Your memories of a former Liberal Democrat

You will all have learnt by now that Liz Truss was a member of the Lib Dems when she was a student. So we would like to invite our readers to share their memories of her time as a party member.

To kick us off, here is a piece from Liberator Magazine 411 – February 2022 (download it here):

TRUSSED UP

Could the new darling of the Tory right Liz Truss be the first former Liberal Democrat into 10 Downing Street?

Truss understandably draws little attention to her Lib Dem past and several readers who still come across her noted a marked disinclination on her part to reminisce about old times.

A photograph exists of Truss with other members of what was then called Liberal Democrat Youth & Students on a protest against the M3 extension in1994 – one of presumably few occasions on which the foreign secretary and ‘Swampy’ have been on the same side.

LDYS was also opposing then Conservative home secretary Michael Howard’s Criminal Justice Bill which sought to curb protests, though which looks positively moderate compared to the Policing Bill that the Government of which Truss is part is seeking to push through Parliament.

She spoke against the monarchy in the Lib Dem conference debate in 1994, which called for a referendum on its abolition after the Queen’s
death. Truss has since dismissed this as a youthful indiscretion but it might leave Her Majesty unamused were she ever invited to kiss hands. Truss is thought to have joined the Tories in 1996.

One LDYS veteran recalls: “She was always older than her age even at 17 when we first met. Always very ambitious and confident and displays the same mannerisms as she did all those years ago. I don’t think her characteristics are dissimilar to Boris (or are they just typical Tories?”

Another thinks Truss’s politics never changed much being liberal (at least then) on social issues and an economic liberal who was always an admirer of Margaret Thatcher. “I think she has always liked being controversial and is intelligent but says daft things either from lack of thought or to get attention,” he recalls.

And would you like to see that photo? Well, of course you would. Caron Lindsay published it in this post in 2016: Liz Truss as you have never seen her before.

Update: The BBC has found this for us.

Now over to you for your youthful memories of the woman who could be Prime Minister in a few weeks’ time.

* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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26 Comments

  • The Cumberland News and Star has a good profile Liz Truss profile. Her dad sounds like an all round good egg ” Ms Truss says her father, a mathematics professor, has long struggled to comprehend her move to conservatism, believing, perhaps wishfully, she is a “sleeper working from inside to overthrow the regime”.
    Rishi Sunak might try that line as well as her Brexit record in the coming weeks.

  • Ruth Bright 20th Jul '22 - 9:14pm

    What a fun post. I spoke at the 1994 conference in a different debate. I was 27 and absolutely petrified. To be fair she was pretty brave to speak in the monarchy debate when she was just a teenager. It was incredibly highly charged with the usual leadership hysteria about how we weren’t “serious about power” if we voted the wrong way.

    I got the train back with Conrad Russell (name drop, name drop) and he said sometimes he thought it would have been easier if his Dad had been a bricklayer rather than the great Bertrand Russell. I was too shy to tell him my Dad really was a bricklayer and I very much doubted my childhood had been easier!

  • John Nicholson 20th Jul '22 - 9:27pm

    A number of newspapers have commented that Truss is “embarrassed” about having been a Liberal Democrat in the past. Just to say that this Liberal Democrat is embarrassed that she was ever a member of our party! Then again, the sheer nastiness of what she said about her school shows that she really does belong in the Conservatives.

  • She was also, more recently, an ardent ‘Remainer’….

    “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others.”

  • George Thomas 21st Jul '22 - 8:51am

    Liz Truss is, potentially, less than 7 months away from proving that if you want to be Prime Minister of the UK, then you need to represent the Tory party.

    We should perhaps be discussing why she thought that and why it appears she was right.

  • expats 21st Jul ’22 – 8:45am:
    She was also, more recently, an ardent ‘Remainer’….

    Perhaps one of her principles is a belief in democracy, as unfashionable as that is.

  • Gareth Hartwell 21st Jul '22 - 10:05am

    To provide a serious answer to George’s serious question, I think it comes down to career paths. While Liz may be unusually flexible in her beliefs many of us needed to make a decision as to whether we could realistically pursue a political career in the Lib Dems.

    At the time I was 23 and was working very hard as the candidate in Brentford and Isleworth – where I got the vote up a bit in that and the next election – but still hopelessly behind in 3rd place. And there were very few winnable seats on offer nationally which didnt already have a strong local candidate. So I chose to pursue an alternative career in business but if I were less principled it would certainly have been a better career option to join another party. (Actually I was courted by the Tories at the time.)

