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September 24 2018

Liz Truss

by Charlotte Hays

Chief Secretary to the Treasury in the United Kingdom, Liz Truss admits that at the anti-nuclear rallies she attended with her mum as a child she sang songs excoriating then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Today, the Right Honorable Liz Truss, 43, is a leader of what is often described as the Thatcherite wing of her Tory Party. Some see the famously blunt Truss, former deputy director of Reform, a pro-free-market think tank, as a Thatcher in the making.

In addition to embracing many of Thatcher's ideas, especially regarding personal liberty, Truss has a gift for bluntness. "Too often," Truss recently remarked, "we’re hearing about not drinking too much, eating too many doughnuts, or enjoying the warm glow of our wood-burning Goves - I mean stoves." Fellow Tory Michael Gove managed to become target of a Truss bon mot by calling for what Truss sees as excessive regulations, including on wood-burning stoves.

After two unsuccessful attempts, Truss was elected to Parliament in 2010, as, one of former Prime Minister David Cameron's "A-List," a list of new candidates that included women and minorities, who might broaden the appeal of the Conservative Party. In addition to being MP for South West Norfolk, she is Chief Secretary to Her Majesty's Treasury, or second in command at the Treasury, after  Phillip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer.  Truss' job is to keep an eye on finances, and she did not take kindly to efforts by Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson and Home Secretary Sajid Javid to get bigger budgets for their departments.

“We have to recognize that it’s not macho just to demand more money. It’s much tougher to demand better value and challenge the blob of vested interests within your department,” Truss said.

“We have to recognize that it’s not macho just to demand more money. It’s much tougher to demand better value and challenge the blob of vested interests within your department,” Truss said.

Asked about the headline-making quip, Truss replied, "Look my job as Chief Secretary is to make sure that the money the British Government spends, roughly £30,000 per household per year is delivering the best value for money. £30,000 per household is already a lot of money, and actually it is far better if, as a politician, you can challenge people to spend that money more effectively rather than just always take the path of least resistance." 

Although born in Oxford, Truss grew up in Leeds, an overwhelmingly Labour-supporting region.  She still has a bit of a Northern accent, and is the product of a background that gives her an unusual perspective for a Tory minister. "I did grow up in a very liberal family, and actually I was brought up going on marches against nuclear weapons and various things," Truss says.

"It was in university," she continues, "that I really first met conservative people and discovered that, actually, I liked them. Where I grew up, my friends, teachers and parents’ friends were all quite left wing, but once I met conservatives I very much saw the light!"

"It was in university," she continues, "that I really first met conservative people and discovered that, actually, I liked them. Where I grew up, my friends, teachers and parents’ friends were all quite left wing, but once I met conservatives I very much saw the light!" Truss' mother, a nurse, campaigned for her when she ran for Parliament, but her father, a professor of pure mathematics at the University of Leeds, declined to do so. Truss has characterized her family as being "to the left of Labour."

Truss, who read the prestigious PPE (Philosophy, Politics, and Economics) curriculum while at the University of Oxford's Merton College and was president of Oxford's Liberal Democrats, elaborated on why she became a conservative at a talk in Washington, D.C. The event, headlined "Business, Money, and Power, and the Economic Empowerment of Women" was moderated by Morgan Ortagus, Fox commentator and global markets expert. It was sponsored by IWF and RightNowNetworks and held at the International Republican Institute. Truss was in town meeting with administration officials, policy experts, and business leaders.

"The fundamental reason I became a conservative was because I don't like to be told what to think," Truss said. "What I don't like about the left is that it stereotypes you. I decided to think for myself." Truss became a member of the Conservative Party in 1996. As for those stereotypes, Truss is irked when people assume that, because she is a woman, she is a Labour Minister.

After Oxford, Truss worked for Shell and subsequently as economics director at Cable & Wireless. Living in Canada for two years, she was favorably impressed with the competitiveness of Canadian schools. She believes that rigorous standards in schools promote social mobility, allowing students from less affluent backgrounds to get into better universities. She is a staunch advocate for the study of math, which she wants to make compulsory through the age of eighteen. The study of math is especially important for girls, Truss maintains.

