Did Liz Truss jump parties to advance in politics?

Here on LDV, we have been reviewing the past of a politician who might our next prime minister. Once an ardent Lib Dem with a passion for getting rid of the monarchy, she appeared on national TV with Mark Pack and Paddy Ashdown. In today’s Times, we learn more about the young Liz Truss from Neil Fawcett, a Liberal Democrat councillor who is part of Layla Moran’s team in Oxfordshire.

She was bloody difficult to work with… I wasn’t massively surprised when she turned up as a Tory. I would not be surprised if she made a choice that she wanted to get on in politics and jumped horses to do it.

What has surprised me is that she has got to the level she has, because I never felt that she was particularly talented.


That’s not exactly praise from Fawcett and he doesn’t stop there:

In those days Liz was very much on the radical side of the Liberal Democrats. As well as the abolition of the monarchy, she was calling for the legalisation of cannabis.

Paddy Ashdown… was at the conference and it really upset him because he felt like we were on the brink of a breakthrough and should be courting wavering Tory voters rather than drawing attention to these divisive issues.

She always had a very strong view on everything but she didn’t have the experience to back it up. We had to tell her that just because she knew how things worked at Oxford University, it didn’t mean it would work elsewhere.

I got the impression that she was more concerned with grabbing the limelight and being seen to be radical rather than believing in it.

The Times, which is clearly backing Rishi Sunak, is taking part in the mudslinging that has been a feature of this Tory leadership election from day one. But so are all the other right leaning newspapers. Elections can be rough but this looks to becoming rougher than most.

* Andy Boddington is a Lib Dem councillor in Shropshire. He blogs at andybodders.co.uk. He is Thursday editor of Lib Dem Voice.

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  • George Thomas 23rd Jul '22 - 5:20pm

    We’re just over 6 weeks away from seeing if someone largely considered not particularly talented becomes Prime Minster, but regardless of the outcome she has made it to the final two and it’s expected to be a close race.

    I would suggest we can expand the questions beyond “What does this mean about Liz Truss?” and start to ask “What does this mean about the UK?”

  • Ruth Bright 23rd Jul '22 - 8:15pm

    Ah – the “difficult woman” trope!

  • Lorenzo Cherin 23rd Jul '22 - 10:32pm

    Is it particularly interesting or accurate, having the memories of a Liberal Democrat on a girl of nineteen he hardly knew?!

    I was very mature at this same age. But I was on the moderate wing of Labour. I changed little in my views. Truss changed a great deal.

    Her views are more of interest than whether as a university activist, a fellow activist thought she was this that or the other!

    Is Neil Fawcett going to write a book, ” my week with Liz”

  • john oundle 24th Jul '22 - 1:40am

    Lorenzo Cherin

    ‘Is it particularly interesting or accurate, having the memories of a Liberal Democrat on a girl of nineteen he hardly knew?!

    Spot on.

    I would expect Truss’s reply would be ‘we all do stupid things when we are young’

  • Chris Moore 24th Jul '22 - 7:31am

    Liz has been quoted saying, “I’m really surprised about Neil Fawcett. He was very talented and I was convinced he was going to be Lib Dem leader one day. But he’s not even an MP. Still he was very easy to work with.”

  • Catherine Crosland 24th Jul '22 - 8:32am

    I agree with Lorenzo and others above, in feeling that Neil Fawcett’s comments seem harsh and unfair, and certainly are not at all useful in making an assessment of Liz Truss’s suitability, now, to be Prime Minister (I haven’t read the full article in the Times, as it is behind a “pay wall”, so I’m just going by the quotes on Lib Dem Voice).
    We don’t know Liz Truss’s reason’s for leaving the Lib Dem’s and joining the Consevatives, only about two years after she made that speach at conference calling for the abolition of the monarchy. Perhaps we should be asking why this passionate young radical liberal came to feel that she was unable to remain in the party? Perhaps we should consider the possibility that the party let Liz down, rather than the other way round?
    Paddy may have felt “really upset” that Liz and others on the radical wing of the party were insisting on focusing on issues like abolishing the monarchy and legalising cannabis, which he was afraid would put off the conservative voters that he wanted to focus on winning over. But Liz may have felt “really upset” to see the leadership apparently caring more about votes than principles, especially as she did not believe these principles would deter conservative voters. In her speech she mentioned the group of middle aged, middle class people, who might have been perceived as typical Conservative voters, but who turned out to want to abolish the monarchy

  • David Garlick 24th Jul '22 - 10:10am

    Yes I believe that ambition trumped everything. Don’t label her as a difficult woman. Reasoned arguements only. An eventual Labour Minister started life with the Liberal Party, (Gender not mentioned deliberately.), it will happen for those desperate to achieve.

  • Lorenzo Cherin………….Is it particularly interesting or accurate, having the memories of a Liberal Democrat on a girl of nineteen he hardly knew?!………..

    As john oundle says, “Spot on”..However there seems to be an almost unhealthy number of threads about Truss’s ancient LibDem history; she is now in her late 40’s, for heaven’s sake.. My hero G.K. Chestert put it well, ” “Ah, yes, when one is young, one has these ideals in the abstract and these castles in the air; but in middle age they all break up like clouds, and one comes down to a belief in practical politics, to using the machinery one has and getting on with the world as it is.”

