At noon on September 5, local time, the conference hall of the Queen Elizabeth II Center next to the British Parliament Building was full of seats. At the British Conservative Party Conference, the party’s 1922 committee chairman Sir Brady officially announced the results of the election of the new leader. As previously expected by the media, the current foreign minister, Elizabeth Truss, won 57.4% of the votes of all party members, beating former chancellor Rishi Sunak to be elected as the new leader of the Conservative Party. On September 6, she went north to Scotland to meet the Queen who was stationed at Balmoral Castle. After being approved, she succeeded Boris Johnson as the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and began to form a cabinet.
The successful election of Truss announced that the British “political earthquake” that had been going on for several months had come to an end. Truss herself got her wish, becoming the Conservative Party and Britain’s third female prime minister after Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May. Since Cameron, the British Prime Minister who has been a member of the Conservative Party for three consecutive terms first took over the leadership of the party through intra-party elections, and then became the Prime Minister. Moreover, the difficulties and tasks faced by the three prime ministers when they came to power are becoming more and more difficult.
“Scholarship” of leftist families
Truss was born in Oxford, England in 1975. Her family is a very typical British middle-class intellectual. Her father, John Truss, graduated from King’s College, Cambridge, majoring in mathematics. In 1973, she obtained a doctorate in pure mathematics from the University of Leeds. is a nurse. When their only daughter was born, Truss Sr. had just landed his first academic job as a junior researcher at Oxford University.
Trath recalled that her parents were both “leftists in the Labour Party” and were keen on topics such as liberalism, nuclear disarmament, and saving the planet. When Truss was 4 years old, his father got a lectureship at Paisley Institute of Technology in Scotland (the predecessor of today’s University of the West of Scotland), and the family moved to Scotland. Little Truss spent his childhood in Paisley, a suburb of Glasgow with a strong industrial worker tradition and union strength, while the old Scottish industrial base at that time was due to industrial transformation and the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s drastic privatization reform policy to the end.
Truss told two stories when he recalled his childhood. Back then, parades against the Conservative government led by Margaret Thatcher broke out almost every weekend in Paisley town. Tras, a little girl, would make a fake bomb out of an old carpet and follow her mother to participate in the parade of the nuclear disarmament movement. When she was ignorant, she would follow the crowd and shout “Maggie, Maggie, get out! Get out! Get out!” Another story is that during the 1983 general election, a mock election debate was organized at Paisley West Elementary School. Only eight-year-old Tra Played Mrs Thatcher. But when the debate was over, “Mrs Thatcher” didn’t get a single vote, including Truss herself who didn’t vote for her role. “Even at that age, we knew that the Conservative Party was unpopular in the west of Scotland,” she said.
In 1985, the Truss family moved back to England again due to his father’s job change, to the industrial city of Leeds in the north. Truss studied in an ordinary public high school in Leeds. She recalled afterwards that the school’s teaching quality was not high, and there was little effort to ensure that the children had a good grasp of English grammar and mathematics, and most of the students were unwilling to apply for university. But in the eyes of middle school classmates, Truss is a “female academic bully” and a “weird person”. Truss, who was born in a grassroots school in the north, did benefit from his intellectual family background. In 1993, he was admitted to Merton College, Oxford University, and studied at Oxford’s ace major, which is known as the “cradle of politicians”. Politics, Philosophy, Economics (PPE) specialized.
His university career at Oxford completely liberated Truss from his political views. She no longer had to consider the political leanings of the industrial north and the shackles of her “left of the left” family, and became deeply involved in student politics. She joined Britain’s third-largest party, the Liberal Democrats, at university, where she actively participated in debates, supported the legalization of marijuana, called for the abolition of the monarchy, and was elected president of the Oxford University Association of Liberal Democrats. At that time, Truss had already displayed “extraordinary political ambition,” according to her classmates at Oxford.
In 1996, Truss graduated from Oxford to work for Shell Oil as a Chartered Accountant. Also in this year, she officially jumped from the Liberal Democratic Party to the Conservative Party. After she became famous, she was very secretive about her change of political stance, and only commented that she had made a “young mistake”. “We all make mistakes as teenagers, some do drugs, others join the Liberal Democrats,” she said in a 2019 interview.
