Posted By: September 06, 2022


Distributed to Congress by Irish National Caucus

“Given these two attached articles in today’s Irish News of Belfast, can anyone take Liz Truss seriously: “Truss’s ‘Thatcher out’ to No 10-journey complete” and “There is one thing consistent about Truss – her inconsistency.”

—Fr. Sean McManus

“Truss’s ‘Thatcher out’ to No 10-journey complete”

SAM BLEWETT. Irish News. Belfast. September 5, 2022.

As the new prime minister, Liz Truss will enter No 10 on Tuesday having won the backing of Tory party members by presenting herself as an avid-Brexiteer who is the free market-loving heir to Margaret Thatcher.

Winning the support of Conservative activists in the leadership vote a day earlier was the final move in an extraordinary series of political transformations throughout her life.

Despite being billed by Ms Truss’s allies as the heir to the Iron Lady’s throne, she marched in her youth side-by-side with left-wingers to demand the ousting of Mrs Thatcher and supported remaining in the European Union in the 2016 referendum.

The Conservatives were not even her first political party, having initially had a brush with the Liberal Democrats and using a speech at their 1994 conference to back a motion calling for the abolition of the monarchy.

At the age of 47, Ms Truss will take over the reigns from Boris Johnson as the third female prime minister in the United Kingdom’s history, having beaten her long-term Brexiteer rival Rishi Sunak in the poll of Tory members.

Born in Oxford in 1975 to parents she describes as “left-wing”, her mother, a nurse and a teacher, took a young Ms Truss to marches for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the 1980s and to “peace camp”.

Aged four, she moved to Paisley in Scotland, where she has recalled yelling a slogan that perhaps no other Tory Cabinet minister has ever yelled before.

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

But Ms Truss also had an early “fascination” with Mrs Thatcher, saying that she was around eight when she agreed to play her during a mock school election. “I got no votes,” she conceded.

Ms Truss says her father, a mathematics professor, has long struggled to comprehend her move to conservatism, believing, perhaps wishfully, she is a “sleeper working from inside to overthrow the regime”.

The family upped sticks to Leeds, where Ms Truss attended the Roundhay state secondary school before studying philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford University.

It was there that she became active in student politics, with the Liberal Democrats, and espoused the anti-monarchist sentiment.

“I think it was fair to say that, when I was in my youth, I was a professional controversialist and I liked exploring ideas and stirring things up,” she told the BBC’s Political Thinking With Nick Robinson.

At the 1997 Conservative Party conference, she met 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, though she suffered the setbacks of two failed electoral bids.

After the unsuccessful runs for the Tories in Hemsworth in 2001 and Calder Valley in 2005, she was elected as a Councilor in Greenwich in 2006 before becoming deputy director of the right-of-center Reform think tank two years later.

But she was selected as the candidate for the Tory safe seat of South West Norfolk after making it on to David Cameron’s A-list of priority candidates. She entered Parliament after winning in the 2010 general election by a comfortable majority of more than 13,000 votes.

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

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

It set out proposals to strip back regulation and encourage innovation but caused controversy with a claim that British workers are “among the worst idlers in the world”.

Two years after entering Parliament, Ms. Truss was part of the Government, being made an education minister in the Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition.

After clashes with Lib Dem deputy prime minister Sir Nick Clegg, she was promoted to environment secretary in 2014.

But while her fortunes were rising in Westminster, her reputation as a speechmaker faltered.

It was in the environment brief that she gave an often-ridiculed address to the Tory conference where she discussed her left-to-right conversion in a pantomime manner.

Her tone switched to a serious one when decrying the state of play that saw the UK importing two thirds of its cheese. “That is a disgrace,” she insisted, deadpan.

Ms Truss’s star kept rising, however, and she did a year as justice secretary before heading to the Treasury as chief secretary and then leading the Department for International Trade.

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

Another political conversion was under way, and she shifted from arguing to stay in the EU at the 2016 referendum to become a strong defender of the decision to leave.

She was rewarded with the role of Foreign Secretary, becoming only the UK’s second woman to hold the title, in September after Mr Raab was moved aside in the wake of his handling of the Afghanistan crisis.

In the Foreign Office she took a tough stance in talks and would anger the EU with legislation threatening to break international law over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

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 on it with numerous eye-catching photo ops that bore a resemblance to Mrs. Thatcher’s escapades.

Though the frequent comparisons with the Tory grandee are at times derided as lazy and sexist, they are comparisons that Ms. Truss has clearly sought to encourage.

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

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

And she has sought to portray herself as her tax-slashing successor during the fight for No 10, though Mr. Sunak has branded her polices the opposite of Thatcherism and that they fail to meet the rapidly worsening cost-of-living crisis.

Ms. Truss has appeared undaunted by such attacks, instead adopting a Johnsonian approach to deploy unwavering optimism for Britain’s future, including by hitting out at “too much talk” over the inevitability of a recession.

