As Deep as a Puddle

Liz Truss at the Tory party leadership election hustings, Conference Centre, Leeds. Photo: Peter Powell

Now that it appears likely the new Thatcher, Liz Truss will be the next Prime Minister of England – it is impossible to call the incumbent of Number 10 ‘PM of the UK’ when they do not represent Scotland – so, it is worth knowing more about Truss because she will impose her will undoubtedly on ‘the Norf of Britain’.

As I pointed out a few times, the Tory party is not yet ready to elect a man with a skin colour darker than a caramel, the scent of days of empire still in their nostrils. Such men are employees, as Scots were during Victorian times. Truss is the only other choice, a woman who has gone out of her way to create mirror images of Thatcher in our mind.

The English elected Boorish Johnson a known liar and buffoon, and now a few Tory members will elect a deadhead with a rhino hide and an intellect as deep as a puddle and foist her on the nations of the UK. She is liable to lead us into another war because being uncontrollably vain, she must be seen as tough, as tough as Thatcher over the Falklands. Talk of ways to peace will not be countenanced.

The sadness in all this is how Scotland could have had its own voice if enough listened to the warnings of a British State that would seek revenge if we were weak and voted No to reinstating our independence in 2014. Everything foretold has come about. The article below reminds us of how much Scotland is not master of its future, and what is coming our way – again.

AMBITION GREATER THAN ABILITY

By Rajeev SyalEmine SinmazBen Quinn and Peter Walker

Liz Truss is tantalisingly close to acquiring the keys to No 10. But her constituency party members recall a meeting when the question of her entering parliament at all hung in the balance, after she was accused of failing to disclose an extramarital affair to activists. It was 2009 – 12 years before she would be elevated to her current role as foreign secretary – and she was on the verge of finally becoming an MP after being selected to stand in the safe seat of South West Norfolk.

Dozens of hardline, rural Tory activists, dubbed the “Turnip Taliban”, had called an urgent meeting, angry that an 18-month affair with the Conservative MP Mark Field had not been disclosed when she was endorsed as a candidate. Some wanted her to stand down because they believed she was being parachuted in by unwanted moderates under David Cameron’s leadership.

Roy Brame, a self-declared member of the Turnip Taliban, had gone to the packed meeting convinced she should not stand in the safe seat at the next general election. But instead, he recalls Truss winning over a sceptical audience with a characteristic mix of charm and a thick skin. He voted against her that evening, but Brame said he was impressed by her responses, telling reporters after the meeting: “We have just seen the new Thatcher.”

“People say that she’s not very good at presenting herself. But at that particular meeting, when well over 200 [people] were asking her some personal questions, and a lot about where she thought she wanted to go, she came over extremely well,” he said.

Truss survived the meeting – local websites claimed that the Turnips had been mashed – and won a vote supporting her as the candidate by 132 votes to 37. Thirteen years later, Truss has now held six ministerial jobs under three different prime ministers – and in 2016 became the first female lord chancellor. Crucially, she appears to have currently won over a majority of the 160,000 Tory party members who will choose the next prime minister in September.

The comparison with Thatcher is one that has been pushed hard by her team. From wearing a pussybow blouse, to driving tanks and being photographed wearing a fur hat in Moscow’s Red Square, they claim Truss is ready to shake up the Tory establishment just as her hero did.

She was raised by Labour-supporting parents, was a Liberal Democrat, and went to what she describes as a “woke” comprehensive school in the north of England. All qualities she has been keen to promote against the Wykehamist, internationalist credentials of Sunak.

Her critics – and she has many within her own party – say she lacks many of Thatcher’s skills. She fails to display intellectual gravitas, they say, relying instead upon cheap slogans, and struggles to make convincing speeches, another facet of her character that could be quickly exposed under the intense scrutiny of Downing Street.

Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s former chief adviser, told the online magazine UnHerd in May that Truss was “as close to properly crackers as anybody I have met in parliament” and would be an “even worse” prime minister than Johnson.

Others doubt if Truss really believes anything she says, and relies upon a gut instinct to fulfil her own ambitions. Anna Soubry, the former MP who served as a minister alongside Truss, said many had questioned whether she had the skills necessary to lead the UK.

