Liz Truss, the heiress of Thatcherism to succeed Boris Johnson

Liz Truss, the heiress of Thatcherism to succeed Boris Johnson

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Unsurprisingly, it was the head of diplomacy Liz Truss who won the vote of the British Conservatives on Monday against former finance minister Rishi Sunak. At 47, she succeeds Boris Johnson to take the reins of a United Kingdom in the midst of an inflationary crisis. Portrait of a seasoned politician.

A new Iron Lady in Downing Street? At 47, Liz Truss becomes, Monday, September 5, the third woman in this position after Theresa May and Margaret Thatcher. A political heritage that the new head of government, the fourth since Brexit in 2016, does not deny in any way. On the contrary, Liz Truss cultivates the resemblance to the leader of the 80s.

Same flowery blouses, same economic rigor, same shocking formulas. By launching, “I will not let our country be held to ransom by trade unionists!”, does she not impose herself as the worthy descendant of Thatcherism? Many observers agree in thinking so. The strategy is paying off because “this figure in the history of the Conservative Party is still much admired among conservatives,” says Catherine Haddon, a researcher at the Institute for Government, an independent think tank in London.


The commonalities with Margaret Thatcher end there. Unlike the former Prime Minister, Liz Truss was born on July 26, 1975 in Oxford into a very left-wing family. Daughter of a mathematics professor and a teacher at the nursing school, she completed her higher education at the prestigious Merton College in Oxford, from which she graduated in 1996. It was there that she got a taste of activism. politics by joining the centrist liberal democratic party. Conviction or youthful lapse, the young activist spoke before the party’s national congress in 1994 to demand the abolition of the monarchy. Her real name Elisabeth, – just like the sovereign – she finally joined the ranks of the Conservatives and became an MP in 2010 in the constituency of South West Norfolk, in the east of England.

Reverse and about-face

In 2012, this mother of two children entered the government and chained the ministries. She began in a subordinate role in Education and then, in 2014, the Prime Minister at the time David Cameron entrusted him with the portfolio of the Environment. Theresa May will give her Justice, before Boris Johnson successively appoints her to International Trade, Women’s Rights and Foreign Affairs.

The politician with the impeccable blonde bob knows above all a tortuous course, paved with setbacks and palinodies. An extramarital affair first misses little to make him lose his investiture in the legislative elections. Then after a difficult passage to Justice, she is demoted by Theresa May. Opportunistic, she had strongly opposed Brexit in 2016 to end up promoting it, negotiating and touting new free trade agreements at the Department of International Trade. Appointed in 2021 at the head of British diplomacy, she is intransigent against the European Union on Northern Ireland. Ultimate paradox, she defends just like Boris Johnson “the idea of ​​an elite which must be countered and presents itself as outside the establishment, although it has been in government for eight years”, reports Tim Bale to AFP. , professor at Queen Mary University of London.

Loyalty to “Bojo” rewarded

Committed to conservatism and Brexit late in life, it nevertheless managed to arouse the enthusiasm of conservative members, numbering 160,000, facing a Rishi Sunak, prisoner of his image as a wealthy technocratic banker. Unlike her rival, Liz Truss did not resign from the government following the crisis that precipitated the fall of “Bojo” on July 7. This loyalty certainly earned him the support of many party members. Moreover, his political message, in line with the traditional Conservative Party, is clear: lower taxes massively, cut in the administration. A follower of neo-liberalism like former Prime Minister Thatcher, Liz Truss bluntly defends free competition, lower taxes and a minimally interventionist state.

Anxious to soften her image, however, she highlights her bon vivant side and a lover of cheese and karaoke. “In a party that has evolved towards populism, she has been able to present herself in a more authentic, more ordinary way than Rishi Sunak who finds himself easily assimilated into the globalized elite”. But as soon as political questions resume, the heiress of Thatcherism is never far away. Not inclined to make concessions on the famous Northern Irish protocol, she could play on Europhobia like her predecessor to flatter her conservative base. And Francophobia on occasion. Asked whether she considered Emmanuel Macron a friend or an enemy, she refused to answer. Something to awaken the memory of the showdown between François Mitterrand and Margaret Thatcher.

Focus
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