  • James Fowler 21st Jul '22 - 10:34am

    This is all amusing, though it really was an awfully long time ago. I miss the politics of that period, though it’s no more relevant now than Wilson’s Social Contract or Macmillan’s never had it so good.

    Truss et al. fetishize a slightly earlier period, 1987-88. I can just about remember that summer after the ’87 election which was the summit of Mrs T’s triumphs. With hindsight Tory decline was quite rapid from there, but that’s the moment they all want to re-capture.

  • Jeff 21st Jul ’22 – 9:25am…………..Perhaps one of her principles is a belief in democracy, as unfashionable as that is…………….

    Strange then that she, her party and some on here attack Starmer for trying to make the best of a Brexit he didn’t support..To my mind, at least, that is accepting a democratic vote..
    Truss, on the otherr hand, shows nothing but contempt for those, like her, who voted ‘Remain’. To my mind, at least, that is hypocrisy..

  • @George Thomas
    “Liz Truss is, potentially, less than 7 months away from proving that if you want to be Prime Minister of the UK, then you need to represent the Tory party.

    We should perhaps be discussing why she thought that and why it appears she was right.“

    I am reminded of the words of the late David Rendel: “No one joins the Liberal Democrats as a career move”.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 21st Jul '22 - 12:58pm

    Liked her more from the clip, though I am for our monarch, she was more of a naturally likeable person.

    She has changed so much politically and stylistically. We need more who are natural.

    Politics is a really fake arena. Theatre and cimema is more truthful. Actors engage far better with human emotion and feel more as a result.

  • Alex Macfie 21st Jul '22 - 1:01pm

    @Jeff, @expats: the vote you refer to happened all of 6 years and 2 general elections ago. Democracy is a process not an event and there is no reason that particular democratic event (an advisory referendum) should be sacrosanct. You might as well say that we should “accept” the “democratic vote” of the last GE by supporting everything the Tories do in government without reservation. That’s not how it works. It may be true that there is little public appetite for rejoining (and it may not be politically possible just now anyway) but campaigning on that as a policy platform is democratically legitimate, and if a party won an election on such a platform it would indisputably have a mandate that would override that of the 2016 referendum.

    Some people argued that by voting against Johnson’s Brexit deal the Lib Dems were going against the wishes of voters. But supporting it would have stripped the party of any moral authority to campaign against Brexit in the future as it’s failure becomes ever clearer. Those who still support Brexit will vote for True Believers not poll-chasers. It’s not clear that Ms Truss is a True Believer in anything.

  • Alex Macfie 21st Jul '22 - 1:01pm

    Typed on my phone 📱 so please excuse errors.

  • Russell L Simpson 21st Jul '22 - 1:39pm

    @Jeff
    Nothing undemocratic about 2nd Ref/Final vote/Peoples choice. Brexit saddens me but what really makes me mad is the complete mess that the whole process was. It certainly wasn’t democratic. For Cameron to have done the EUref democratically the original legislation should have required 2 Refs. No1 as was and no. 2 Deal vs status quo. What happened was MAD and undemocratic!

  • Jason Connor 21st Jul '22 - 2:27pm

    It was neither a or inclusive democratic referendum. EU citizens paying taxes here were excluded though they were able to vote in local elections. It always surprises me how they got away with it.

  • Ruth Bright 21st Jul '22 - 4:09pm

    Lorenzo is right. She seems so wooden now. In the clip she has a nice rapport with the audience.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 21st Jul '22 - 4:23pm

    Ruth

    Good to read that. You talk your usual mix of personal experience with resulting solutions herein, Ruth, excellent.

    The Tories are surreal. They are the shape shifters of the UK scene.

    Truss as we see is more obvious. But they’re all at it.

    It’s why I want Sunak. He is left of Truss!

  • Helen Dudden 21st Jul '22 - 4:38pm

    As I grew up, and my ideas became mature my thoughts changed with my understanding of life.
    I worked for the DHSS, employed teaching staff and found working in the Public Sector rewarding. I spent sometime working for a Wiltshire Authority.
    My involvement with International Law after problems with one of my grandchildren taught me so much.
    My health issue’s taught me another lesson, how to be patient. It’s learning that being vulnerable is a hard lesson to learn.
    I wonder if career politicians do exist, political views out weight logic and reason.

