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Who is Liz Truss, the new UK Prime Minister

Liz Truss, the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, was the frontrunner against her fellow Conservative Party member Rishi Sunak, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer.

British Foreign Secretary and Conservative leadership candidate Liz Truss attends a Conservative Party leadership campaign event in Marden, Britain, July 23, 2022. (Reuters Photo: Henry Nicholls)

Liz Truss, 47, will be the next Prime Minister of the UK, it was declared on Monday (September 5) as the long summer of political resignations, voting, and campaigning drew to a close. Truss, the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, was the frontrunner against her fellow Conservative Party member Rishi Sunak, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Sunak said on Sunday (September 4) that he would “support” the new government in an interview with the BBC. Sunak had been one of the first ministers to resign back in July, expressing disagreement with then PM Boris Johnson, after he faced significant criticism over a range of issues related to his conduct.

Sir Graham Brady announced the result as the chair of the 1922 committee, consisting of all Conservative party backbenchers or “rank and file” MPs who do not occupy a position in government. The result was determined after around 172,000 party members across the country voted in their choice for the PM and next party leader, after weeks of campaigning and public debates by Truss and Sunak. Of the 82.6% turnout, 81,326 votes went to Truss, while Sunak got 60,399 votes.

The UK, which is to have its general elections in about two years, is currently facing a significant challenge of higher energy costs, and it is being speculated Truss will freeze electricity bills for some time. During her campaign too, she spoke against raising taxes amid the ongoing period of inflation. Here is what you need to know about the policies and background of the UK’s new prime minister.

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Who is Liz Truss?

Truss hails from north of England, a region that is traditionally a stronghold of the opposition Labour Party. The Oxford native herself identified as a Social Democrat, an affiliation close to Centrist policies, earlier.

Elizabeth Truss read philosophy, politics and economics at the Oxford University and according to a BBC report, from there on she became more inclined towards Conservative ideals of reduced role of the government, and greater role of the private sector in the economy. She worked in the energy and telecommunications industry for 10 years as a commercial manager, among other jobs in the private sector.

Rising through the ranks

After a few unsuccessful attempts to contest elections in the 2000s, she won a seat in the House of Commons in 2010. In 2012, Truss became the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Education and Childcare, and later held portfolios related to environment, food and rural affairs, and she has referenced this experience in her campaigning.

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The most prestigious among the posts she has held is that of the Secretary of Foreign Affairs or the Foreign Minister since September 2021.

Truss has been at the helm as foreign secretary during the ongoing war in Ukraine, often invoking sanctions against Russia and strongly condemning Russian President Vladimir Putin. She has also been in-charge of negotiating with the EU over Brexit, though she voted against the referendum to leave the EU in 2016. Later, she said she was wrong and now appreciates the “opportunities” being provided as a result.

Policies and appeal among voters

Truss has said she is inspired by the UK’s former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, who was known for deeply following Conservative ideals in her policies and is a revered figure among conservatives.

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Truss was photographed in a tank last year, evoking comparisons to a famous 1986 photo of Thatcher.

She has proposed immediate tax cuts, especially given the rise in taxes brought on by Sunak as the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Sunak said in a recent TV debate that the raise was to fund the country’s public health system during Covid-19.

In a campaign video, Truss said she is “committed to core conservative principles, low taxes, a firm grip on spending, driving growth in the economy”, and stressed on her experience in the government. She said she would begin working on day one toward “ensuring Putin loses in Ukraine”, and will “deliver on the opportunities of Brexit”. She termed “economy, security, environment” as the major challenges facing Britain at the moment.

In an interview with The Telegraph, she said: “I will be unashamedly pro-business in driving investment”.

She also tweeted, “With the vision I’ve set out and the delivery I’ve shown – I can beat Keir Starmer and win the next election”, referring to the Labour Party’s leader and appealing to party members who would have had an eye on the UK general elections in two years’ time.

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Both candidates supported the government’s controversial policy of sending illegal migrants in the UK to Rwanda, though the first deportation flight was blocked by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Truss has further said she would increase the border force by 20 per cent.

First published on: 26-07-2022 at 13:23 IST
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