UK foreign minister Liz Truss announces leadership bid

Liz Truss is seen as one of the favourites in the Tory leadership race. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (AFP) - UK foreign minister Liz Truss on Sunday (July 10) announced her bid to succeed Boris Johnson as prime minister and leader of the ruling Conservative party.

"I am putting myself forward because I can lead, deliver and make the tough decisions. I have a clear vision of where we need to be, and the experience and resolve to get us there," she said in the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

Johnson this week announced he would resign after the mishandling of a scandal prompted a raft of ministerial resignations, firing the starting gun on a fractious race to replace him.

Truss, 46, is seen as one of the favourites in the Tory leadership race.

The number of candidates grew to 11 shortly after her announcement as MP Rehman Chishti followed suit with his own candidacy.

As a seven-year-old, British Foreign Secretary and Conservative leadership hopeful Liz Truss played the role of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in her school’s 1983 mock elections.

Four decades on, and despite not getting a single vote then, she is once again bidding to emulate the so-called Iron Lady by winning power and leading Britain out of a crisis period of high inflation and economic instability.

Truss, 46, is a low-tax, free-trade champion who once opposed Brexit but now hopes her straight talk and experience on the world stage can convince both colleagues and the Tory grassroots she is worthy of the top job.

Only the second woman to be foreign secretary, she has appeared to channel Thatcher since assuming the role last September – despite insisting to the Daily Telegraph recently that she is her “own person” and “not trying to emulate anybody”.
She has recreated some of the most iconic images of Britain’s 1980s leader, riding atop a tank in Estonia and sporting a Russian fur hat in Moscow.

And similar to the ex-Tory leader, Truss is a state school-educated free marketeer who her admirers say brings a no-nonsense attitude to British and, more recently, global politics.

Her brief tenure as the UK’s top diplomat – the reward for spearheading a raft of post-Brexit trade deals after the country’s full departure from the European Union last year – has seen her adopt a bullish attitude towards Brussels over subsequent frictions.

Meanwhile, she has confronted Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with characteristic bluntness, urging allies to remain steadfast in demanding a total withdrawal by Moscow – although encouraging Britons to fight there was seen as a slip.

'Disruptor-in-Chief’

Truss, a staunch supporter of Boris Johnson during his turbulent three-year tenure as prime minister, was first his minister for international trade, fast becoming the face of his “Global Britain” strategy.

She acquired key diplomatic skills as London forged trade deals beyond the European Union, notably with Australia, Japan and Norway.

Truss campaigned to remain in the EU during the 2016 referendum but has since said that with hindsight she would have voted the other way and proclaimed the economic opportunities of Brexit.

She has described herself as a “disruptor-in-chief” who is “not afraid to speak her mind and believes liberating people to start and grow businesses without burdensome red tape is the key to our economic future”.

But some MPs characterised her former Department for International Trade (DIT) as the “Department for Instagramming Truss” because of her prolific output on the social media site, accusing her of self-promotion.

It has been a slow push towards the summit of political power.

Truss twice failed in bids to become an MP before finally succeeding in 2010, when she was elected as representative for the east England constituency of South West Norfolk, four years after being voted in as a local councillor in south-east London.
She was promoted to government in 2012, becoming a minister in the education department, and has since held a series of portfolios.

She was environment minister from 2014 to 2016, where she was mocked for a speech in which she vaunted British cheese, saying it was a “disgrace” how much the country imported.

She then became the first female justice minister before taking on the role of chief secretary to the Treasury.

From left to right

Truss, who grew up in Leeds, northern England, worked for 10 years in the energy and telecommunications sectors before entering politics.

She is married to an accountant and has two daughters.

Her political journey began at the prestigious University of Oxford, where she graduated in politics, philosophy and economics.

But at Oxford, she was an active member of the Liberal Democrat party.

By her own admission, her switch to the Conservatives shocked her left-wing maths professor father and nuclear disarmament campaigner mother, whom she accompanied to demonstrations as a child.

“One of his colleagues sent an email when he found out saying: ‘I see your daughter’s become a T***’ (Tory),” Truss told The Guardian of her father.

Truss, though, saw the Tories as a better fit for her minimalist state beliefs and quickly became earmarked for success within the party.

“I am a low-tax Conservative”, she told the Telegraph in May. “The way we’re going to weather the storm is through economic growth, through growing the economy,” she noted of the country’s current economic woes.

She revealed more of her cultural beliefs in a 2020 speech in which she called for “a new approach to equality... founded firmly on Conservative values” and took aim at the cultural influence of “post-modern philosophy”.

“Whether it’s ‘affirmative action’, forced training on ‘unconscious bias’ or lectures on ‘lived experience’, the Left are in thrall to ideas that undermine equality at every turn,” she said.

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