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Trussworld: What is life like for the former PM?

8 min read

Liz Truss will take her place among other former PMs at the Cenotaph, unabashed at the brevity of her time in No 10 or the manner of her departure. Tali Fraser reports on the former Tory leader’s plans for the future

Liz Truss was prime minister for 49 days, but she will be a former prime minister for the rest of her life. What went on during her time in No 10 is well documented – the question is what life for Truss, the shortest-serving prime minister in British history, looks like in the future.

Those close to her believe that while the first draft of history “may not be kind” towards Truss, “the second and third will be”. Aged just 48, she will be able to see those drafts written – and allies say she wants to be able to influence them: “She’s not going for a comeback, more of a refinement of the past few years.”

Truss spent just one day in Manchester at Conservative Party conference this year and made one intervention: delivering the headline speech at the ‘Great British Growth Rally’, which saw hundreds of party members queuing around the conference centre to get a seat.

There she set out her latest diagnosis of the economic issues facing the country, views that one ally claims have since taken hold among fellow Tory MPs, like her assessment of the current tax burden and big-state government.

The same ally referred to her appearance in Manchester as being like that of a “fairy godmother” to the Conservative Party, though what wishes she granted – other than numerous requests for selfies from members – remains unclear.

Liz Truss at Conservative Party Conference 2023
Liz Truss at Conservative Party conference 2023

“She is refining her message,” one former member of her cabinet says. “There is still a contingent of Tory MPs who believe her arguments should be being made."

“But her presence in the argument is distracting,” they admit. Her participation in British political debate may now inherently come with tensions, but the Truss camp says it is being warmly received abroad, especially in the United States.

A friend of Truss’ in Westminster jokes that her taxpayer-funded security protection are happy beneficiaries of her jet-set life, an extension of her time as trade secretary and then foreign secretary: “The police officers love her habit for travelling!” 

Truss has declared six trips in the MPs’ register since leaving No 10, worth £58,000, including a trip in May to Hawaii to attend a meeting of the Pacific Forum. She spent four nights in Hawaii and took her husband of over 20 years, Hugh O’Leary, along.

In October she met a selection of Republican politicians in Washington including Greg Abbott, Paul Ryan and Texas senator Ted Cruz, spending two hours at the “political ally’s” family home.

“We are so grateful for our British friends,” Cruz tweeted, “and for strong leaders on the global stage who will champion conservative principles and defend liberty.”

Truss will be heading back to Washington in December for a meeting of the International Democracy Union (IDU), the global alliance of the centre-right, where she recently joined the advisory board. 

One ally even mentions a US book tour when her tome, Ten Years to Save the West: Lessons From the Only Conservative in the Room, is out next year; she is currently on deadline. 

Could she be considering a move across the pond? “I think some people want her to move out to the States,” one friend and former cabinet minister jokes, “but no.” 

The Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based conservative think tank, “love her”, they add. Truss gave their annual Margaret Thatcher Freedom Lecture in April, where she hit out at “co-ordinated resistance” during her time in No 10, “woke culture” and the “British corporate establishment”.

She is happier than ever because there is no more ceiling that she is reaching for

For one member of the government, the mere suggestion that Truss could move away from Britain sparked elation: “Yes, please – they can have her!”

But Truss’ allies batted away the idea, pointing to her decision to stand again as the Conservative candidate for South West Norfolk, where she currently has a 26,000 majority. 

In January she established The Office of Liz Truss Limited, with her husband as the co-director, for her work post-No 10. Every former prime minister can claim up to £115,00 a year – for life – for the “necessary office costs and secretarial costs arising from their special position in public life”. Between leaving office in October 2022 and 31 March 2023, Truss claimed £23,310.

She is still living in Greenwich and returns to her constituency between once a week and once a fortnight. Truss has been offering advice to Tory candidates seeking parliamentary selection and earlier this year delivered the keynote speech at the Conservative North East regional conference where she, again, advocated “the Conservative case for lower taxes” and “fighting the anti-growth coalition”.

