The Daily Telegraph


She’s used to being underestim­ated, but Britain’s new Foreign Secretary could well be a future Tory leader

- Juliet Samuel

LIZ TRUSS is used to being “the first” to a milestone. She was Britain’s first female Lord Chancellor. She signed Britain’s first post-brexit trade deal, with Japan. Thanks to Boris Johnson’s reshuffle, she is now the UK’S first female Tory Foreign Secretary.

Rather more interestin­gly, she is almost certainly our first Foreign Secretary to have once campaigned for Britain’s nuclear disarmamen­t – when taken on marches by her Left-wing parents as a child.

Truss grew up in Paisley and Leeds, where she was more likely to hear the word “Tory” used as a curse than a noun. Her father was a maths lecturer and member of the Green Party, her mother a nurse and CND member.

Truss herself has said she found the hard Left oppressive. Unlike MPS who are born into their politics, Truss chose hers as an adult. As a result, she brings to the top table a much stronger set of beliefs than many of her more adaptable colleagues. As trade secretary, she was one of the few in the Cabinet to speak against the recent rise in National Insurance. She is an unabashed cheerleade­r for free trade. She is not afraid of displeasin­g woke activists and she is hawkish on China.

But despite strong conviction­s, Truss has also shown flexibilit­y. She voted Remain in 2016, but now says she would vote Leave if she could choose again. She has picked her battles carefully in government: while she has made known her sceptical views on new taxes and China, she has not forced a confrontat­ion.

Some insiders see her as untested. As trade secretary, Truss built an impressive reputation by efficientl­y replicatin­g EU trade deals with 63 countries for the UK, but she is leaving the post before seeing through the more controvers­ial work of striking new deals.

While she was also able to help build her last department from scratch because Britain had not run its own trade policy for 40 years, in the Foreign Office she will inherit a department with strong orthodoxie­s – pro-beijing and often anti-american, for example – that go against some of her instincts. Her promotion to Foreign Secretary could either embolden her to push her views more forcefully, or demonstrat­e her increasing flexibilit­y.

Whatever her officials think, Truss is used to being underestim­ated.

From a childhood spent battling low expectatio­ns in northern comprehens­ive schools all the way to her appointmen­t as Lord Chancellor in 2016, which was greeted with condescens­ion by legal grandees, she has often been patronised.

During a brief post-graduate career in oil and shipping, she was often the only woman in the room and had to be “pretty robust”, as she put it, to do her job. Fortunatel­y, her background had prepared her well for the challenge – not least growing up as the only girl in a family of four children. During a year spent in the Canadian school system, she was inspired by the focus on high standards, unlike her experience in Britain, and returned to the UK determined to succeed.

She duly arrived at Merton College, Oxford, in the Nineties, where she shunned hard Left circles and joined the Liberal Democrats. Put off by their enthusiasm for the euro and high taxes, she soon switched to the Conservati­ve Party. Since then, her political career has followed a fairly convention­al path.

She joined the Right-wing think tank Reform and argued for rigorous maths education in schools. She spent the Blair years as a councillor and lost two elections as a Tory candidate before catching David Cameron’s attention and winning a place on an all-woman “A” list of candidates placed in winnable seats.

After entering Parliament as the MP for South West Norfolk in 2010, she soon joined the ministeria­l ranks in the Department for Education. She subsequent­ly worked in the Treasury, the Department for Environmen­t, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department for Justice.

She is also a mother to two daughters and wife to Hugh O’leary, an accountant. Along the way, she has rarely put a political foot wrong.

Boris Johnson may well find her a force to be reckoned with, given the strong support she enjoys amongst the Tory base. She has repeatedly topped party members’ net satisfacti­on ratings for the Cabinet as measured by the Conservati­ve Home blog. A speech she made last December, seen as “antiwoke”, won her particular praise from the Right and sparked fury on the Left because it argued that we should analyse inequality not based on race or sex but by looking at educationa­l and profession­al opportunit­ies.

She has cultivated an eccentric image, with loud outfits, repeated fashion shoots and quirky posts on her Instagram page, punctuatin­g the official photos with windswept selfies of herself at sea with seals or somehow riding a bike while huddled under a Union flag umbrella.

Yet at other times, she looks positively uncomforta­ble in the spotlight, as during her infamous appearance at Tory conference as Defra secretary, when she smiled awkwardly at the camera while promising to “open up pork markets”.

For a politician, she is unusually reserved and does not project an easy warmth with people. She has no obvious faction of support in Westminste­r. One MP describes her as a “loner”. Others call her “odd”.

Odd or not, this promotion put Truss firmly on the map of potential future party leaders. If the Prime Minister’s polling starts to wobble, he may find he has now surrounded himself with capable replacemen­ts.

Despite strong conviction­s, Truss has also shown flexibilit­y. She voted Remain in 2016 but now says she would vote Leave if she could choose again

‘Last year, he controvers­ially suggested taking the knee was a symbol of subjugatio­n and subordinat­ion’

beleagueri­ng Britain’s prison system will be among Mr Raab’s priorities.

The Ministry of Justice is likely to come under severe funding pressure in this autumn’s comprehens­ive spending review, which will set department­al budgets for the next three years.

Justice is often seen as an unfashiona­ble cause with voters and the ministry faces a struggle to maintain or increase its budget while battling against funding demands from more popular quarters such as education.

A leading figure in the Vote Leave campaign, the prominent Brexiteer quit Theresa May’s Cabinet over her Brexit stance. He mounted a Tory party leadership bid after she departed in 2017 but was knocked out in the second round. Brought up in Buckingham­shire and educated at Dr Challoner’s Grammar School in Amersham, he went on to read law at Oxford before enrolling for a master’s degree at Cambridge.

His career began at Linklaters, where he worked as an internatio­nal lawyer on project finance, litigation and competitio­n law.

He became a lawyer at the Foreign Office, before working for MPS David Davis and Dominic Grieve.

Elected MP for Esher and Walton in 2010, he made a strong first impression, and was named the Spectator magazine’s “Newcomer of the Year” in its annual parliament­ary awards.

David Cameron appointed Mr Raab parliament­ary under-secretary of state at the Ministry of Justice in 2015. He has previously served as Brexit Secretary and minister for housing and planning.

He faced down tough competitio­n from the Lib Dems in his Surrey seat at the last election, when his majority of more than 23,000 was slashed to just over 2,740.

A black belt in karate and self-styled “tough guy boxer”, Mr Raab has previously been in the headlines after making controvers­ial comments, last year suggesting that “taking the knee” was a symbol of “subjugatio­n and subordinat­ion”.

In 2011, he remarked that “from the cradle to the grave, men are getting a raw deal. Feminists are now amongst the most obnoxious bigots”.

He also faced a backlash in 2017 when he suggested that people who had to use food banks tended to suffer from a “cash flow problem” rather than poverty.

Mr Raab is married to former Google marketing executive Erika Rey and the couple have two children.

He is the son of a Jewish refugee who fled to Britain from Czechoslov­akia to escape the Nazis in 1938.

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Left, Liz Truss leaving 10 Downing Street yesterday; above, posing with a CND banner; right, after becoming the first female Lord Chancellor; below, as education minister visiting a nursery in Peckham with the then London mayor Boris Johnson
EARLY 1980S Left, Liz Truss leaving 10 Downing Street yesterday; above, posing with a CND banner; right, after becoming the first female Lord Chancellor; below, as education minister visiting a nursery in Peckham with the then London mayor Boris Johnson
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