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Mini-Budget, Market Crashes, Shortest Term As UK PM: Who Is Liz Truss?

UK Prime Minister Liz Truss resigned on 20 Oct, after 45 days in office, becoming the shortest-serving British PM.

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Video Producer: Mayank Chawla

Video Editor: Pawan Kumar

(This story was first published on 5 September 2022. It has been reposted in light of Liz Truss' resignation as the UK Prime Minister on 20 October 2022.)

Mary Elizabeth Truss, popularly known as 'Liz' Truss, was elected as the new prime minister of the United Kingdom and the leader of the Conservative Party on Monday, 5 September, by around 1,60,000 fee-paying Tories. She will become the third female prime minister of the country after Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May.

The foreign secretary prevailed over Rishi Sunak, the Indian-origin former chancellor of the exchequer, and will succeed disgraced Conservative politician Boris Johnson.

The result does not come as a surprise as all the recent polls pegged Truss to defeat Sunak in a head-to-head contest. She will inherit an economy creeping towards recession, a cost-of-living crisis, a war in Europe (which she was dealing with anyway as the foreign secretary), and the immigration question, among other issues.

After all, the Bank of England had warned on 4 August that the country may sink into a long recession. It has also been forecasted that the economy will shrink in the last three months of the year and will keep shrinking until the end of 2023. The responsibility for limiting the damage falls on Truss's shoulders.

So, what do we know about the incoming prime minister?

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Early Political Career 

Born to parents whom she describes as being "to the left of Labour," Liz Truss's association with politics began at a very early age. Her mother was a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, an organisation that fights for nuclear arms regulation across the world.

Before joining the Tories, Truss was with the Liberal Democrats, president of the Liberal Democrats at Oxford University (where she studied politics, philosophy, and economics at Merton College, Oxford). She was also a member of the national executive committee of Liberal Democrat Youth and Students (LDYS).

With respect to her state high school in Leeds, Truss has said that children were "let down" due to "low expectations, poor educational standards, and lack of opportunity," and has cited the school as one of the reasons she turned Conservtative. Other students and teachers of the school, however, have disagreed vehemently, accusing her of lying in order to score political points.

In 1994, during a Lib Dem party conference, she argued in favour of abolishing the monarchy, stating, "We Liberal Democrats believe in opportunity for all. We do not believe people are born to rule." She joined the Conservative Party two years later.

Truss, the eldest of four siblings and the only girl, and the competitive one of the family, hated losing. Her brother once told BBC Radio 4 that she would rather disappear rather than risk not winning.

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Running With the Tories

Truss was first elected to the House of Commons in May 2010. The current foreign secretary of the United Kingdom has held six ministerial posts under three prime ministers (Boris Johnson, Theresa May, and David Cameron). These are:

  • Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (2014-2016)

  • Secretary of State for Justice (2016-2017)

  • Chief Secretary to the Treasury (2017-2019)

  • Secretary of State for International Trade (2019-2021)

  • Minister for Women and Equalities (2019 - present)

  • Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs (2021 - present)

As foreign secretary, Truss has called for peace in the Tigray conflict in Ethiopia and the end of the war between Russia and Ukraine. She has also asserted Britain's authority over the Falklands, and, like Sunak, has advocated for a more aggressive approach towards China, calling the country a "threat" to the international order.

As prime minister however, Truss will have to deal with a lot more than just Britain's foreign policy.

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On Taxes, Russia, Immigration, Northern Ireland Protocol, and Brexit

Truss has categorical about cutting taxes from her first day as prime minister. The foreign secretary, in an article for The Telegraph, by way of which she launched her campaign, declared that she would "start cutting taxes from day one."

"Under my leadership, I would start cutting taxes from day one to take immediate action to help people deal with the cost of living," she wrote in the essay.

Truss's policy towards Russia has been described as being too hawkish. "We will keep going further and faster to push Russia out of the whole of Ukraine," she had stated in April.

She ran into controversy when she stated that British people going to Ukraine to fight would have the her support, with Conservative colleagues criticising her view. Truss has also been "supportive of the concept" regarding the government's seizure of frozen Russian assets in the United Kingdom and their redistribution to the victims of war in Ukraine.

With respect to the Northern Ireland Protocol, Truss wants to scrap off part of the old deal with the European Union (even introducing a bill regarding the same) and make changes to it because "all other options within the current EU mandate are currently exhausted."

She has argued that the protocol was undermining the Good Friday Agreement (a 1998 peace plan that ended the 30-year conflict in Ireland, popularly called "the Troubles"), had created practical issues and "a growing sense that the rights and aspirations of some parts of the community are being undermined."

On immigration, Truss wants stricter controls at the border. She is supportive of Home Secretary Priti Patel's Rwanda policy, and has even gone to the extent of saying that there should be a change in the way the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) are applied to the UK and that she "would be prepared" to withdraw from it if necessary.

Finally, on Brexit, Truss initially supported the Remain faction during the 2016 referendum but has since transformed herself into one of the strongest Brexiteers in the government. Perhaps that's why Marc Stears, Truss's tutor at Oxford, told The Washington Post that her "most noticeable characteristic is a capacity to shift, unblinkingly, from one fiercely held belief to another."

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