Liz Truss has – at the time of writing – more than a 90% chance of being the UK’s next prime minister, according to implied probability from UK betting markets.
For those who have hoped fervently for the downfall of Boris Johnson, the possibility may feel something like a monkey paw curling one of its fingers. Rishi Sunak, the rival contender, is hardly a dream candidate, flailing as he is between any policy he thinks might turn the odds in his favour, U-turns be damned. But Truss has the potential to be a prime minister who makes the Johnson era look like one of calm stability.
How is Liz Truss less than suitable to be prime minister? Let the New European count the ways…
1.) In 1994, during her Liberal Democrat era, Liz Truss called for the abolition of the monarchy. Today, as a leadership hopeful, she is promising to buy the royal family a new royal yacht – even though it’s the Daily Telegraph, rather than the royals, that actually wants one.
2.) Before the Brexit referendum, Truss said: “I don’t want my daughters to grow up in a world where they need a visa or permit to work in Europe; or where they are hampered from growing a business because of extortionate costs and barriers to trade.” As a leadership candidate, she is currently being attacked by Rishi Sunak for offering to expand fruit-picking visas for migrant workers.
3.) Asked by Eddie Mair in 2019 about whether she had personally felt the bite of a decade of austerity, Truss spluttered for an answer before giggling – leading to a firm rebuke by the LBC host.
4.) Last year, Truss insisted – against civil service advice – on taking a US trade delegation to a private Mayfair club owned by Tory donor Robin Birley. Truss and her guests drank two bottles of dry gin, three £153 bottles of a Spanish white wine and two bottles of red at £130 each, part of a total bill of £3,000 that was put on expenses.
5.) In line with the Conservative party whip, Truss has voted 48 times in favour of cuts to welfare benefits.
6.) At the launch of her leadership campaign, Truss failed to find the door to exit the room she had just spoken in. Not a wonderful sign for someone professing that they know the right direction for the country.
7.) Truss’s Twitter account then promised that she would “hit the ground” – rather than “hit the ground running” – on day one of her premiership. Critics fear this might be rather on the money.
8.) Prior to 2022, Liz Truss was perhaps most famous for her furious delivery of the words “That. Is. A. Disgrace.” in a 2014 speech about the UK importing two-thirds of its cheddar. In 2014, the UK imported 469,000 tonnes of cheese. By 2020, after years of Truss in positions of power, that had increased to 496,000 tonnes.
9.) No one should like “pork markets” quite as much as Truss appeared to in that 2014 Tory conference speech…
10.) Especially given this 2010 tweet: “Just been pigging out on pork belly from Sargeant’s, where the meat is slaughtered on the premises. Makes a huge difference.”
11.) Truss is unlikely to grab many vegan votes. She once Instagrammed a photo of herself hugging a very cute calf, with the caption “Yorkshire beef #britishbeefweek”.
12.) As foreign secretary, Truss risked a major diplomatic incident when she said she would “support” any Brit who went to Ukraine to fight against Russia – directly contradicting advice issued by her own department.
13.) Truss designed the Northern Ireland Protocol bill, which risks undermining the Good Friday Agreement while also starting a trade war with the EU.
14.) Two days before the Brexit referendum, Truss tweeted: “Leave cannot name one country we would get a better trade deal with if we left the EU”. She has spent the intervening six years claiming the exact opposite.
15.) One of the few trade agreements Truss managed to get signed was with New Zealand, which she promised would deliver “vast opportunities”. Instead, it is expected to boost New Zealand’s economy by $970m (£501m), with “negligible” effect on the UK.
16.) So one-sided was the UK-New Zealand trade deal that even Kiwi television reporting couldn’t believe it. One report opened with: “A world away from rejoicing Kiwi farmers, their [British] counterparts feel they are the sacrificial lambs of the free trade deal.”
17.) After the UK-Australia trade deal was agreed, parliament’s cross-party International Trade Committee issued a warning to the government to stop overselling the benefits of trade deals, especially as the UK’s were doing so little to protect farmers.
18.) Just weeks after the UK hosted the vital Cop26 climate conference, Truss chartered a private plane for a trip to Australia. This cost the taxpayer “at least” £500,000 and would have burned at least 150 tonnes of fuel and led to 500 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. Scheduled flights were available for the same route.
19.) Truss pledged during her leadership campaign that she wants tax cuts to give money back to the “hard-working people” of Britain. That seems to be a major change of view from 10 years ago, when she was a co-author of the book Britannia Unchained, which contained the following notorious sentence: “Once they enter the workplace, the British are among the worst idlers in the world. We work among the lowest hours, we retire early and our productivity is poor.”
