

He first came to public prominence in 1981 in the depths of the recession triggered by Margaret Thatcher and Chancellor Sir Geoffrey Howe’s tough monetarist policies.

As the unemployment rate soared and entire industries crashed a group of 364 economists wrote to The Times to condemn Sir Geoffrey’s 1981 Budget.

Asked in the Commons which economists backed her approach which appeared to be having such disastrous consequences, she named Mr Minford and fellow monetarist Alan Walters - who famously went on to play a pivotal role in the resignation of another Tory Chancellor Nigel Lawson eight years later.

He remained close to Mrs Thatcher all her life and was invited to her funeral in 2013.

Mr Minford, a pioneer of the rational expectations theory of the economy being developed at Liverpool University, has always claimed that subsequent events proved that Mrs Thatcher was right to stick to her guns.

In a recent newspaper article he wrote: “The tough curbs on spending and borrowing imposed by Mrs Thatcher at the start of the 1980s were right for that time and they worked. By the end of that decade Britain was no longer the ‘sick man of Europe’ and living standards were rising.”

The fervent Brexiteer argues that the British economy is now in much better shape and could withstand the increase in borrowing needed to fund the expensive tax cuts proposed by the Tory party leadership candidate.

More recently he has been in another minority group as one few high-profile economists arguing the case for Britain’s split with Brussels.

He drew criticism when his “Economists for Brexit” group published a modelling exercise claiming that if the UK left the EU without a trade deal and unilaterally dropped all tariff barriers on imports the country’s GDP could be boosted by 4 per cent.

The findings were starkly out of line with most other models showing that a hard Brexit would hobble the British economy. But throughout his career Minford has never shied away from being the outlier. If Liz Truss makes it to Downing Street he may find himself at the heart of policy making by another “Iron Lady.”