Women in Leadership – Liz Truss

Women in Leadership – Who is Liz Truss?

Continuing our series of articles about Women in Leadership, we today focus on potentially one of the biggest developments in this field for years, by looking at Liz Truss.

Mary Elizabeth Truss is one of the two remaining candidates (the other being Rishi Sunak) in the 2022 Conservative Party leadership election, which will be decided by a ballot of Conservative Party members ending on 2 September 2022. The result will be announced on 5 September.

Born in 1975, Elizabeth Truss served as Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs since 2021 and as Minister for Women and Equalities since 2019 and has always been a strong advocate for more women in leadership.

Prior to her entry into politics she worked at Shell, Cable & Wireless and was deputy director of the think tank Reform. She was a former president of the Oxford University Liberal Democrats and joined the Conservative Party after graduating from Oxford in 1996. So, as you can see, Liz has been part of the women in leadership movement for over a decade before she entered politics.

Elizabeth Truss has been Member of Parliament for Southwest Norfolk since 2010 and has served in various cabinet positions under David Cameron, Theresa May, and Boris Johnson.

As a backbencher, she called for reform in several policy areas including childcare, maths, education, and the economy.

She founded the Free Enterprise Group of Conservative MPs and wrote or co-wrote a number of papers and books, including After the Coalition (2011) and Britannia Unchained (2012).

Truss served as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Childcare and Education from 2012 to 2014, before being appointed to the Cabinet by David Cameron as Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the 2014 cabinet reshuffle.

Though she was a supporter of the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign for the UK to remain in the European Union in the 2016 referendum, she supported Brexit after the result.

After Cameron resigned in July 2016, Truss was appointed Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor by Theresa May.

Following the 2017 general election, Truss was appointed Chief Secretary to the Treasury by former Prime Minister Theresa May. After May resigned in 2019, Truss supported Boris Johnson’s bid to become Conservative leader.

He appointed Truss as Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade. He then made her Foreign Secretary in 2021, replacing Dominic Raab.

Truss was appointed the government’s chief negotiator with the European Union and UK chair of the EU–UK Partnership Council on 19 December 2021, succeeding Lord Frost.

Previous Women in Leadership of the Conservative Party

Previous women in leadership of the Conservative Party both had equally impressive credentials, and provide a warning to Elizabeth Truss, as they were both unceremoniously ousted before their time.

Theresa May

Most recently, Prime Minister Theresa May became a victim of Brexit, just as her predecessor David Cameron had.  She was deemed to be both stalling and not being strong enough in our negotiations with the European Union over the terms of our withdrawal from the European Union.  

In July 2016, after David Cameron resigned, May was elected Conservative Party leader and became the UK’s second female prime minister after Margaret Thatcher. She began the process of withdrawing the UK from the European Union, triggering Article 50 in March 2017.

The following month, she announced a snap general election, with the aims of strengthening her hand in Brexit negotiations and highlighting her “strong and stable” leadership.

This resulted in a hung parliament in which the number of Conservative seats had fallen from 330 to 317, despite the party winning its highest vote share since 1983.

The loss of an overall majority prompted her to enter a confidence and supply arrangement with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Northern Ireland to support a minority government.

May survived a vote of no confidence from Conservative MPs in December 2018 and a vote of no confidence tabled by Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn in January 2019.

As Prime Minister, May carried out the Brexit negotiations with the European Union, adhering to the Chequers Agreement, which resulted in the Brexit withdrawal agreement. 

She also oversaw a £20 billion increase in funding to the National Health Service through the NHS Long Term Plan, established the first-ever Race Disparity Audit and launched a 25 Year Environment Plan, amending the Climate Change Act 2008 to end the UK’s contribution to global warming by 2050.

Unemployment in the United Kingdom fell to record lows, the lowest jobless rate since 1975. After versions of her draft withdrawal agreement were rejected by Parliament three times, she resigned and was succeeded by Boris Johnson, her former Foreign Secretary. She remains in the House of Commons as a backbencher.

Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Hilda Thatcher, who was often referred to as “The Iron Lady”, and was the first of the Women in Leadership covered by this article. She was our first female Prime Minister and served as Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990. She was also Leader of the Conservative Party from 1975 to 1990.

Margaret Thatcher was the longest-serving British prime minister of the 20th century. As prime minister, she implemented policies that became known as Thatcherism. A Soviet journalist dubbed her the “Iron Lady”, a nickname that became associated with her uncompromising politics and leadership style.

On becoming prime minister after winning the 1979 general election, Thatcher introduced a series of economic policies intended to reverse high inflation and Britain’s struggles in the wake of the Winter of Discontent and an oncoming recession.

Her political philosophy and economic policies emphasised deregulation (particularly of the financial sector), the privatisation of state-owned companies, and reducing the power and influence of trade unions.

Her popularity in her first years in office waned amid recession and rising unemployment, until victory in the 1982 Falklands War and the recovering economy brought a resurgence of support, resulting in her landslide re-election in 1983.

She survived an assassination attempt by the Provisional IRA in the 1984 Brighton hotel bombing and achieved a political victory against the National Union of Mineworkers in the 1984–85 miners’ strike.

Margaret Thatcher was re-elected for a third term with another landslide in 1987, but her subsequent support for the Community Charge (“poll tax”) was widely unpopular, and her increasingly Eurosceptic views on the European Community were not shared by others in her cabinet.

She resigned as prime minister and party leader in 1990, after a challenge was launched to her leadership. After retiring from the Commons in 1992, she was given a life peerage as Baroness Thatcher (of Kesteven in the County of Lincolnshire) which entitled her to sit in the House of Lords. In 2013, she died of a stroke at the Ritz Hotel, London, at the age of 87.

Women in Leadership – Who is Liz Truss?

As the title of the article states, interest in Liz Truss has skyrocketed in recent days, since it was confirmed she would be one of two final candidates to be considered for leadership of the Conservative Party, and it would seem very few people are aware of who she actually is.

One of the factors weighing heavily in her favour in this race is that she favours tax cuts, something her opponent cannot really use as his platform given his history as Chancellor.

Tax cuts carry a lot of weight with the business sectors, who in turn can apply a lot of political pressure as they are traditionally very heavy backers of the Conservative Party in terms of campaign contributions.   

The coming weeks will see the usual fun and games in the politics arena and no doubt at some point, given the very high stakes, it will inevitably descend into the sort of mudslinging, toxic slanging match that puts many people off politics.

Could Liz Truss become the third female minister in the UK’s history? We will have to wait and see…   

Sarah Jones Leadership Coaching and Women in Leadership

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