Since becoming Secretary of State, Liz Truss has spent just a fortnight debating Chairman Mao’s legacy with Henry Kissinger and singing Simply The Best at a Manchester gay club.
The ease with which Ms. Truss can shift between gears – try and imagine predecessors like Peter Carrington or Douglas Hurd carrying Tina Turner’s classic – is one of the reasons she became the prime minister at last’s Tory Party conference. week.
As she went from crowded fringes to boozy networking dinners and late-night parties, the Secretary of State was mobbed by political groupies who admired the way she’s marketing her brand of stubborn neo-Thatcherism to a new generation of Tory voters.
Secretary of State Liz Truss is tipped as Rishi Sunak’s rival for Tory succession
While some cabinet colleagues sniff that Ms. Truss is a social media-obsessed “narcissist” who cares more about hiring an “Instagram adviser” than one for foreign affairs — “more Jimmy Carr than Jimmy Carter,” in the words of a wag – she is now a clear rival to Chancellor Rishi Sunak for the succession after Boris.
While she was out partying – after facetimeing her two teenage children at home in London to say goodnight – a tired Mr Sunak sat in his hotel room this month explaining in his budget why, thanks to this government, the British are facing with the highest tax burden since the 1940s.
Mrs Truss was one of the few cabinet ministers to speak out against raising the National Insurance to fund a new health and social care levy, arguing it was “fundamentally unconservative” and a clear violation of a pledge of the manifesto.
Mr Sunak personally agrees, but he had to mute his opposition out of pragmatism, and now runs the risk of undermining his political ambitions.
Mr. Sunak knows to be careful. Behind Ms. Truss’s mischievous, innuendo-laden personality hides a more calculated mindset, and she keeps a close eye on the ‘ups and downs’ of ministerial fortunes.
Ms Truss knows who her friends in the cabinet are – Minister of Affairs Kwasi Kwarteng has been a long-time ally – but has an even clearer picture of the enemies.
‘Liz never trusted Michael [Gove] and it never will,” says a friend.
During her previous job as International Trade Secretary, she also clashed with the pro-agriculture lobby, led by Zac Goldsmith, who were concerned about the effect on the British agricultural industry of cheaper, lower-quality imports from countries she made deals with.
The Foreign Secretary is a “hawk” on China, determined to counter Beijing’s growing dominance with security pacts such as the AUKUS submarine alliance with America and Australia, and by setting up a British rival to China’s Belt and Road alliance. global investment program.
Kissinger, 98, served as Secretary of State to Richard Nixon during Washington’s attempt to establish relations with Beijing through a trip to China to see Chairman Mao in 1972.
Ms. Truss met Mr. Kissinger last month during her visit to America with the Prime Minister.
After he gassed her on his experiences, the pair exchanged email addresses.
Secretary of State was harassed by political groupies at Tory party conference
The only problem so far has been access to Chevening, the Kent manor house usually made available to the Secretary of State.
Mrs. Truss has not yet received the keys from Mr. Johnson as he tries to calm the bruised feelings of her predecessor, Dominic Raab.
He was demoted to justice minister and simultaneously promoted to deputy prime minister – and hopes to keep the house.
“Liz agrees with the Prime Minister that such frills are unimportant,” the friend says unconvincingly.
In her supplementary portfolio as Minister for Women and Equality, Ms Truss, 46, has become embroiled in Whitehall’s awakened wars after arguing in meetings that ministers should withdraw from the Stonewall charity’s Diversity Champions program – which includes employers pay the charity for advice on implementing equality laws and policies – after Stonewall CEO Nancy Kelley compared “gender-critical” beliefs to anti-Semitism.
Mrs. Truss’s stance was opposed within No10 by younger advisers, such as Henry Newman, a friend of the Prime Minister’s wife, Carrie, who urged restraint because the charity had a commendable history of fighting discrimination against homosexuals.
Some skeptics interpreted Mr. Johnson’s move to place Ms. Truss in the State Department as an attempt to keep her out of the domestic spotlight, away from worshiping local associations, in order to maintain his own superiority: She’ll be jumping soon on a plane to Asia to try to forge new counter-Chinese alliances with countries like Indonesia.
While a trip to Beijing is unlikely, a historic visit to Moscow for talks with Vladimir Putin cannot be ruled out.
But no matter how many time zones she manages to cross, based on her performance to date, Ms. Truss won’t be easily suppressed.