“She was the most ambitious person many people had encountered. I honestly believe she was given jobs – ministerial promotions – just to shut her up. Her ambition is, undoubtedly, considerably greater than her ability,” said Soubry.

Mary Elizabeth Truss was born in Oxford on 26 July 1975, the eldest of four siblings and the only girl. Her left-leaning father, John Kenneth Truss, was a professor of pure mathematics at the University of Leeds. Her mother, Priscilla Mary, was a nurse, teacher and prominent member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. They lived in Paisley for some of Truss’s childhood, [from aged 4 to 6 – Ed] before moving to Leeds. Truss has sought to portray her former senior school, Roundhay – which sent her and many others to Oxford University – as repeatedly letting children down with “low expectations, poor educational standards and lack of opportunity”. Too much talent, she declared, “went to waste”. She even claimed it was within a “red wall” seat.

Her claim seems to have surprised former fellow pupils. The school is part of Leeds North East, a constituency that had voted Conservative for almost half a century until 1997. It was a rugby union-playing ex-grammar set in 22 acres of grounds in a well-to-do part of the city. Alumni include a university vice-chancellor, judges, neuroscientists, an award-winning playwright, four current or former parliamentarians and a former editor of the Sunday Telegraph.

Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate, the Tory MP for Leeds North East when Truss was a pupil at Roundhay, said he knew the school well at that time and claimed Truss’s comments appear to be “patently untrue”.

He said: “I think she was suggesting she was the only person who went to any sort of university and all the others were poor, inner-city kids, which was certainly not the case for Roundhay … Politicians in this sort of situation should be very cautious about what they say because they have a knock-on effect to the staff and former pupils.”

Truss read PPE at Merton College, Oxford, and became a leading member of the Liberal Democrats. At the party conference at the age of 19, she called for the abolition of the monarchy. “We do not believe people are born to rule,” she said.

Fellow former Lib Dem members said the intervention angered the late leader Paddy Ashdown, who had been assured she would remit the motion and avoid a vote. But the vote took place, drawing unwanted publicity for the party leader. “Paddy was not forgiving of those responsible for hijacking the conference,” said Lord Rennard, then a senior party figure.

At one freshers’ week, Lib Dem members including Alan Renwick, a friend of Truss who is now an academic on constitutional affairs, were decorating a stall and Truss, then a believer in cannabis legalisation, had a particular vision of how it should look. “She wanted the whole stall to be covered with these posters saying: ‘Free the Weed’, so I was scurrying around after Liz, trying to take these down again and put up a variety of different messages rather than just having this one message all over the stall,” Renwick told BBC Radio 4. She was putting them up again just as quickly. Truss was an enthusiastic participant in Oxford’s Hayek society, which celebrated the work of the Austrian political philosopher best known for his defence of classical liberalism. The same group included other Lib Dems who went on to become Tories.

“She was incredibly difficult to work with,” recalled Neil Fawcett, now a Lib Dem councillor, who campaigned alongside her in the 90s. “On a personal level, I could never really work out what she actually believed because she always seemed to be playing to the gallery, rather than putting forward a genuine belief.”

Truss joined the Conservatives in 1996 when the party was being torn apart by factionalism under John Major’s leadership. The following year she met her future husband, Hugh O’Leary, an accountant, at Conservative party conference, and they married in 2000.

At 25, she made her first steps towards parliamentary politics, taking on the dispiriting task of carrying the Tory message into a northern seat in the Labour heartlands. In 2001, she contested Hemsworth, in West Yorkshire, and secured a 4% swing from Labour to Conservative, which brought the Labour majority down from nearly 24,000 to less than 16,000.

To improve her chances of securing a more winnable seat next time, she was assigned Field, the MP for Cities of London and Westminster, as a mentor and soon after their relationship began. His marriage of 12 years ended in divorce, while hers survived.

After David Cameron became the Conservative leader, Truss was placed on the “A-list” of parliamentary candidates, and was tipped to be the next MP for the Tory seat of Bromley and Chislehurst, through a byelection after the death of the local MP. But after the Daily Mail broke the story of her relationship with Field, Truss was informed she would not be the candidate.