20.) Truss may also have reason to regret the sentence that followed, given the Lionesses’ phenomenal Euro 2022 win and Britain’s enduring success as an exporter of global music: “Whereas Indian children aspire to be doctors or businessmen, the British are more interested in football and pop music.”
21.) Truss is campaigning for the leadership in the middle of an unprecedented cost-of-living crisis. But a recording obtained by the Mirror during her time as chief secretary to the Treasury reveals she tried to play a double game – with policies sounding like they would be more generous on public pay, while in practice limiting it through squeezing departmental budgets. “Speak softly but carry a big stick,” she told Treasury officials.
22.) Truss, who as foreign secretary is the UK’s chief diplomat, recently called the Irish Taoiseach (equivalent to prime minister) the “Irish Tea Sock”. Worse still, she did it on Irish television. The actual pronunciation is closer to “Tee-shock” or “Tee-sheck”.
23.) Perhaps more importantly, she appeared to confuse the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea in remarks made earlier this year. This is quite significant as the two seas are 700 miles apart, and one of them is currently under blockade by what remains of the Russian fleet.
24.) Last weekend, Truss suggested Oxbridge should be required to interview every student who got three As, leading the former education special adviser Sam Freedman to note: “This is such a Liz Truss idea. It’s not badly motivated. It’s just weird. Like why on earth would that be a priority – people with all As will all go somewhere good. And it’s not even something the Govt has the power to do.”
25.) Freedman, who worked alongside Truss in the Department for Education, called her “chaotic and eccentric” and added: “She grabs hold of random ideas and forces everyone around her to spend inordinate amounts of time talking her out of them.” Remind you of anyone?
26.) Asked in a televised leadership debate about her policy on China, Truss’s lasting soundbite was “freedom is a price worth paying”, which sounds great until your brain tries to process it.
27.) Truss managed to baffle MPs as justice secretary in 2018, when at the despatch box she claimed that barking dogs in prisons would work to deter drug delivery drones. Sadly, she has not since elaborated on quite how this would work.
28.) Also while justice secretary – which incidentally still also makes you Lord Chancellor – Truss said Article 50 was “not a legal issue”. As an article of an international treaty incorporated into UK law, it could not be any more of a legal issue.
29.) Liz Truss’s law and order policies for her leadership campaign included a promise to issue a directive to every police force to reduce murders by 20%. Aside from being somewhat unhelpful from a policy perspective – there is not a “murders” dial that police can simply turn down – it did leave the implication that Truss would be happy with a murder rate just slightly lower than the current one.
30.) Truss is happy to champion the UK’s role in stymying Russian aggression in Ukraine. However, as recently as June she was publicly defending government plans to cut the British army by more than 10,000 troops – perhaps not seeing the contradiction in the two stances.
31.) Directly contradicting every mainstream economist, Truss – who read philosophy, politics and economics at university – claimed tax cuts would help to cut inflation (they actually boost it). Asked for a mainstream economist who supported her position, she named extreme Brexiteer Patrick Minford. Minford, however, then wrote that her plans might push interest rates up to 7% to tackle the inflation they would cause.
32.) Truss recently claimed that seeing her fellow pupils’ efforts wasted at her Leeds school had been part of what drove her to become a Conservative, with a wish to create opportunity. This had a couple of snags: firstly, there was a Conservative government and Conservative local council when Truss grew up. Secondly, her school was an excellent one, as fellow pupils have declared and Ofsted records show – indeed, it helped her secure a place at Oxford.
33.) On October 29, 2011, Liz Truss tweeted “Used to see Jimmy Savile at the Flying Pizza on Street Lane, Roundhay. Always in good spirits. RIP”. As of August 1, 2022, she still hasn’t deleted it.
34.) In October 2018, Truss declared that Theresa May was “doing a great job” and insisted “the PM isn’t going to resign”. May resigned six months later.
35.) Truss has said that Boris Johnson “did a fantastic job as prime minister”.
36.) In fairness, Truss might not know what the word “fantastic” means. She has also described Jacob Rees-Mogg and Stokeon-Trent as “fantastic”.
37.) Truss is seeking to simultaneously run as the continuity candidate while also saying she’ll do everything completely differently – the Veep campaign slogan “continuity with change” made flesh.
38.) Truss, who looks set to be named Britain’s PM on the votes of around 80,000 Tories, says she plans to “just ignore” Nicola Sturgeon, whose SNP won 1,291,204 constituency votes at the last Scottish election.
39.) In an embarrassing U-turn, she abandoned her latest policy of cutting civil service pay by £8.8bn through a regional cost of living test. After backlash from within her own party, she halted her “war on Whitehall waste” just hours after revealing it. Like much about Liz Truss, would-be PM, it doesn’t add up.