Still, the young Truss joined the Conservatives at a time when the Conservatives were at their toughest. historical period. At that time, Blair led the Labour Party to complete the transition from traditional syndicalism to the more centrist “New Labour Party”, and won the general election in one fell swoop in 1997, opening the Labour Party’s 13 consecutive years in power. In 2001, at the age of 26, Truss ran for the Conservative Party for a seat in West Yorkshire, where his native Leeds is located, and was unsurprisingly defeated. In 2005, she ran again in crimson West Yorkshire, still losing. It wasn’t until 2006 that she won her first electoral victory in London’s Greenwich borough, becoming a borough councillor for Greenwich.
But by this time Truss had already gained the attention of the top Conservatives. After Cameron became the leader of the Conservative Party in 2005, the Conservative Party started a process of alternating old and new. Truss was elected to the “A List” of the Conservative Party, which focuses on training young, minority and female politicians, and has since embarked on fast track to a political career. In the 2010 general election, Truss was appointed to run for the South West Norfolk constituency. This is a fairly conservative rural constituency and a safe seat controlled by the Conservative Party for many years. Although the local Conservative Party’s regional party department did not like her due to the scandal of extramarital affairs at this time, and even tried to block her nomination for a while, but in the end, Truss stood under heavy pressure and won the election and became a member of parliament. And her marriage to husband O’Leary, also an accountant, has weathered the storm.
Just entering parliament, the young Truss quickly showed a strong ideological stance. A fanatic of the free market economy advocated by Margaret Thatcher, she soon formed a group in parliament called the Free Enterprise Group, which was backed by more than 40 Conservative MPs. In addition to Truss, the group included a group of later political stars, including Deputy Prime Minister Raab in Johnson’s government, Home Secretary Patel and Business Secretary Kwoten. Together with these colleagues in the party, Truss wrote books and books to promote his political and economic policy ideas. Truss believes that the recession of the British economy is not inevitable, but what Britain needs most is to find the spirit of free enterprise and the system of meritocracy of the past.
In Britannia Unchained, one of the most famous books that Truss co-authored, there is this sentence: “When it comes to work, the British are among the slackers in the world. We work the shortest hours, We retire too early, and we are extremely inefficient.” Here it can be seen that childhood and adolescence growing up in old leftist industrial neighborhoods, and later working in multinational conglomerates, gave Truss a strong sense of anarcho-syndicalism. extremely negative attitude. She sincerely believed that Thatcherian, sweeping liberal economic reforms were the only way to save Britain’s economy and society, and that left-wing politics would only lead Britain into a deeper trap of decline.
In 2014, 38-year-old Truss was appointed by Cameron as the environment, food and agriculture secretary, becoming the youngest woman in the cabinet at the time, and two years later she rose to justice in Theresa May’s cabinet. Chancellor, and became the first female justice (honorary position) in the British history of nearly a thousand years. However, Truss, who has broken the “gender ceiling” again and again, is extremely disgusted with identity politics based on gender, race, and class origin, claiming that what he pursues is equality of opportunity, not equality of results based on identity.
When Johnson came to power in 2019, the dust settled on the Brexit process, and Truss has since moved to the diplomatic field. She first served as Minister of International Trade, which became extremely important after Brexit, and signed free trade agreements between the UK and Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Iceland and other countries. These free trade agreements have alleviated the trade difficulties faced by the UK after Brexit to a considerable extent, and have given the Conservative government a lot of credit for public opinion. While the U.S.-British free trade agreement, which Britain most hopes for, has yet to be signed, Truss has also persuaded the U.S. to loosen tariffs and quotas on a significant portion of British goods. These trade deals could have done more for the UK economy if it weren’t for the sudden global outbreak of Covid-19.
