How ‘intense’ Liz Truss bounced back from ‘cheese time’ and demotion to become foreign minister
For a few years, Liz Truss was perhaps best known for a widely ridiculed party conference speech in which she said Britain imported two-thirds of its cheese was “a shame”.
It even inspired a ritual among young officials known as “cheese hour”.
A former Whitehall official recalls: “There was a particular time of day on a particular day of the week when all the Whitehall officials would stop and watch this video on YouTube because they found it so funny.
It was around this time that Ms Truss found herself under heavy fire for her failure to stand up for justice after being labeled an ‘enemy of the people’ at the height of the Brexit wars.
Soon after, she was demoted to the post of Chief Treasury Secretary and her ministerial career hung by a thread.
But this ‘intense’, ideological and Instagrammable ‘political animal’ bounced back, becoming the biggest winner of Boris Johnson’s cabinet reshuffle this week with a promotion to the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Born to middle-class parents ‘to the left of Labor’, Ms Truss used to attend CND marches with her mother and hated her comprehensive ‘fashionable’ education in Leeds.
President of the Liberal Democrats at the University of Oxford, Ms Truss was nonetheless a true Blue Conservative when she was elected MP for South West Norfolk in 2010 – her father, a math professor, refused to campaign for her.
She gave her infamous cheese speech after being promoted to Environment Secretary in 2014, before being given the role of Justice Secretary by Theresa May following the Brexit vote in 2016.
Soon after, the “enemies of the people” line won him a demotion to the treasury and things weren’t going well.
But it’s actually here that she made her way into the hearts of loyal Tories with her Thatcherism for Generation Instagram, describing Britain as “a nation of Uber-riding freedom fighters, Deliveroo, Airbnb-ing “and trying to get Little Mix to play a concert at Treasure.
A former adviser says she was just fed up with “doing whatever number 10 says”, accusing Downing Street of presiding over her low-key response to the anti-Brexit anti-legal headlines.
She now had ‘nothing to lose’ and ‘spotted an opportunity’ as Ms May’s regime lost control of the Cabinet, forging a reputation as the ‘chief disruptor’ dominating Westminster social media years before Rishi Sunak and his hoodies.
“She was the Rishi brand before the Rishi brand was a thing,” a conservative insider said.
But it also created an “image glitch” for what the former adviser described as an “incredibly serious thinker,” who was seen as a slightly funny figure instead.
“She comes home and reads about politics, she wakes up in the morning and thinks about politics, she’s a political animal.”
Sources describe a minister constantly generating political ideas who is “very proudly libertarian in all the decisions she makes”, loath to accept a response from officials and a workaholic.
“I actually think that’s where its weakness is – the human element,” the insider said.
Many people describe Ms. Truss as an “intense” figure, who once she has an idea “never lets go” until she progresses.
“I always joke that the most dangerous time to work for Liz Truss is when she’s on vacation because she has a lot of time to think, a lot of messages will come to you, she doesn’t have a stop button “said the ex-adviser. .
This can sometimes lead to a transactional approach on the social side of politics. He is not someone chatting or pulling the breeze in the tea room.
But it is a side that also allows him to “bounce back quite quickly after setbacks”.
“She doesn’t take things personally,” the conservative insider said.
While Ms Truss has rebounded in the Treasury, she is seen to have excelled as Secretary of Commerce, where she struck trade deals with Australia and Japan despite the Covid pandemic crushing almost everything else on the government’s political agenda. .
“She put forward a motion in a Parliament with limited motions and after a Parliament without a motion and that counts for a lot”, as one MP put it.
She now runs CuratorHomeCabinet minister ranking poll and is touted as a challenger to Chancellor Rishi Sunak for leadership when Mr Johnson finally leaves No 10.
But the MP suggests she will have to match the scale of Mr Sunak’s support for the party, saying her popularity lies mainly in the “London-based militant bubble”, making her a “base astroturf darling”.
“Rishi has a connection she doesn’t have.”
The leading role of Minister of Foreign Affairs will undoubtedly give him the opportunity to further strengthen his reputation.
But some warn that his free ideological approach to politics could rub shoulders with the great old institution of the Foreign Ministry, where cautious diplomacy is often conducted by longtime domestic experts.
But an ally argues, “Liz will be a breath of fresh air for the place. “