The past six years have been a turbulent and controversial time in British politics. Through them all, one person consistently delivered progress, not deflected by the chaos around her. As others made headlines, Liz Truss made deals.
Having been environment secretary under David Cameron, Truss was justice secretary and lord chancellor then chief secretary to the Treasury under Theresa May, before moving on to become trade secretary, minister for women and foreign secretary under Boris Johnson. Experience at Environment, Justice, the Treasury, Trade, Women and Foreign Affairs provide the perfect background of experience – a suite and breadth that no other candidate in the race comes even close to matching.
That matters for a prime minister. There are good reasons everyone that has taken over mid-term as a prime minister for well over a hundred years has held one of the great offices of state: foreign secretary, chancellor or home secretary. And Truss was not parachuted in from nowhere as someone’s political creature. She worked her way up, proving herself in each position before being promoted and coming back from sideways moves as well as upwards ones.
She first came on to the political scene as a strong supporter of markets, founding the Free Enterprise Group of MPs, advocating social mobility, rigorous education and flexible working. Her instincts are practical but unmistakably centre-right – and will be a healthy and welcome reversion to traditional conservatism in that area after some of the blind alleys of the Johnson era. Her liberal instincts, honed by many years on the justice select committee and as justice secretary, are also exemplified by her being one of only two ministers to vote against plain packaging of cigarettes and her being one of the leaders of the cabinet revolt against the proposed December 2021 Covid restrictions.
As minister for women and equalities, she has opposed the woke agenda with clarity and without ambiguity (for example by abolishing ‘unconscious bias’ training in the civil service), but also with sensitivity and without unnecessary rancour.
As international trade secretary, she embraced the opportunities of Brexit with an enthusiasm no other politician that supported Remain in the referendum has come close to matching. She is the ultimate Brexiteers’ Remainer – the Brexiteers’ St Paul. She has carried that through into her period as foreign secretary, continuing to advance Britain’s post-Brexit global cause while enraging the Russians so much that they have adapted an abusive (and sadly unprintable) proverb to apply specifically to her.
A Truss administration will be a conservative administration. It will seek to trust markets once again, to keep spending and taxes low and get the debt down. It will be an anti-woke administration but will not be so distracted by anti-woke actions that it will forget to deliver material improvements in Britons’ lives. It will exhibit liberal instincts on civil liberties issues but not be afraid to be tough when required on immigration. It will favour social mobility and the grounded education people need to achieve it.
It will involve a Britain that stands up for itself unapologetically on the international stage and is not afraid to be patronised and insulted by its enemies. It will seek to move forward from Brexit – not always looking back, for good or ill. It will support the Union, first over the Northern Ireland -protocol and, as the SNP presses yet again for another referendum, over Scotland. We will look to new relationships with Canada, Australia, Japan and other medium-sized global partners like ourselves.
As others lost their heads and forgot what they were trying to achieve, Truss has delivered. As prime minister, she will do so again. And that, ultimately, is what will decide the fate of the Conservative party at the next general election. Truss’s proven track record shows she will govern as a conservative and can win as a conservative. No other candidate can even remotely say the same.
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