If you’ve not heard, the UK, our unfortunate cultural mother and one of our most important allies, has had something of a leadership crisis of late after the resignation of Boris Johnson. The blond amphibian was eventually brought down in July under a collapsing Jenga tower of his own corruption, leaving a power vacuum at the top of British politics.
Thankfully, British politics is not short of pantomime villains eager to fill that void and to the plate stepped former Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss. One represents business as usual, the other business as usualer. Truss has fast become the bookies’ favourite to win the Conservative Party leadership election on Monday and will no doubt be sworn in as Britain’s third female Prime Minister.
So, who exactly is she? Well, Johnson made a good go at purging the party ranks of all dissenting voices, gathering around him a motley crew of sycophants and yes-people, with Truss emerging as the most loyal of the bunch, virtually strapped to the mast of the sinking ship. She was one of the only members of Johnson’s government not to denounce the PM as dozens of MPs handed in their resignations over his promotion of suspected sexual predator Chris Pincher to deputy chief whip.
Born and educated in Oxford, Truss has always been a bit of a Marget Thatcher stan. She even played her in her school’s mock general election. Once a Liberal Democrat, Truss is a former Shell accountant who eventually landed a safe Conservative Party seat in the 2010 election. She served as Education Minister and Environment Secretary under David Cameron and Foreign Secretary under Boris Johnson.
Mary Elizabeth Truss is many things, but The Juice Media perhaps summed her up best by describing her as a “stunned mullet” (we assume they mean the fish and not the haircut). She’s best known for managing to get lost at the press conference announcing her leadership bid, believing importing cheese is a “disgrace,” and being absolutely thrilled at the opening of “new pork markets” in Beijing.
She really has to be seen to be believed so here’s a quick selection of the highlights:
Liz Truss will launch her leadership bid this morning. pic.twitter.com/zZBz3pJeND
— PoliticsJOE (@PoliticsJOE_UK) July 14, 2022
If this is someone who you think can win the next election, I’d severely question your judgement.pic.twitter.com/V83IZZm0TG
— LfB (@LiveFromBrexit) August 31, 2022
BREAKING: Liz Truss’ first policy as Trade Secretary will be to tackle the DISGRACEFUL amount of imported cheese in the U.K. pic.twitter.com/nS5kP2ATBy
— Alex Goldsmith (@alex_goldsmith_) July 24, 2019
In earnest though, Liz Truss is a step to the right of Boris Johnson, already one of the most right-wing leaders the UK has ever had. Like Johnson, she seems to have changed position so many times that it’s virtually impossible to pin her down on any one topic for more than five minutes. Unlike Johnson, she does it without the public-school boy charm that seems to have enabled him to wriggle his way through life. Many of her policies and speeches are in a similar ‘you’ll cry if you don’t laugh’ vein.
She argues for an immediate £50 billion of tax-cutting, a repealing of green energy tariffs on energy bills, banning public sector workers from striking, the deportation of migrants from the UK to Rwanda, an £8.8 billion pay cut to public sector workers outside of London (which she later repealed) and a crackdown on the welfare system.
Truss campaigned for the UK to remain in the European Union but is now an ardent supporter of Brexit.
She is also lukewarm on climate action and has promised to ban farmers from “filling fields with paraphernalia like solar farms.” She has pledged to issue up to 130 new drilling licences for oil and gas exploration in the British North Sea as well as lift a ban on fracking.
A recent, late-entry policy of hers appears to be doing away with speed limits on certain UK roads, something she has said the UK “needs to be prepared to look at.”
Truss also denied that trans women were women in a recent election interview. She claimed that although she believes in showing respect to trans people, she wants to do away with “woke nonsense” like the term ‘chest-feeding’ instead of ‘breast-feeding,’ a phrase used to promote inclusion.
So, with the UK doubling down on culture war rhetoric, a move away from immediate climate action, and a departure from taxation, how will Australia respond to a Truss government?
Well, in January she visited former-PM Scott Morrison in a private jet at a cost of £500,000 to the UK taxpayer. In Sydney, she talked up Australia’s military alliance with the UK in our support of Ukraine and the threat of China, spoke of the importance of the trans-pacific partnership trade deal, and quoted Thatcher.
In terms of trade, we might actually do pretty well with Truss in power. The impact of the recent post-Brexit trade deal Morrison signed with the UK is set to reduce tariffs on Australian goods, allowing us to flood their market at the cost of “thousands of jobs” in the British agricultural industry.
For a politician who once boasted that she is “selling Britain, and people are buying,” she may well be right.