After finally winning over the executive of the South West Norfolk Conservative party in 2009, Truss was elected to parliament the following year with a 13,140 majority. Once in parliament, she founded the Free Enterprise Group of MPs, championing deregulation and lower taxes. She co-authored Britannia Unchained, a pamphlet that described the British as “among the worst idlers in the world”.

After a junior education role, Truss was appointed as environment secretary in 2014 for two years, during which she became a meme after a cringeworthy speech at Conservative party conference. “Britain imports two-thirds of its cheese,” she said cheerily, before quickly changing her expression to one of dark foreboding. “That. Is. A. Disgrace.”

Her supporters insist Truss really is one of the people – she does not enjoy public speaking and prefers a closed meeting or a party. Knowing that her staccato delivery is regularly mocked, she has attempted to take the sting out of the criticism by saying she knows she is not the most polished of performers.

During the EU referendum, she argued for remain, signing a cross-party declaration with Ed Miliband, Ed Davey and Caroline Lucas which described leave campaigners as “extreme and outdated”. After the referendum, she performed a 180-degree turn and is now one of the most vociferous supporters of leave.

Under Theresa May, Truss was appointed justice secretary, a job that quickly ran into trouble. She initially failed to defend the judiciary after they were branded “enemies of the people” by the Daily Mail because they ruled parliament had to be given a vote on triggering Brexit. Truss later issued a statement supporting the judges but this was seen as too little, too late. Her actions drew unprecedented criticism from Lord Thomas, the lord chief justice, who told MPs she had been “completely and absolutely wrong”.

She was demoted to become chief secretary to the Treasury, but she embraced the change. In fact she became increasingly mischievous, reprimanding the then environment secretary Michael Gove publicly in one speech. “Too often we’re hearing about not drinking too much … eating too many doughnuts … or enjoying the warm glow of our wood-burning Goves … I mean stoves,” she said. “I can see their point: there’s enough hot air and smoke at the environment department already.”

Her office has gained an unwanted reputation among cabinet colleagues for leaking stories. It was often assumed that the leaks came direct from Truss, but her friends have denied this.

After May’s resignation, Truss became one of the first cabinet ministers to support Johnson’s bid to lead the party. She was appointed international trade secretary and for two years signed trade deals across the world. As foreign secretary Truss has become increasingly active on social media, exhaustively documenting her jet-setting diplomatic trips around the world.

Her condemnation of Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine – which saw Russian officials explicitly cite comments she made in a BBC interview as the reason for its decision to place the country’s military on high alert – has led to a rise in popularity within the Tories.

Her solution to the impasse over the Northern Ireland protocol was to scrap large parts of that agreement. Critics said she risked a trade war with the EU and had damaged the UK’s reputation for adhering to international law.

Her supporters say that her creative thinking also meant that she secured the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a task that had eluded three previous foreign secretaries. She enlisted Oman as an intermediary and paid a historical debt to Tehran.

For many of the MPs who are backing Sunak, she is also the “Johnson continuity candidate”. They are fuming that she appears to have won over the party.

“If she wins, you will see pretty much the same groups of people – the same Crosby Textor [global consultants] types and the same donors. Liz is certainly very determined to get there, but the people won’t change that much and no one really knows what she might do if she gets there,” an MP said.

NOTE: This article first appeared in the Guardian newspaper.

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10 Responses to As Deep as a Puddle

  1. peeliewallie says:

    I’ve been avoiding politics and not reading my usual blogs as I’m just out of hospital and my immediate priorities are on other things so hadn’t read anything you’d written about the reasons why Liz Truss has forged ahead with Tory party members. I’ve been saying ever since the short leat was reduced to two that Richi Sunak’s ethnicity was the elephant in the room but haven’t seen it being voiced widely. Good for you in pointing it out.

  2. diabloandco says:

    Dear Lord ! Can it get any worse? Surely that starting gun should be going off constantly but not a wee peep of independence do we hear from the party supposedly constructed for the purpose. Feeble papers, apparently written by a child of seven , don’t cut it.

