Liz Truss will no doubt always be remembered for being Britain’s shortest-serving Prime Minister. However, Out of the Blue, the new book written by journalists Harry Cole and James Heale, explores Truss’ life and career before Number 10, and plots the pathway to her extraordinary rise and unexpected fall. Hannah Walton-Hughes reviews.
Liz Truss had such a brief reign at the top of politics, many people will only remember her for her catastrophic 44 days in office. However, this fascinating new insight into our third female Prime Minister shows that there is far more to her; perhaps her much-mocked declaration “I am a fighter, and not a quitter” has more truth in it than was first realised.
Truss recalls chanting “Maggie, Maggie, Maggie, out out out!”
I must confess, I really didn’t know what to expect when I opened this book. I had no clue as to the angle Cole and Heale would take on Truss. Critical or endorsing? