What Liz Truss and Donald Trump have in common | Adam Boulton

By John Mercury April 21, 2024

Liz Truss has much more in common with Donald Trump than just the first three letters of his surname.

Despite presenting themselves as “outsiders”, both enjoyed substantial political careers and reached the top of their profession as prime minister of the UK and president of the United States respectively.

In both cases, their periods in power ended in ways that outraged their opponents and many in their own Conservative and Republican parties. Economic chaos brought on by her rash policies forced Truss out of office after just 49 days in 10 Downing Street.

Trump lost the 2020 election, refused to accept his defeat and praised the mob who stormed the Capitol in an attempt to keep him in the White House.

Many thought they were finished for good. But like those who had laughed at their ambitions earlier in their careers, the nay-sayers were wrong again. Both have been reprieved and continue to be respected as forces in their parties.

Former British Prime Minister Liz Truss speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference, 2024 CPAC, at the National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md., Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
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Liz Truss speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference in February. Pic: AP

Trump is currently the narrow frontrunner to beat Joe Biden and win re-election on 5 November, while Truss said this week: “I definitely have unfinished business. Definitely.”

Truss is still an MP and intends to stand again in her safe Tory seat in Norfolk. She was on her feet in the Commons this week to oppose Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak‘s attempts to prevent rising generations from smoking tobacco.

Book promotion

On Monday she will be back in Washington DC speaking at the conservative thinktank, the Heritage Foundation, to promote her grandly titled memoir Ten Years To Save The West.

Most of the book could be more accurately described as Forty Nine Days To Lose My Job, yet Truss is determined to place her personal fate in the context of a wider global ideological struggle. Her final chapter lists “important lessons we can learn so we can win”.

They include “We Must Dismantle The Leftist State”, “We Must Restore Democratic Accountability” and “Conservatism Must Win Across The Free World, Particularly In The United States of America.”

Donald Trump on the second day of jury selection.
Pic: Reuters
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Donald Trump in court earlier this week. Pic: Reuters

Liz Truss has always been a shape-shifter. Born of left-wing academic parents, she was first heard of 30 years ago as a young Liberal Democrat calling for the abolition of the monarchy. She supported Remain during the 2016 EU referendum before becoming a hard Brexiteer.

Right-wing populist transformation

Her latest comeback tour “confirms her transformation into a radical right-wing populist”, according to Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London, the author of The Conservative Party After Brexit.

Like Trump, Truss rails against “extremist environmentalist dogma and wokeism”. Her vision of a failing British state which has been “captured by leftist ideas” is of a piece with Trump’s vision of “American carnage” unless he is there to Make America Great Again.

Of course, Truss backs Trump over Biden in the upcoming election. It is not usual practice for former British political leaders to give such a blatant endorsement in a foreign election.

Nigel Farage
Pic: Reuters
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Truss said she would like Nigel Farage to join the Conservative Party. Pic: Reuters

“I think that our opponents feared the Trump presidency more than they fear the Democrats being in office,” she says. “I believe that we need a strong America… the world was safer [when Trump was president]”.

By “opponents” Truss means the “totalitarian regimes in China, Iran and Russia”. Her unwaveringly aggressive stance is probably where she differs most with Trump, and some of his Republican cheerleaders. He openly admires dictators, while encouraging his followers to block aid to Ukraine against Russia.

‘Prime Minister Truss’

All the same, her rhetoric strikes a chord with the cold warriors of the Heritage Foundation who are treating her with the respect she craves.

Billed American-style as “Prime Minister Truss” her hosts describe her as “one of the few British politicians who really understand the United States and the direction America’s conservative movement is taking”.

Heritage’s “Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom” previously had her over in February to deliver its annual keynote lecture.

In truth, Truss’s knowledge of the real Thatcher seems to extend little further than raiding the dressing-up box for some cosplay photographs when she was foreign secretary and wearing a tank as a fashion accessory.

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Truss is odd but so is Trump. Ironclad imperviousness to looking ridiculous is a trait she shares with the ex-president. Both operate in a post-truth world in which what they say and how they act trumps objective facts.

Never to blame

If things go wrong, they are never to blame. Others – especially “Deep State” bureaucracies – have conspired against them.

In her memoir, Truss says that when she was prime minister she did not know about important facets of the national economy such as the vulnerability of LDI pension funds. She condemns the Bank of England for not telling her.

She claims the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) and the Treasury did her down even though she did not allow the OBR to review her mini-budget in advance and sacked the Treasury’s top civil servant on day one.

Now she complains about “a mass of quangos, independent regulators, official advisory bodies and assorted public sector organisations constraining and obstructing ministers at every turn”.

She wants to abolish the OBR, the United Nations, the UK Supreme Court and wants the current governor of the Bank of England to resign.

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‘Democratic accountability’

Taking absolute power by winning control of conservative factions and crushing any person or institution which stands in her way is the kind of “democratic accountability” she believes in.

Truss’s American friendships extend beyond the Heritage Foundation. She shared a platform at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) with Steve Bannon, who served as a political strategist in the Trump administration and was subsequently indicted for fraud.

When Bannon described far-right figure Tommy Robinson, co-founder of the English Defence League, as “a hero”, she remained silent. Trump’s friend Nigel Farage, whom Truss said she’d like to see join the Conservative Party, was also at CPAC.

Failed leaders evaded exclusion

The disaster of her premiership should have disqualified Truss from further active involvement in politics. She made the cost of living crisis much worse for most mortgage payers.

Unabashed, she is still receiving a polite hearing in Tory circles – including from the journalists she hand-picked for a limited round of interviews on the book’s publication.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has raised Truss several times with the prime minister at PMQs, referring to the “political wing of the Flat Earth Society” and “the tin-foil hat brigade”.

Rishi Sunak during a visit to a branch of Timpson,.
Pic: PA
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Rishi Sunak said Truss had ‘fairytale’ economic plans. Pic: PA

Sunak replied saying Starmer was “sniping from the sidelines”, with the PM not directly referring to Truss.

However, he previously accused her of “fairytale economics” during a leadership debate.

The Republican Party had a golden opportunity to get rid of Trump after the 6 January insurrection.

He would have been disqualified from future office if the Senate had voted for his second impeachment. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, thought about it but then the Republicans decided it was in their best electoral interests to keep him around.

Truss not to be underestimated

In this country there has been a lot of scoffing at Truss’s latest manifestation. It would be a mistake to laugh her out of court.

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Her “unfinished business” includes being a player who will drag the Tories to the right after a general election defeat. She would not need acceptance from the markets or the whole country to become party leader.

She would just need to win over the ageing hundred thousand or so voting members of the Conservative Party. They elected her once before – she was UK prime minister only 18 months ago – and nobody likes admitting they made a mistake.

If Trump manages to be re-elected, their type of conservatism may look appealing to some card-carrying “Conservatives” here.

Truss as leader or senior shadow minister would keep Trumpism alive in this country.

The British Conservative Party would be well advised to think carefully before being trussed up for five years of opposition with her borrowed, far-right, self-obsession.

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