In September 2021, Truss was promoted to foreign secretary by Johnson, becoming the second woman in British history, after Beckett, to hold the important post. Truss continued his tough stance in foreign policy and pursued a strong ideological confrontational attitude in both China and Russia diplomacy. In February 2022, the Russian-Ukrainian conflict escalated on a large scale. Truss took a clear stand in support of Ukraine and quickly responded to President Zelensky’s call to approve British volunteers to enter Ukraine to fight. The move sparked strong protests from the Russian government and even raised Russia’s nuclear alert level for a while. Since then, Truss has criticized the Russian government and its leaders on almost all diplomatic occasions, calling on all Western allies to unite, restrict the import of Russian oil and gas energy, and get rid of energy dependence on Russia.
The new “Iron Lady” conundrum
During the political turmoil that broke out in the Conservative Party this summer and Johnson was forced to step down, Truss, as the current foreign secretary, has generally maintained his loyalty to Johnson and has never publicly expressed any negative comments about Johnson. It was not until three days after Johnson confirmed her resignation that she would stand up and announce that she would run for the party leadership election. This has allowed her to unite the forces still supporting Johnson in Parliament and among ordinary Conservative Party members to the greatest extent possible. So she has been leading Sunak in the Conservative Party polls since the parliamentary caucus voted for her and Sunak to be the eventual leader. It can be said that in the end she was elected with less than 15% advantage, but it was an accident, even if it did not affect the final election result.
However, the stall that Tras has received now may be much more complicated and difficult than several of her predecessors. Britain is suffering its worst inflation in decades this year, with the latest inflation rate exceeding 10%, the highest among the Group of Seven (G7) nations. The unprecedented energy crisis and rising natural gas prices caused by the conflict between Russia and Ukraine have made the British people miserable, and whether the heating demand this winter can be met is still unknown. In addition, the predictable economic recession, the ongoing war on the European continent, and the epidemic that may still re-emerge this winter and squeeze the British medical resources, all determine that Truss will never be easy for at least half a year after taking office. spend.
In this regard, Truss’s current response plan is to “run the Conservative Party like a conservative”. She has launched a strong tax cut, promising to scrap a planned increase in corporate tax from 19 per cent to 25 per cent and to roll back an increase in National Insurance contributions next year. Both of these points were raised by her current rival Sunak as chancellor. Of course, it is obvious that the British government is bearing a severe financial and debt burden because of the impact of the new crown epidemic and the aid during the epidemic. If there is a tax cut of this scale, the debt problem of the United Kingdom will definitely worsen. Truss proposed to “delay the repayment period until the national debt problem is alleviated”, but whether this move can work or not remains to be seen.
Concerned about skyrocketing energy prices, Truss promised that she would immediately freeze the household energy price cap, which was originally adjusted quarterly, instead of increasing it within 12 months. At the same time, she also promised to impose a windfall tax on energy giants. Further subsidizing the public so that British families can survive this almost doomed cold winter. But whether this policy can be implemented or not is not up to the British government alone. If Russia further cuts production and supply of natural gas next, and international gas prices hit a new high again, Truss’ policy is likely to lead to a serious shortage of natural gas supply in the UK. It is never a good idea to make people across the country choose between high bills and freezing.
As for Britain’s foreign policy, it’s hard to see Truss making a fundamental adjustment to the policies of the Johnson administration. As NATO’s anchor in Europe, the UK will now more clearly choose to follow the US’s diplomatic strategy towards Russia and China. A tough stance against countries with different ideologies should remain a keynote for Truss.
Truss has a different family background and upbringing than previous Conservative prime ministers and high-level politicians, which has shaped her political beliefs, which are quite right-wing even within the Conservative Party. She supports liberal economics and markets, dislikes syndicalism, opposes identity politics, and pursues hawkish diplomacy that puts values first. In terms of the British political spectrum, it is not an exaggeration to say that she is a believer of Thatcherism. However, as the third female prime minister of the United Kingdom, the complex situation that Truss is currently facing is different from that of Thatcher and Theresa May. Simply imitating the appearance and language style of the “Iron Lady” is of course impossible to make She replicated Margaret Thatcher’s influence on British politics and even British society. To see whether the new helm of the British government has the ability to lead the Conservative Party and the entire country out of the storm, it will also depend on Truss’s next cabinet candidates, as well as the effectiveness of her governance strategy and measures in the early days of her administration.