She has spent many years setting the stage, and now the Tory members, representing somewhere around 0.3% of the UK population, have selected her as the lead in the nation’s political drama, despite Conservative MPs having favored Mr. Sunak, the former chancellor.

Some have described taking the highest office in the land right now as a poisoned chalice, what with an economic crisis threatening living standards, strikes causing major disruption and the need to turn around the public opinion of a divided Tory party struggling in the polls after more than 12 years in Government.

Ms. Truss will need to use the full extent of her powers of political persuasion to bring the nation with her through the crises and lead her party into the next general election.


There is one thing consistent about Truss – her inconsistency

John Manley, Irish News. Belfast. Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Opinion in The North on the new British prime minister appears divided between those who think she has limited abilities and those who think she’s completely useless. In the decade since her ministerial career began, you’d be severely challenged to find one instance where what Liz Truss said was in any way insightful or inspirational.

 Instead, we’ve had stilted speeches that verged on the comedic, bewildering vagueness, eye-rolling blandness and an incredible ideological volte face that has seen her move from avowed Remainer to ally of the European Research Group.

Such inconsistency rarely instils public confidence, and it also makes it difficult to plot the expected course of the forthcoming Truss administration. In the leadership campaign, she cozied up to the Conservative right, taking aim at all things ‘woke’ and pledging to cut taxes. Cast by herself and supporters as a 21st century Margaret Thatcher, the comparison appears to have little substance, given the single-mindedness and unwavering determination of Truss’s Tory forebear. Unlike the late and widely loathed MP for Finchley, the new prime minister’s previous record is that of an ideological chameleon, changing her political direction on a whim or seemingly for personal gain.

She inherits a ‘kingdom’ from Boris Johnson that is united in name only. The terminal fallout from Brexit, self-serving sentiment and sleaze against the background of a deepening cost-of-living crisis have served to fuel nationalism of all shades and increasingly disillusioned those voters in the Red Wall whose support ensured a third Tory term on the trot. Any notion that her tenure will bring stability, never mind prosperity, appears misplaced.

The priorities among the mounting challenges that await the new prime minister will largely depend on your economic status and outlook. For the Tory rank and file, her first aim must be to unite and revitalize a party that has been on the back foot for months, if not years. While on paper this is about internal housekeeping, it’s likely to play out in public as the growing media obsession with personality politics helps distract from the real tasks in hand.

We can expect plenty of hard talk and rousing rhetoric, coupled with leaks to a sympathetic press that seek to create an image of a formidable leader who knows exactly what she’s doing. The reality will almost certainly be the opposite, a shambolic continuity Boris-type administration that lurches from one crisis to the next and invents ill-thought-out, hare-brained policies to cover for its missteps, lack of strategy and incoherence.

While Ms. Truss has signaled her intention to deal immediately with soaring energy costs, it’s unlikely we’ll see anything especially radical that will lift the collective sense of woe that’s descending ahead of winter. She’s also pledged to look at energy policy in the long term, which is likely a euphemism for pausing decarbonization and increasing nuclear capacity. However, given the longevity of her immediate predecessors, it’s moot whether she will be around long enough to fulfil any promises beyond the short-to-medium term.

In regard to the wider cost-of-living crisis, the Tory leader’s solution appears to lie in the myth that a rising tide lifts all boats. The belief that cutting taxes and regulations will help the more vulnerable is arguably Truss at her most Thatcherite. She’s just about old enough to recall the misery and division of the 1980s but it doesn’t seem to have quelled her appetite for rewarding the rich while squeezing the poor.

Then there’s the Northern Ireland protocol, mentions of which were conspicuously absent from the new prime minister’s acceptance speech. However, it will inevitably dominate any conversations she has with political representatives of all hues from this side of the Irish Sea. Ms. Truss’s sympathies appear to lie squarely with Unionists, who are unhappy with the out-workings of the deal Boris Johnson agreed with Brussels after giving personal pledges that there be no customs border between The North and Britain. The faith the DUP and its allies in the Orange Order are putting in Liz Truss has echoes of the fawning deference they showed to her predecessor and, while the relationship is likely to appear fruitful initially, it could sour very quickly when Washington reminds the new prime minister who her real special relationship is with.

The Protocol, by another name or in a slightly different format, is destined to remain, while the British government’s legislation aimed at disapplying elements of the post-Brexit trade arrangements is going to take months to move through the House of Lords, from where it is expected to emerge somewhat watered down. Such an outcome does not bode well for a speedy return to Stormont but similarly the prospect of another assembly election won’t be welcomed by the DUP, despite what they may say publicly. As for the threat to trigger Article 16, it isn’t quite the nuclear option it’s often portrayed as, and while far from ideal in terms of bringing political stability back to Stormont, it can at least be regarded as playing within the rules, rather than acting unilaterally and breaking international law.

But for now, let’s wait and see what happens – if there’s one thing consistent about Liz Truss, it’s her inconsistency.