BusinessDay

Who is Oxford trained Liz Truss, UK’s new Prime minister

The United Kingdom has a new prime minister.

Liz Truss, who was born on July 26, 1975 in Oxford where her father was a mathematics professor, has been declared winner of the sometimes bruising race to succeed Boris Johnson who announced on July 7 he was leaving number 10. She beat her main rival Rushi Sunak.

At the age of seven, Liz Truss played the role of Margaret Thatcher in her school’s mock general election but unlike the iron lady who won a huge majority in 1983, she did not prove a success.

Years later, Truss recalled, “I jumped at the chance and gave a heartfelt speech at the hustings, but ended up with zero votes. I didn’t even vote for myself.”

Thirty-nine years on, she has been given the chance to follow the Iron Lady’s lead for real and become Conservative leader and prime minister.

She went to Oxford University, where she read philosophy, politics and economics and was active in student politics, initially for the Liberal Democrats.

At the party’s 1994 conference, she spoke in favour of abolishing the monarchy, telling delegates in Brighton: “We Liberal Democrats believe in opportunity for all. We do not believe people are born to rule.” On Tuesday morning, she will have to fly to Aberdeen in Scotland to meet the Queen who would then appoint her prime minister.

It was while she was at Oxford that Truss switched party to the Conservatives. After graduating she worked as an accountant for Shell, and Cable & Wireless, and married fellow accountant Hugh O’Leary in 2000. The couple have two children.

Truss first stood as the Tory candidate for Hemsworth, West Yorkshire, in the 2001 general election, but lost and suffered another defeat in Calder Valley, also in West Yorkshire, in 2005.

But, her political ambitions never diminished. In 2006, she was elected as a councillor in Greenwich, south-east London.

Conservative leader David Cameron put Ms Truss on his “A-list” of priority candidates for the 2010 election and she was selected to stand for the safe seat of South West Norfolk.

Read also: UK’s student visas to Nigerians surge 223% in one year

But she quickly faced a battle against de-selection by the constituency Tory association, after it was revealed she had had an affair with Tory MP Mark Field some years earlier. The effort to oust her failed and Ms Truss went on to win the seat by more than 13,000 votes.

She co-authored a book, Britannia Unchained, with four other Conservative MPs elected in 2010, which recommended stripping back state regulation to boost the UK’s position in the world, marking her out as a prominent advocate of free market policies on the Tory benches.

During a BBC leadership debate, she was challenged about a comment in Britannia Unchained, describing British workers as “among the worst idlers in the world”. She insisted she had not written it.

In 2012, just over two years after becoming an MP, she entered government as an education minister and in 2014 was promoted to environment secretary.

At the 2015 Conservative conference, Ms Truss was mocked for a speech in which she said, in an impassioned voice: “We import two-thirds of our cheese. That. Is. A. Disgrace.”

Less than a year later came arguably the biggest political event in a generation – the EU referendum.

Ms Truss campaigned for Remain, writing in the Sun newspaper that Brexit would be “a triple tragedy – more rules, more forms and more delays when selling to the EU”.

However, after her side lost, she changed her mind, arguing that Brexit provided an opportunity to “shake up the way things work”.

Under Theresa May’s premiership, she served as justice secretary before moving on to become chief secretary to the Treasury.

When Boris Johnson became prime minister in 2019, Ms Truss was moved to international trade secretary – a job which meant meeting global political and business leaders to promote UK PLC.