Who is Liz Truss? Anti-Thatcher Demos to Thatcher’s Heir to the Throne

Liz Truss, up to the last two in the race for the leadership of the British Conservative Party, is no stranger to political transformations.

Having marched as a youth on the left to demand the ousting of former party leader and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, she is now seen by her supporters as the heir to Thatcher’s throne.

The country’s highest office is now within reach for Ms Truss, who will face former Cabinet colleague Rishi Sunak in a ballot of party members after overcoming a tough challenge from rival Penny Mordaunt.

The avid Brexiteer, never far from a clash with the European Union, campaigned to stay, and Ms Truss joined the Tories after contact with the Liberal Democrats.

Now the fierce free-trader who became only the UK’s second female foreign secretary last year at the age of 46 is aiming to convince party members to hand her the top job .

Born in Oxford in 1975 to parents she describes as ‘left-wing’, her mother, a nurse and teacher, took a young Mrs Truss to marches for the campaign for nuclear disarmament in the 1980s and to ‘camp de la peace”.

At the age of four, she moved to Paisley in Scotland, where she remembered shouting a slogan that perhaps no other Conservative cabinet minister had ever shouted before.

“It was in Scottish so it was ‘Maggie, Maggie, Maggie, oot, oot, oot,'” she told the BBC.

But Ms Truss also had an early ‘fascination’ with Ms Thatcher, saying she was around eight years old when she agreed to play her in a mock school election. “I didn’t get any votes,” she conceded.

Ms Truss says her father, a math teacher, has long struggled to understand her shift to conservatism, believing, perhaps out of desire, that she is a ‘sleeper working from within to overthrow the regime’.

Conservative Party leadership candidate Liz Truss before a live televised debate (Victoria Jones/PA)

The family remained in Leeds, where Ms Truss attended Roundhay State Secondary School before studying philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford University.

There she became active in student politics, first with the Liberal Democrats, once even espousing anti-monarchist sentiment.

“I think it was fair to say that when I was growing up I was a professional polemicist and I loved exploring ideas and making things happen,” she told the show. Political Thinking With BBC’s Nick Robinson.

At the 1997 Conservative Party Conference, she met her future husband Hugh O’Leary. She has two teenage daughters.

Ms Truss worked as an accountant for Shell and Cable & Wireless, but her heart was in politics, although she suffered the setbacks of two failed election bids.

After unsuccessful Conservative bids for Hemsworth in 2001 and Calder Valley in 2005, she was elected as a councilor in Greenwich in 2006 before becoming deputy director of the centre-right reformist think tank two years later.

But she was chosen as a candidate for the Conservative security seat in South West Norfolk after being placed on David Cameron’s A list of priority candidates.

Liz Truss, canvassing in the village of West Walton, Norfolk (Chris Radburn/PA)

She entered parliament after winning the 2010 general election with a comfortable majority of over 13,000 votes.

Her candidacy narrowly survived an attempt by traditionalist members of her local conservative association – dubbed the “turnip Taliban” because of their conservative views and local agricultural product – to deselect her after it emerged that she had an affair with married Tory MP Mark Field.

During her debut in Parliament, she co-wrote the book Britannia Unchained alongside future Thatcherite Cabinet colleagues Kwasi Kwarteng, Priti Patel and Dominic Raab.

He has put forward proposals to cut regulation and encourage innovation, but has sparked controversy by saying British workers are ‘among the worst idlers in the world’.

Two years after entering parliament, Ms Truss was in government, being appointed education minister in the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition.

After clashes with Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister Sir Nick Clegg, she was promoted to Environment Secretary in 2014.

But as his fortunes grew at Westminster, his reputation as a talker faltered.

It was in the memo on the environment that she gave an oft-ridiculed speech at the Conservative conference where she discussed her conversion from left to right in a pantomime fashion.

Liz Truss, then Environment Secretary, addressing the Conservative Party conference in Manchester (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

His tone shifted to a serious tone as he decried the state of affairs which has seen the UK import two-thirds of its cheese. “It’s a shame,” she insisted, tongue-in-cheek.

Ms Truss’ star continued to rise, however, and she spent a year as Justice Secretary before heading to the Treasury as Chief Secretary and then heading the Department for International Trade .

It was during this period that its prolific and carefully curated output on social media saw the department dubbed the “Department for Instagramming Truss”.

Another political conversion was underway, and she went from arguing about staying in the EU in the 2016 referendum to becoming a strong advocate for the decision to leave.

She inherited the post of foreign minister in September after Mr Raab was dismissed following his handling of the Afghan crisis.

Here she would take a tough stance in the talks and anger the EU with legislation threatening to potentially breach international law on the Northern Ireland Protocol.

UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss meets European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic for talks in central London on the Northern Ireland Protocol (Rob Pinney/PA)

She would also oversee the successful release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori from Iranian detention where other ministers had failed.

The Foreign Office gave her a much higher profile and she seized it with many eye-catching photo ops that resembled Mrs Thatcher’s escapades.

Although frequent comparisons to the tall Tory are sometimes called lazy and sexist, these are comparisons Ms Truss has clearly sought to encourage.

Ms Truss donned military gear and perched in a tank to take photos during a visit to Estonia, echoing an image of Ms Thatcher in a tank in West Germany in 1986.


Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss will face off in the race for…

Her choice of Russian hat during a visit to Moscow in February mimicked that of Mrs Thatcher three decades earlier, while a leadership debate outfit also bore uncanny similarities.

And she has sought to cast herself as his tax-cut heiress in the No 10 fight, although Mr Sunak has sought to claim the same mantle with his very different approach.

Ms Truss has set the stage, but it is now up to party members to decide whether she will take to the stage as the UK’s next prime minister.

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