Truss told the Evening Standard last year that her "main career advice" for girls is to study math. She rejects the notion that being a woman is a handicap in public life, but would like to see women become more visible in business.

In fact, Truss told the Evening Standard last year that her "main career advice" for girls is to study math. She rejects the notion that being a woman is a handicap in public life, but would like to see women become more visible in business. "In Britain, we’ve had two female prime ministers which we should be proud of," Truss says. "Where I think women can still challenge more is in the finance world. We have never had a woman Chancellor, never had a woman Governor of the Bank of England and I am just the second woman to ever hold the Chief Secretary position. Money and finance is the final frontier for women. And I think many women could be more passionate when it comes to taking charge of their money. I have a saying, and it’s that Destiny’s Child got it right when they praised 'all the honeys making money.' From an early age we need more girls to study math and economics and show women that they cannot just compete with men, but be better."

At the Washington gathering Truss could not resist noting, "I think it is significant that the Labour Party has never had a female Prime Minister. " She added that Conservatives "value people as individuals, because of their ideas and what they contribute," rather than stereotyping them as part of an interest group.  To break down barriers against women fully participating in the workforce, Truss advocates making more flexible work arrangements possible and reducing onerous and unnecessary regulations that make childcare unaffordable for all too many families.

When asked about President Trump's tariffs at the event in Washington, Truss adeptly avoided taking a position, only saying that she has a longstanding admiration of the power of the free market to generate prosperity. "With Anglo-American capitalism increasingly under attack," she said, "those who believe in the power of free markets and enterprise to create wealth and social progress must stand up and be counted and champion our way of life. Because, though the left might not like it, Anglo-American free enterprise has been the single best generator of wealth and engine of opportunity in human history." 

Although not originally a supporter of Brexit, Truss changed her mind after the referendum. "I am firmly of the view we’ll secure a deal with the European Union," she said. "Things may look messy to a US audience, but people should take that with a pinch of salt. Certainly we expect things to be concluded by the end of this year and there are positive discussions going on. It’s in the interests of everyone to get a deal and I think the Prime Minister’s deal will succeed. It will be an interesting few months."  

She is optimistic about the future, believing that millennials by and large are sympathetic to free enterprise values. "That’s why in Washington I made a speech on how we win over a new generation. I called it ‘markets for millennials’. Opinion polls show that millennials are a group of people who are focused, aspirational and entrepreneurial. The young people I meet actually want more freedom - to start businesses, keep more of what they earn, and move to areas with opportunities without paying a fortune. The freedom to succeed." 

She thanked the left-leaning London School of Economics for producing her husband, accountant Hugh O'Leary. "Whenever I want a late night discussion about supply side reform or econometrics, there’s always someone on hand," she joked.

In June Truss gave a celebrated talk at the London School of Economics--decidedly not a bulwark of conservative thought. She did thank the school, however, for having been the academic home of Frederick Hayek and for producing her husband, accountant Hugh O'Leary.

"It means that whenever I want a late night discussion about supply side reform or econometrics, there’s always someone on hand," she joked. The couple has two daughters.

The talk was vintage Truss. Describing herself as an "economics geek," she said, "And why do I love this stuff? Because I care about freedom. . . . I want our economic model to be one where it’s not about the state deciding what you do, it’s about you deciding what you do."

Truss praised free enterprise as a force that "breaks down monopolies, hierarchies, outdated practices. It destroys barriers, erodes inequality. It is good for business, and it's good for our nation of Airbnb-ing, Deliveroo-eating, Uber-riding freedom fighters."

Listen carefully--does Liz Truss's thrusting spirit, faith in free enterprise and freedom, bluntness, boldness and optimism remind you of any other woman who rose to great heights in the Conservative Party before gaining the highest office in English politics?

You should expect to hear more from Liz Truss.



Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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