Liz who? Truss's neighbours unfazed by elusive local's rise to become UK's next PM

Britain's foreign secretary keeps a low profile in London suburb of Greenwich

Liz Truss leaves her home in London before her campaign launch in July. Getty Images
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Liz Truss, the next prime minister of Britain, has been a known quantity on the frontline of UK politics for more than a decade, but in the leafy part of south-east London where she lives there are few signs she has made her mark among the neighbours.

In the suburb of Greenwich, where the Meridian Line is located, the impending promotion of Ms Truss to the role of the UK’s next prime minister showed little signs of fazing her neighbours.

The UK foreign secretary, who beat rival Rishi Sunak in the Conservative leadership race, appears to have kept a low profile on her street, which is lined with Victorian houses and manicured gardens.

Several residents in the area told The National they had never seen her in the years they have lived there, while her local newsagent failed to recognise a picture of her.

“She lives around here, does she?” Greenwich pensioner Geoffrey Taylor said.

Like many government ministers, Ms Truss splits her time between her constituency ― South West Norfolk ― and London. While she shares her family home in the market town of Thetford with her husband Hugh O'Leary and their two daughters, on weekdays the MP frequently stays at her property in Greenwich.

Mr Taylor, a retired assistant racehorse trainer and loyal Tory voter, speaking before Ms Truss won the leadership race, said it would not offer him any hope that things would change for the better.

Geoffrey Taylor, who lives in Greenwich, said he had no idea Liz Truss lives around the corner. Photo: Amy McConaghy / The National

“She isn’t going to be Maggie Thatcher,” he said bluntly. “What this country’s going to need is someone with backbone, someone who’s not going to be walked over, someone who is strong.

“I don’t think she’s going to be strong enough.

“I like the woman, but she’s not good enough for the job.

"Maggie Thatcher would not take nonsense from anybody and you need somebody like that.”

Mr Taylor, 73, said in the early stages of the contest he rooted for Tom Tugendhat to replace Boris Johnson as prime minister. The retired soldier, who served with the British Army in Iraq and Afghanistan, “has got the discipline” needed to take the country forward, Mr Taylor said.

He said the next leader of the UK would have to get on top of problems including a rise in stabbings, rail strikes, the cost-of-living crisis and the record numbers of migrants illegally crossing the Channel in small boats to reach Britain.

“Things are running riot,” he said. “I like Liz Truss but I think they’re probably going to walk all over her.”

Princewill Idowu, who works at Ms Truss’s local pharmacy, described himself as a die-hard supporter of Mr Johnson.

Mr Idowu, 56, was sceptical that either Ms Truss or Mr Sunak would be able to effectively help households struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.

Princewill Idowu, who runs a pharmacy in Greenwich, says he is a loyal backer of Boris Johnson. Amy McConaghy / The National

“Where would they get the money from? That’s the question,” he said.

“Every nation across the world is having the same experience.

“I like Boris, I love him. I will miss him. He’s a go-getter. They all ganged up against him, but I still love him.”

At Ms Truss’s local Costa Coffee branch, the leadership race was the last thing on the minds of the staff.

The drive-thru cafe was forced to close its sit-in side for the entire month of August owing to a lack of staff and the manager said she had hit a brick wall in her recruitment drive.

“It’s a very nice neighbourhood, but we are struggling to recruit people,” Kate Zeneli said.

Kate Zeneli, manager at a Costa Coffee branch close to Liz Truss's home in Greenwich, said she wants to see the government shake up the welfare system. Amy McConaghy / The National

While she could not recall ever making a coffee for Ms Truss, who lives just a stone’s throw from the cafe, Ms Zeneli said if she helped businesses attract more staff she would consider voting for the Tories at the next general election.

Ms Zeneli, from Albania, said her efforts to hire new workers in the post-Brexit, post-Covid era convinced her that a shake-up of the UK’s welfare system was overdue. She believes an increase in the minimum wage and stricter conditions for receiving benefits would push more people to seek employment.

“If the government gives universal credit to people for the same amount for them to stay at home, what’s the point to come to work? They have a better life than us,” she said.

“I’m jealous. We struggle here.

“You take people for an interview and they say I can do only 15 hours because otherwise they’ll cut my benefit.

“Before, when we opened a vacancy we used to have 20-30 people applying for a role and now we have zero or just one. It’s a big issue for our company.

“I don’t know [Ms Truss] but if she’s going to do something then I’m more than happy to vote for her.”

But the woman who was appointed foreign secretary a year ago has already won the support of other locals in the borough on the banks of the Thames.

Mary Weight, 74, a carer who lives around the corner from the country's next leader, said she had no doubt Ms Truss was the best person for the job.

The Irish native, who moved to the UK in the 1960s, said Ms Truss caught her eye early on in the race and was better placed than Mr Sunak to tackle the litany of problems blighting the UK.

“I think he’s a load of blah blah blah,” she said of the former chancellor. “There was no question at all about him.

“But what Liz says she means, she says it from the heart.

“She is sincere. You can guarantee that if she can do it she will. Give her time.”

Ms Weight said not many neighbours knew there was a prospective prime minister living on their street, saying “we never see her”. Nevertheless, she said locals would be proud to have one of their own in Downing Street.

“Good ol' Liz. I hope she gets in, I really do. I want her in, big time.”

Updated: September 05, 2022, 3:03 PM
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