A poll by ConservativeHome revealed that the International Trade/Women and Equality Secretary, Liz Truss, is the most popular member of the cabinet amongst party members, with a net 75% satisfaction rating. The new polling data has prompted speculation that Truss could move up the rank in a post-pandemic cabinet reshuffle. Truss’ scandal-free profile coupled with her highly successful and bountiful trade negotiations have allow her to avoid the intensive media scrutiny and viral interview failures that her colleagues have suffered from. To understand the silent rise of Liz Truss, it is important to look back at her peculiar political history.
Born in Oxford to a Professor and a Nurse, Liz Truss has not got the traditional conservative upbringing that some of her co-workers have. She describes her own parents as being ‘to the left of labour’. As chair of the Liberal Democrats of Oxford University, she sustained a staunchly anti-monarchy agenda. This ideological contrast of Truss to the current Conservative cabinet have left many to question how she became the force in the party that she is today.
To answer this, it is vital to look back at her recent political development. Truss has been described by conservative scholars as a modern-day Thatcher due to her strong free-market stance. She commands Thatcher’s greatest characteristics; bolshy, efficient and most importantly, an undefinable stance on the European Union. Truss voted Remain in 2016, but quickly changed her position to get into the Johnson ‘Get Brexit Done’ government. Critics have argued that Truss’ flip-flopping on the EU was to selfishly motivated and not what she thought best for the country, whilst defendants claim she embraced the reality of Brexit and has changed tac to get the best end result for the UK.
However, since the political sphere has pivoted its attention to the pandemic, Truss has been able to dodge interviews on the Pandemic and instead methodically and fanatically negotiate with foreign governments to secure countless post-Brexit trade deals. Her firm yet diplomatic attitude towards negotiations has earned her credit on the international stage with a host of free trade deals with the likes of Canada and Japan, including deals with Australia and New Zealand reportedly a matter of weeks away. A notable development in recent days is the substantial progress made with the US in retracting the retaliatory tariff’s placed on UK goods, such as whiskey, and an agreed de-escalation between the two aerospace giants; Boeing and Airbus. The United States was a gamble for Johnson, the Leave campaign made a potential US-UK trade deal a pivotal aspect of the Leave campaign and Johnson publicly and frequently envisioned a large and generous trade deal with America. The recent agreement is both good news for the country, but also Truss’s standing within cabinet, as she has started to deliver on one of Johnson’s biggest Brexit promises.
A post-pandemic government will likely be raring to change things up and cut out ministers who have attracted extreme criticism. Liz Truss, however, will not be one of those. Instead, Truss will most likely get a significantly more influential position, with many floating the possibility of her getting the top job at the Foreign Office, given her record on bolstering International relations. The current Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, ranks 4th in the ConservativeHome poll, so this fight will not be easy. Raab has also managed to avoid major media scrutiny and so his security in the cabinet is not as tenuous as others. Other positions that could be up for grabs include, Home Secretary and Education Secretary given the relative unpopularity of the two incumbent ministers, from accusations of bullying to the spectacular A-level fiasco, Priti Patel and Gavin Williams will be in Truss’s crosshairs. On the other hand, there is a possibility that if Boris adopted the ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ attitude then Truss may be asked to continue her successful stint as International Trade Secretary in the vital post-Brexit era.
Beyond the next few years, Truss would fair extremely well in a Conservative leadership contest and would present those likely to run (Sunak and Raab) with a formidable challenge. At only 45 years of age, Truss’ political career is far from over and she is definitely one to watch in the years to come.