Liz Truss transforms to become next UK PM

·5-min read

As the new prime minister, Liz Truss will enter No 10 having won the backing of Tory party members by presenting herself as an avid-Brexiteer who is the free market-loving heir to Margaret Thatcher.

Winning the support of Conservative activists in the leadership vote announced on Monday was the final move in an extraordinary series of political transformations throughout her life.

Despite being billed by Truss's allies as the heir to the Iron Lady's throne, she marched in her youth side-by-side with left-wingers to demand the ousting of Thatcher and supported remaining in the European Union in the 2016 referendum.

The Conservatives were not even her first political party, having initially had a brush with the Liberal Democrats and using a speech at their 1994 conference to back a motion calling for the abolition of the monarchy.

At the age of 47, Truss will take over the reins from Boris Johnson as the third female prime minister in the UK's history, having beaten her long-term Brexiteer rival Rishi Sunak in the poll of Tory members.

Born in Oxford in 1975 to parents she describes as "left-wing", her mother, a nurse and a teacher, took a young Truss to marches for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the 1980s and to "peace camp".

Aged four, she moved to Paisley in Scotland, where she has recalled yelling a slogan that perhaps no other Tory Cabinet minister has ever yelled before.

"It was in Scottish so it was 'Maggie, Maggie, Maggie, oot, oot, oot'," she has told the BBC.

But Truss also had an early "fascination" with Thatcher, saying she was around eight when she agreed to play her during a mock school election. "I got no votes," she conceded.

Truss says her father, a mathematics professor, has long struggled to comprehend her move to conservatism, believing, perhaps wishfully, she is a "sleeper working from inside to overthrow the regime".

The family upped sticks to Leeds, where Truss attended the Roundhay state secondary school before studying philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford University.

It was there that she became active in student politics, with the Liberal Democrats, and espoused the anti-monarchist sentiment.

"I think it was fair to say that, when I was in my youth, I was a professional controversialist and I liked exploring ideas and stirring things up," she told the BBC's Political Thinking With Nick Robinson.

At the 1997 Conservative Party conference, she met future husband Hugh O'Leary. She has two teenage daughters.

Truss worked as an accountant for Shell and Cable & Wireless but her heart was in politics, though she suffered the setbacks of two failed electoral bids.

After the unsuccessful runs for the Tories in Hemsworth in 2001 and Calder Valley in 2005, she was elected as a councillor in Greenwich in 2006 before becoming deputy director of the right-of-centre Reform think tank two years later.

But she was selected as the candidate for the Tory safe seat of South West Norfolk after making it on to David Cameron's A-list of priority candidates.

She entered Parliament after winning in the 2010 general election by a comfortable majority of more than 13,000 votes.

Her candidacy narrowly survived an attempt by traditionalist members of her local Tory association to deselect her after it emerged she had an affair with married Conservative MP Mark Field.

Two years after entering Parliament, Truss was part of the Government, being made an education minister in the Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition.

After clashes with Lib Dem deputy prime minister Sir Nick Clegg, she was promoted to environment secretary in 2014.

Truss's star kept rising and she did a year as justice secretary before heading to the Treasury as chief secretary and then leading the Department for International Trade.

Another political conversion was under way, and she shifted from arguing to stay in the EU at the 2016 referendum to become a strong defender of the decision to leave.

She was rewarded with the role of Foreign Secretary, becoming only the UK's second woman to hold the title.

In the Foreign Office she took a tough stance in talks and would anger the EU with legislation threatening to break international law over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The Foreign Office gave her a much higher profile and she seized on it with numerous eye-catching photo ops that bore a resemblance to Thatcher's escapades.

Truss donned military gear and perched in a tank for pictures during a visit to Estonia, echoing an image of Thatcher in a tank in West Germany in 1986.

She has sought to portray herself as her tax-slashing successor during the fight for No 10, though Sunak has branded her polices the opposite of Thatcherism and that they fail to meet the rapidly worsening cost-of-living crisis.

Truss has spent many years setting the stage, and now the Tory members, representing somewhere around 0.3 per cent of the UK population, have selected her as the lead in the nation's political drama, despite Conservative MPs having favoured Mr Sunak, the former chancellor.

Some have described taking the highest office in the land right now as a poisoned chalice, what with an economic crisis threatening living standards, strikes causing major disruption and the need to turn around the public opinion of a divided Tory party struggling in the polls after more than 12 years in Government.

Truss will need to use the full extent of her powers of political persuasion to bring the nation with her through the crises and lead her party into the next general election.