Who is Liz Truss? Tory hardliner struggling to get to grips with life as PM

Conservative Party stalwart who served three leaders says she has 'a clear vision' for Britain

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Liz Truss became the third woman to enter Downing Street as British Prime Minister on September 6 after running a more successful campaign for Conservative leadership than Rishi Sunak.

The victory, by 81,326 votes from party members to Mr Sunak's 60,399, put her in the footsteps of Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May.

Ms Truss, 47, became a strong contender to replace Boris Johnson early in the race, thanks to her public image as a Brexit-supporting libertarian who opposes high taxes and wasteful spending.

But after taking the reins, she has faced immediate difficulties. Queen Elizabeth II died two days later, beginning a period of mourning and frustrating Ms Truss's ability to plan for the early days of her term in office.

Racing to catch up, she sent Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng to announce a radical shake-up of the economy to fuel growth but in doing so sent the pound tumbling, rocked the FTSE and handed a record poll lead to the Labour opposition.

Her first Conservative party conference has been riddled with ill-discipline and there are already rebellions from within and outside her Cabinet. Some suggest they would consider another leadership change if matters do not improve quickly.

Early years

Born in Oxford to a maths professor father and a teacher mother, Ms Truss came from a Labour-leaning family.

During her younger years, she joined her parents on anti-Thatcher demonstrations and as a teenager progressed to the Liberal Democrats' youth and student wing, frequently taking part in protests.

The politically minded and ambitious Ms Truss became president of the Oxford University Lib Dems then joined the Conservatives after she graduated.

She spent more than a decade in the private sector, primarily as a management accountant and then as deputy director at the right-wing think tank Reform.

Then Conservative Parliamentary candidate for South West Norfolk Liz Truss, whilst canvassing in the village of West Walton, in Norfolk, during the 2010 General Election campaign. PA

She is married to accountant Hugh O'Leary and the couple have two daughters, Frances and Liberty.

Ms Truss spent two years as a Conservative councillor for Greenwich borough in south-east London before being elected as MP for South-West Norfolk in 2010.

She lives with her husband and children in a three-bedroom detached home in the market town of Thetford in her constituency. She frequently stays at her second home in Greenwich.

From Remainer to Brexiteer

Ms Truss voted “remain” in the 2016 Brexit referendum, only to later advocate the UK leaving the EU.

Promoting herself as prime ministerial material, Ms Truss took to Twitter to say she had a clear vision for Britain and possessed “the experience and resolve to deliver it”.

Her zeal for limited government resulted in her pledge during the early stages of her campaign to “start cutting taxes from day one” and reverse a planned National Insurance increase.

That stance played well with the Conservative party base but raised eyebrows among others, who feared such promises would make the party seem naive on fiscal matters.

She has served under three prime ministers — David Cameron, Mrs May and Mr Johnson.

The latter found a staunch ally in Ms Truss and, in September 2021, rewarded her for her loyalty with a promotion from international trade secretary to foreign secretary.

New PM's tough stance on Russia

Since being appointed to head the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, Ms Truss's outspoken stance against Russia's invasion of Ukraine has been seen as an example of her no-nonsense approach to challenging issues on the international stage.

A few weeks before Russian troops entered Ukraine, Ms Truss arrived in Moscow for crisis talks with her counterpart Sergey Lavrov.

Before the summit, she posted a tweet demanding Russia withdraw more than 100,000 troops from the boundaries with Ukraine “or face severe consequences”, and said an incursion would be “a huge mistake”.

Her combative nature and warning about the possibility of a conflict between Russia and the West after the February 24 invasion of Ukraine landed her in hot water.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov condemned what he called “absolutely unacceptable” remarks about possible “clashes” between Nato and Russia.

He said comments by Ms Truss and others had fuelled Moscow's decision to put its nuclear arsenal on a “special regime of combat duty”.

Liz Truss, right, opted for a matching fur hat and coat during a trip to Moscow in February, a subtle nod to Margaret Thatcher's style. AFP

Channelling Margaret Thatcher

Echoing her political idol Thatcher, Ms Truss has stressed the need to support democracies and said the West must “face down global aggressors” such as China and Russia.

She has, time and again, been compared to Thatcher. She has been emulated her staged photo opportunities by posing with a calf, riding in a tank and wearing a fur hat during a diplomatic trip to Moscow.

Mr Kwarteng was among the first Tory MPs to publicly back Ms Truss's bid for No 10. Tipped to become chancellor of the exchequer in her Cabinet, he said her libertarian stance was one of the reasons he decided to support her.

“Liz’s basic instinct on tax is right … She doesn’t think people should be paying increasingly higher taxes to pay for higher spending”, Mr Kwarteng said.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries and Brexit Opportunities Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg also backed Ms Truss's campaign, cementing her position as the arch-Brexiteers' candidate of choice.

In the past, she has put forward her Brexit credentials, looking ahead to a “confident, outward-looking, patriotic and positive” future for the UK.

Updated: October 05, 2022, 9:27 AM
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