LONDON — After weeks of campaigning and television debates, the next prime minister of the U.K. will be announced Monday. In recent days, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has shot ahead of her opponent, the former chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, to become the frontrunner in the Conservative Party leadership race. But what is publicly known about Truss and her policies on Brexit and foreign policy?
Mary Elizabeth Truss was born in Oxford, England, in 1975 — making her 47 years old. According to Sky News, her mother worked as a nurse and her father was a lecturer in mathematics. Truss has described her parents as very liberal, calling them “to the left of Labour.” While she was still young, her family moved to Leeds, a less affluent city in the north of England. Unlike Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who, like many of his predecessors, attended the elite private school Eton College, Truss attended state-run schools in England and Scotland.
As a student at Oxford University, Truss was a member of the Liberal Democrats and headed the university association affiliated with the party. She even campaigned against the monarchy, as shown in a video clip filmed in 1994. Two years later, after graduating, she left to join the Conservative Party.
Life in politics
Truss would spend 10 years in the telecommunications sector before turning to politics. She was first elected in 2006 as a councillor in the London borough of Greenwich, and became a Member of Parliament for Southwest Norfolk in 2010. However, before she stood as a candidate, members of her local association attempted to revoke her nomination, after learning that she was alleged to have had an affair with a married Conservative MP, Mark Field.
She was given her first junior post two years later, when she was appointed as secretary of state in the Department for Education. In 2014, Truss was named to a senior post, leading the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Truss backed former Prime Minister David Cameron on the side of remaining in the EU in what became to be known as “Brexit.” When Theresa May took over Cameron’s position as leader, Truss was selected as justice secretary, and later was the first woman in 1,000 years to hold the position of Lord Chancellor, the top economic office in the country. In 2019, as International Trade Secretary, Truss struck deals with New Zealand, Australia and Japan in an attempt to move Britain forward in the post-EU-era.
Last September, Truss moved into the position of foreign secretary in a Cabinet reshuffle by Johnson. The foreign secretary at the time, Dominic Raab, then came under severe scrutiny for his handling of Britain’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. Raab had been vacationing in Greece when the Taliban took control of Afghanistan and had asked a deputy to handle an urgent call regarding the evacuation of Afghan interpreters. However, the call was never made, which left Johnson no choice but to replace Raab. Truss is now one of the Conservatives' longest-serving Cabinet ministers sitting in Parliament.
'Liz for Leader'
On July 7, hours after Johnson announced his resignation as prime minister, Truss cut short her attendance at a G-20 event in Indonesia and announced her bid for the leadership race. At home, Truss has promised to cut taxes immediately, as well as to “keep corporation tax competitive.” She has also vowed to “unlock the huge opportunities of Brexit, with bold reforms.” As foreign secretary dealing with Brexit, Truss has created controversy over her hard-line stance.
A European Union official told the inews on Thursday that the EU would refuse to negotiate any changes in the Brexit deal on Northern Ireland if Truss carries through on a move she proposed in June, for legislation now passing through Parliament, to give ministers power to suspend parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol. The Protocol, which Johnson concluded with the EU, was intended to protect the single market of the Union while avoiding what would be known as a “hard border,” or a physical border, in Northern Ireland.
Truss has also said that if she is appointed prime minister, she will declare China an official threat for the first time. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, she has stood firm against the Kremlin’s war. In July, she told the BBC that “all of Ukraine that has been invaded by Russia is illegally occupied.”
Last week, Truss sparked tensions after she said the “jury’s out” on whether France is a friend or foe to Britain. President Emmanuel Macron of France responded that it was a “problem” if the U.K. was unwilling to call itself a friend.
As for U.K. relations with the U.S., the Financial Times suggested earlier this week that Truss had questioned the alliance, which has prevailed since World War II. Others doubt that she will maintain that stance.
“U.K. and U.S. relations are extremely important. It's way, way bigger than any individual personality, including Liz Truss,” David Lawrence, a research fellow in the U.K. in the World Initiative at Chatham House, told Yahoo News. “I suspect that like every single British prime minister before her, she'll be incredibly keen to foster a good, close relationship.”
If elected, Truss will become the third woman to become U.K. prime minister, following in the steps of Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May.
Roughly 160,000 members of the Conservative Party will vote for either Truss or Rishi Sunak. Voting will continue until Friday evening, and the ballots will be totaled over the weekend. By Monday afternoon, the next prime minister of Britain will be announced, to be sworn into office by Queen Elizabeth II on Tuesday.
Liz Truss’s leadership team was contacted for comment.