  3. Robert McAllan says:

    After watching that (debate?) from Leeds we have it in black AND white that Scotland needs remindin’ tae ken its place and whit’s best for it under Westminster’s rules!

    The shire ‘turnips’ will make sure the product of their erstwhile Empire is cast aside much in the fashion he casts aside Scotland’s right to self determination. Hell slap it intae tae him and as for Truss aw a kin say is Scotland has, like it or lump it, oor ain in the form o’ Sturgeon.

    On a wiser note Gareth, I wish you success with book sales today, hopefully, to a discerning gathering of opinions.

  4. lorncal says:

    The huge problem that we have today, GB, is not really a politician’s sex, age or ethnicity, colour or creed, but the fact that so few have any ability at all that would be considered a prerequisite for office. It is a startling fact that, right across our planet, middle-of-the-road, middling, scared-to-offend, virtue-signalling wokie-dokie people without a scintilla of sense or courage appear to be on the political menu of every country.

    They burble nonsense that would start a war without a second thought, without a care for those they are supposed to be representing and to whom they have a duty of care. They argue for right-wing policies that would shame Norman Tebbit. They have no diplomatic skills or even a pretence of telling the truth. They foist social policies on reluctant populations who are bewildered by their reasoning for so doing. They give money to organizations that represent minuscule numbers while ignoring the very real need of others representing vast numbers. They break promises routinely. They waste resources on legal cases that they must know they cannot win and ignore other avenues. They stand back while hideous regimes destroy their own populations. Something is very wrong right across the globe, not just in Scotland or in the UK.

    Something is going to give, and give soon and we should all shudder at what the consequences might be. One thing is certain: it won’t be the politicians or the big businessmen or conglomerates who suffer; it never is, although they lay the groundwork for the subsequent suffering.

  5. scottygrant says:

    Hi Gareth .. I tried posting this to fb twice . both times they marked it as spam .. just letting you know mate .

  6. Grouse Beater says:

    Hi Scotty – Odd. Their algorithms picking out negative words written by respectable journalists?

  7. sadscot says:

    @peeliewallie
    Indeed, isn’t it astonishing that the MSM is blind to the reason why Sunak cannot win? They are falling over themselves to make so many other excuses while that elephant stares us all right in the face.
    I hope you are recovering well from your hospital stay.

  8. peeliewallie says:

    @sadscot Thank you. Recovering a wee bit every day and eternally grateful to the doctors, nurses et al at the RAH Paisley for fantastic care.

  9. duncanio says:

    Liz “zelig” Truss versus Rishi “what am I doing here? Sunak

    or, as Jacob Ree-Smug and his mates in the Old Etonian British Imperial hierarchy would no doubt put it,

    a Lightweight versus a not-so-Lightweight.

  10. Alastair says:

    Same old Tory.We should have been out of this coercive rotten Union in 2015 after Westminster broke the terms of Union with Brexit. Sturgeon has played us all for fools, behind the scenes done everything to prevent independence from happening. The Torys could not have got Brexit done without a complient. SNP. Sturgeon has undoubtedly enabled this and continually held us back . Independence on the can isint what you get inside anymore with the SNP. Sturgeon only cares about her future job her Colonial masters can reward her with after the Scottish voters have finally woken up to what she really represents. We need politicians who will stand up to Westminster’s bullying ,imperialism, their coercive control and colonialism.
    What we have with Sturgeons SNP is nodding dogs and puppets of the UK establishment.
    For me it doesn’t matter who runs UK,Ok, the Torys leadership race is like voting for Peter Cushion or Christopher Lee ,what’s the difference between these two vampires.
    We is Scotland have a Constitution written into the treaty of Union, the Claim of right a Mandate for independence, We the people are Sovereign. If our politicians won’t inact and project our Sovereignty or use the mandate we must get rid of them ,its now time we gave ALBA a chance or AUOB party to fight every election going forward on a Pebicsite Election . Under Sturgeon and the Torys we will only have dictatorship, subserveance drifting into a one nation England and the contuued rape of our resources that keeps Scotland impoverished and underdeveloped. Personally I have had enough of Betrayal and Tory dictatorships ,its time to push .

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