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What is Liz Truss up to?

She’s back. Liz Truss is in the headlines once more this week ahead of tomorrow’s publication of her book Ten Years to Save the West. Part memoir, part cri de coeur, it tells the tale of her ten years in government and the lessons she learned about being, in her words, ‘the only conservative in the room.’ In her first TV interview, Truss spoke about some of the book’s themes which, in turn, offer us some clues about her plans for life after office.

The question being asked in Westminster is what she wants to achieve with the book: a big pay cheque or relevance on the right? It’s clear from the publicity surrounding the book, as well as it contents, that Truss has her sights set on America. This book is being published concurrently in the States by Regnery and, as Fraser points out in his interview, Donald Trump is mentioned 40 times: the same number of references that the much-maligned OBR receives.

Truss’s recent foray into US politics has already raised eyebrows among her colleagues. Her claim that the ‘world was safer when Trump was in charge’ and that ‘the US was a stronger force’ under his leadership is likely to do the same. Her focus on America is in keeping with both her own self-image – as an unabashed free-marketeer and Cold Warrior – and her post-premiership travels too: in the past 12 months she has made speeches in Maryland, Washington, Honolulu and Utah. Now the US book market is clearly the more lucrative of the two. Truss may also find it easier to sell her version of events to a US audience than in the UK when most MPs and voters have already made up their minds on what went wrong.

While Truss is keen to present herself as a true conservative champion, her record contains more shades of grey than her rhetoric sometimes suggests. Take migration. In her interview with Fraser, Truss suggests that her differences with Suella Braverman in October 2022 were not so much about restrictive measures on new arrivals as the language in which it was conveyed. This, Truss suggests, was done to allay the concerns of the OBR and how it ‘scored’ various economic measures in the wake of the mini-budget. For while she argues today that ‘immigration should be in the 100 to 150,000 mark’, that is difficult to square with her preference in office for economic growth over curbs on migration.

The striking thing from Liz Truss’s interview is the juxtaposition between the eight long years she endured in cabinet and the seven short weeks she spent in No.10. It was only after reaching the top, she suggests, that the scale of the challenge truly became obvious. ‘I believed it was possible to change things within the system,’ she says, with a sigh. ‘And now I’m convinced that the system itself has to change and it’s through bitter experience.’

In her interview with LBC, Truss is asked whether she harbours ambitions to be prime minister again. She refused to rule it out but it is hard to see this happening. Even the colleagues who sympathise with her thinking and her diagnosis of the UK’s ills believe she is the wrong messenger. ‘She can’t be rehabilitated this side of an election,’ says one. Another agrees: ‘Truss is toxic on the doorstep.’

Some in Truss’s circle hope she can become the British equivalent of America’s Barry Goldwater – a harbinger of a great conservative counter-revolution. The publication of her book is unlikely to change this in the short term – but it could help build a platform in conservative thinking for someone else to pursue her ideas.


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