  • Alex Macfie 21st Jul ’22 – 1:01pm…., @expats: the vote you refer to happened all of 6 years and 2 general elections ago. Democracy is a process not an event and there is no reason that particular democratic event (an advisory referendum) should be sacrosanct. You might as well say that we should “accept” the “democratic vote” of the last GE by supporting everything the Tories do in government without reservation. That’s not how it works. It may be true that there is little public appetite for rejoining (and it may not be politically possible just now anyway) but campaigning on that as a policy platform is democratically legitimate, and if a party won an election on such a platform it would indisputably have a mandate that would override that of the 2016 referendum………

    I have absolutely no problem with any party campaigning to rejoin. I do have a problem with this party’s attempt tp cancel the referendum result without another vote; that is plain anti-democratic.
    I am still a ‘Remainer’ in spirit but, in real life we are all ‘Leavers’..Your analogy (“You might as well say that we should “accept” the “democratic vote” of the last GE by supporting everything the Tories do in government without reservation”) is flawed at any level.. If my road has, against my wishes, a 20mph speed limit imposed, I am entitled to campaign against it but I must still adhere to that limit until it changes..

  • Please stick to the topic, guys, which is Liz Truss.

  • Peter Watson 22nd Jul '22 - 8:22am

    @Gareth Hartwell “if I were less principled it would certainly have been a better career option to join another party”
    At the last General Election, I had the impression that the high profile Tory and Labour defectors who stood as Lib Dem candidates might always have been more comfortable as Lib Dems if that had been as easy and secure a way to be an MP. If I’m feeling charitable, then I could probably accept that they believed being in the big two would allow them to “make a difference” without compromising their beliefs too much.

  • Alex Macfie 23rd Jul '22 - 8:18am

    My first LDYS Conference was (IIRC) Liverpool 1994. David Alton was the keynote speaker. Liz Truss must have been there but I don’t recall her. My University Lib Dem society was chaired by another future (much later) defectress, whom I shan’t name here, but her political career has been less illustrious than Truss’s, going from fighting no-hope seats for the Lib Dems to fighting no-hope seats for the Tories. But in both cases the motivation seems to be political ambition over principle.

    Truss is most (in)famous for her “cheese” speech. Here it is in full, all 11½ minutes of it
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gygpvd9_Ra0
    Apart from the terrible delivery (watch how she pauses for applause that doesn’t materialise) it’s clear she doesn’t have that good a grasp of political philosophy, as she apparently doesn’t see the contradiction between calling for free trade and complaining about how much this country imports. She has evidently better grasp of campaigning politics, hence her strong performance in this leadership election, but her ersatz Thatcherism seems to run counter to the current public mood and she’ll struggle to escape Johnson’s shadow. So I still think she’s likely to suffer a similar fate to Kim Campbell in Canada.

  • Alex Macfie 23rd Jul '22 - 8:29am

    @expats: The 20mph stuff is completely off-beam, no Remainer or Rejoiner has advocated lawbreaking as a means to get their way, and the referendum had no legal standing anyway. Whatever you think of Lib Dem EU policy at that time, comparisons with deliberate lawbreaking are grossly offensive. It is anyway irrelevant now, and by the time Rejoin becomes a realistic possibility the 2016 Referendum and its aftermath will be ancient history of interest principally to political nerds.

    ObTruss: Actually there isn’t that much difference between Starmer and Truss on rejoining except the degree of political kamikaze, Truss being the more blatant political opportunist. Starmer seems to be chasing Red Wall votes. Both risk being caught by the trap of chasing yesterday’s polling, namely finding themselves left behing when public opinion changes.

  • Liz Truss has joked she will not have time to think about changing the wallpaper in Downing Street if she is elected prime minister…

    She may well be right but not for the reason she imagines…

    As reported in the DM…..”Boris Johnson thinks he will return as Prime Minister next year even though he only resigned less than three weeks ago. He has been privately saying he will make a comeback to Downing Street as soon as next year, according to his former aide Tim Montgomerie.”

  • David Evans 23rd Jul '22 - 2:09pm

    In contrast Alex, on Truss and Starmer you are absolutely correct. My worry is we still have barely begun to position ourselves to take advantage when harsh reality forces a change of opinion for so many.

  • Andy Boddington 23rd Jul '22 - 4:57pm

    A reminder to those commenting to keep to the topic of Liz Truss and not to engage in mudslinging at each other. We can leave that to the Tories.

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