A close ally maintains: “At heart, she sees herself as a policy nerd.” Her focus going forward will reportedly be on strengthening ties in the West to take a more muscular approach to threats emanating from China, and she has made trips to Tokyo and the Taiwanese capital Taipei to put forward her warnings.

In May she became the first former British prime minister since Margaret Thatcher to visit Taiwan, saying “the only choice we have is whether we appease and accommodate” Beijing “or we take action to prevent conflict”.

In the domestic arena, Truss will be pushing for a small state, deregulation and tax cuts.

A former policy wonk herself, having worked as deputy director of the public services think tank Reform, she has aligned herself with a number of Westminster’s think tanks and decided to establish her own version. 

The Growth Commission, which launched in June, aims to make the case for “liberal economic” policies that pursue increased income per person. Truss convened the taskforce of economists from the US, United Kingdom and Japan, but does not hold a formal role within it.

Within the Companies House details of the Growth Initiative Ltd (aka the Growth Commission), under their objects and powers, it writes the company has the ability “to fund scholarships and bursaries”. Could we see a Liz Truss scholarship on the horizon? One ally throws water on the flames and says there are no such plans.

Liz Truss delivering a speech at The Heritage Foundation in Washington
Liz Truss delivering a speech at The Heritage Foundation in Washington

There is, however, an upcoming “alternative budget” coming from the Growth Commission setting out policies that challenge “conventional thinking” on the economy. She has not spoken to the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt ahead of this, but she has played a role in setting up the now almost 70-strong Conservative Growth Group of MPs, led by former members of her government Simon Clarke and Ranil Jayawardena, pushing for tax cuts.

She doesn’t appear to want to make her political contributions in the Commons Chamber, however, having only spoken in the House five times since resigning as prime minister. 

Her most significant parliamentary moment came earlier this year when, in March, she broke a three-line Tory whip for the first time by voting against the so-called Stormont brake  – a mechanism which gives the Northern Ireland Assembly the power to object to changes to European Union laws that apply in Northern Ireland.

As one former cabinet minister says: “She’s not here [Westminster] very much.” Any rumours about her making another play for the Tory leadership are, one friend says, “absolute bollocks ... she knows it is not an option.”

One former cabinet minister adds: “She is happier than ever because there is no more ceiling that she is reaching for. She has been prime minister and she will always have that. Plus it can never again be as bad as it was, which gives you a strange sort of freedom.” 

But a current member of the government says this plays into part of the problem surrounding her work in Westminster: “Liz is just really lacking in emotional intelligence – EQ. It is the same with Kwasi [Kwarteng] and that is why they flock to each other. You can see it playing out now.”

Truss doesn’t have a huge group of people around her now. It is the likes of Priti Patel, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Brandon Lewis, Ranil Jayawardena and Simon Clarke with whom she aligns herself politically, and friends like Rob Butler and Alec Shelbrooke, whom she has known for years.

An ally says that she is not exactly seeking out challenges to her viewpoint, but that is nothing new. “The switch flipped in August 2022 [at the height of the Tory leadership contest] and she decided she just wouldn’t be taking on the opinions of others,” one of her friends tells The House. 

That attitude seems key to her impressive chutzpah and ability to shrug off the critics and pursue her own interests.

Her circle has grown slightly in that she now has to spend time with the other past prime ministers. Every Remembrance Day for the rest of her life is now booked out to be at the Cenotaph, as it is for Boris Johnson, Theresa May, David Cameron, Gordon Brown, Tony Blair and John Major. There is no former PMs WhatsApp group; as one ally puts it: “It is not exactly a meeting of minds” for Truss.

Not everyone is so delighted that she is hanging around Westminster, with one member of the government saying they wished Truss would “f*** off”. But with no plans for that to happen, her allies say she is walking around SW1 with “full confidence and a spring in her step”.

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