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Liz Truss: Thatcher heir intends to shake up England

LONDON — As a child, Liz Truss marched in protests against Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. As an adult, she admires Britain’s first female leader – and now she’s about to step into number 10 Downing St. with Thatcherite zeal to transform Great Britain.

Truss, Britain’s foreign minister, was named the winner on Monday of the election to replace the scandal-plagued Boris Johnson as Conservative Party leader and the country’s prime minister. The party said Truss won about 57% of the votes of Conservative Party members, compared with about 43% of former Treasurer Rishi Sunak.

Truss, 47, will become Britain’s third female prime minister, after Thatcher, who was in power from 1979 to 1990, and Theresa May, who held the office from 2016 to 2019.

Conservatives accepted Truss’ oath to cut taxes and red tape and maintain loyal British support for Ukraine. Some see echoes of the Iron Lady – as Thatcher was known – in Truss’ vision of a “free web” that binds democracies around the world.

To critics, Truss is an inflexible thinker whose right-wing policies will not help Britain weather the economic turmoil caused by the pandemic, Brexit and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Mark Littlewood, a liberal commentator who has known Truss since their college days, said Britain’s new leader was less of a conservative than a “radical” who – like Thatcher – wanted to ” prevent state interference” in people’s lives.

“I expect a lot of fireworks, a lot of controversy and a lot of action,” he said.

Born in Oxford in 1975, Mary Elizabeth Truss was the daughter of a mathematics professor and a nurse who brought her into anti-nuclear and anti-Thatcher protests as a child, where she recalls shouting up: “Maggie, Maggie, Maggie – out, out!”

In a 2018 speech, she said she began developing her own political views early on, “arguing against my socialist parents in our leftist household.” I.”

The family lived in Paisley, Scotland, before moving to Leeds in the north of England, where Truss attended a public high school – which sets her apart from many of her privately educated Conservative colleagues.

In her leadership campaign, Truss emphasized her relatively modest background. But she angered some classmates and former teachers by saying that students at her school were “disappointed by low expectations, poor educational standards and lack of opportunities”. Alumni of the school include academics, judges and several other members of Congress.

Truss went on to attend Oxford University, where she studied philosophy, politics and economics – a degree chosen by many aspiring politicians – and was president of the university branch of the Liberal Democrats. Economic hub Lib Dems advocates for constitutional reform and civil liberties, and Truss is an avid member, putting out “Free Weed” posters calling for marijuana disinformation and debate in a speech demanding the abolition of the monarchy.

Littlewood, who was a member of the Oxford Lib Dems and is now head of the Institute of Economics, a free-market think tank, remembers Truss as “stubborn, resolute and outspoken.”

“You never doubt she’s on an issue or a person,” he said.

After Oxford, Truss joined the Conservative Party – “when it was clearly out of fashion,” she later said.

She worked as an economist for the energy company Shell and the telecommunications company Cable and Wireless, and for a center-thinking organization while engaging in Conservative politics and espousing views. of the Thatcherite free market. She served as a local councilor in London and ran unsuccessfully for Parliament twice before being elected to represent the South West Norfolk seat in eastern England in 2010.

She won the Conservative seat safely after a fall – some local Conservatives were outraged when it was revealed she had an affair with another MP when they were both married to another MP. other. Truss won over her critics, and her marriage survived. She and her husband Hugh O’Leary, an accountant, have two teenage daughters.

She founded the Free Enterprise group of Thatcherite Tory legislators, who produced “Britannia Unchained,” a famous political treatise that included the claim that British workers were “amongst the lousy idlers.” worst in the world.”

David Laws, a former Cabinet Secretary who worked with Truss in the government a decade ago, recalls her as energetic and “mentally ambitious”, comparing her in his memoirs. with “a young Margaret Thatcher of speed”.

Truss took her first Cabinet job as food and environment secretary in 2014, making her biggest impression on her with a much mocked speech in which she said that Britain’s import of 2 His /3 cheese is “a disgrace”.

During Britain’s 2016 referendum on whether to leave the European Union, Truss supported the “remain” losing side, although she said she had always been a skeptic about natural euro. Since the vote, she has won over Brexiteers with her zero-tolerance approach to the EU.

She became judicial secretary, but she was demoted to a more junior role in the Treasury in May 2017. When Mrs May was ousted for her repeated failure to break the deadlock. politically over Brexit, Truss was an early supporter of Boris Johnson to replace her. Upon winning, Johnson became Truss’ commerce secretary, a role in which she Instagrammed her way around the world to seal post-Brexit trade deals and raise profile. mine.

In September 2021, she was appointed foreign minister, Britain’s top diplomat. Her performance drew mixed reviews. Many praised her resolute response to the invasion of Ukraine, and she secured the release of two British nationals imprisoned in Iran, where her predecessors had failed.

But EU leaders and officials who hoped she would bring a softer tone to Britain’s relationship with the bloc have been disappointed. Amid the controversy over trade, Truss has introduced legislation tearing up parts of the UK-EU binding divorce agreement that both sides have signed. In response, the 27-nation bloc is taking legal action against Britain.

Truss sometimes considers those who frequently compare Thatcher to be sexist, but sometimes she encourages them. She posed in a British Army tank in Eastern Europe, conjuring up images of Thatcher during the Cold War. During a televised leadership debate, Truss wore a bow tie blouse similar to the one Thatcher had worn.

By emphasizing her humble background, she is evoking comparisons to Thatcher grocer’s daughter, Victoria Honeyman, an associate professor of British politics at the University of Leeds – “a girl from working class do very well”.

Truss’s own personality hides behind a strict public figure. Friends say she has a fun side that is rarely seen in public, and loves to sing karaoke and listen to tunes by Taylor Swift, Whitney Houston and Destiny’s Child.

Truss’ found loyalty to Johnson, who is still loved by many Tories, also helped her win. Many party members see Sunak’s decision to leave the Cabinet in July as a mark against him. Truss isn’t resigning, saying she’s a “loyalist” – although she has flirted with party members for months at “fizz with Liz” events to build support for a leadership bid. potential leader.

Conservatives have embraced Truss’s optimistic message of emancipation through fewer governments, which is reminiscent of Ronald Reagan’s “morning in America” ​​bravado.

Britain’s large constituency is likely to prove a more difficult audience to win. Times are tough and are only getting worse as inflation soars and Britain’s cost of living crisis deepens. Truss’ focus on stimulating the economy through tax cuts is unlikely to bring much relief in the short term.

Center-left commentator Will Hutton, writing in The Observer, says Truss’s economic ideas are “cruel nonsense … constantly anti-European, obsessed with tax cuts, buying confidence that anonymous regulations are shackling the business.”

It didn’t take long for Truss to convince voters that she was on the right track. The next national election must be held in two years.

“Will Liz be able to say in 2024, ‘Will you be richer now when I become prime minister?’ Maybe,” Littlewood said. “But it’s not an obvious mess.”

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