    What is important is NOW..I’d much rather focus on the increasing weaponisation of the fallout from Brexit being used to further demonisa the EU (and France in particular).. Sadly, it appears to be working.

  • Nonconformistradical 24th Jul '22 - 11:55am

    “Harping on about her dalliance with Liberal Democrats is of minor importance and also quite unhelpful to how we are perceived, let’s focus on how her premiership would bring further damage to people’s lives.”


  • Catherine Crosland 24th Jul '22 - 12:21pm

    Martin, Its reasonable to criticise Liz Truss for her current policies, but unreasonable to put the harshest possible interpretation on her behaviour when she was a Lib Dem as a very young woman, and when she changed parties. We just don’t know what her reasons were.
    We don’t very often hear it suggested that Winston Churchill showed a “habit of bending with the wind” because he changed from being a Liberal to being a Conservative!
    Rather off topic, perhaps, but do you really think Liz Truss’s premiership would necessarily be more damaging than Rishi Sunak’s? Also off topic, but at least Liz Truss didn’t get a fixed penalty notice for breaking the lockdown rules she herself helped to make, or consider it fine to recieve one and still stand for the leadership (Why is no-one mentioning this in connection with Rishi Sunak’s campaign?)

  • Catherine Crosland 24th Jul ’22 – 12:21pm:
    Why is no-one mentioning this in connection with Rishi Sunak’s campaign?

    Maybe for the same reason no-one was bothered when the ‘event’ was first reported.

    ‘Rishi Sunak settles in as Downing St’s Captain Sensible’ [20th. June 2020]:

    Boris Johnson celebrated his 56th birthday yesterday with a small gathering in the cabinet room. Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, and a group of aides sang him Happy Birthday before they tucked into a Union Jack cake.

  • Catherine Crosland 24th Jul '22 - 3:06pm

    Martin, What we know is that Rishi Sunak did receive a fixed penalty notice for one of the events at Downing Street, and Liz Truss did not. I really don’t think its acceptable to argue that its ok for Sunak to stand for the leadership on the grounds that perhaps it *may* be possible that Liz Truss *may* have broken the rules too, when in fact there is no evidence whatsoever that she did.
    Opposotion MPs, and several Conservative MPs, called for Boris Johnson to resign when he received the fixed penalty notice. There were some calls for Rishi Sunak to resign too at this time, although it was natural that the main focus was on Boris, as Prime Minister. If so many people felt that it was unacceptable Boris to continue as Prime Minister after getting a fixed penalty notice, why is no-one objecting to Rishi Sunak’s candidacy on these grounds? It is decidedly strange.
    It may be understandable that Liz Truss and her campaign are not mentioning the issue, because if they did so, Sunak and his suppoters might respond by also going “personal” in their attacks on Liz Truss. But why is no-one else mentioning it? Its as if everyone suddenly thinks “partygate” didn’t really matter, even though that was one of the main reasons why Boris was forced out

  • Christopher Haigh 24th Jul '22 - 3:11pm

    If she didn’t switch parties to advance her political career then she was either planted in the Libdems to try and destabilise it under Paddy Ashdown or she was dejected about the party rejecting her extreme views on the future of the monarchy.

  • Ruth Bright 24th Jul '22 - 5:29pm

    At the time and for a few years after there was something of a casting couch atmosphere for young women who wanted to do well in the party. Many left.

  • I knew Liz a bit at university and she was more of a libertarian than a Liberal even then, so in matters of economic policy I think she’s been quite consistent.

    At least from a narrow business tax perspective, she’d be a lot better than Sunak, whose stubborn insistence on a huge & counter-productive spike in corporation tax is a complete volte face in the policy consensus dating back to the last Labour Govt. I can see, from personal experience, how that is already disincentivising real investment and likely will result in lower tax revenues.

    Liz herself is – contrary to much comment – fiercely bright, but she also has fewer filters than most, so she can come across as quite argumentative. Indeed the last time I saw her (a long time ago now) we argued over something quite trivial.

    My main concerns about her as PM are nothing to do with her history or her style but more about how she has sought to appeal to the right wing of the Tory party on matters of social policy (immigration, identity etc). If that’s what she really thinks (big if) then she could be just as bad as Johnson.

  • Richard O'Neill 24th Jul '22 - 7:59pm

    I’d judge Liz Truss on her conduct over the last decade or so. And surely if she left the Lib Dems for ambitious reasons it would have made more sense to join Labour. Was there a worse time to join the Conservatives than the mid-1990s?

  • I had missed this thread at the time, but a few responses from me to some of the comments here:

    @Ruth Bright – Based on my experience at the time, Liz was a difficult person to work with, unlike nearly all the other young women and men I worked with in LDYS at that time, and compared to the many women politicians I’ve worked with since, including my current boss, for what it’s worth.

    @Lorenzo Cherin – Liz was one of the main people I worked with in my Youth 7 Student Officer role at that time, for about two years. Yes, she was relatively young then, as was I, but I think you can find out quite a lot about someone’s basic character when you work closely with them for a period like that. Certainly people often change or mature as they get older, and Liz may well have done, but a lot of what I experienced back then chimes with her approach more recently.

    @Chris Moore – Ha. ha. As it turned out I much prefer working for MPs than being one 😉

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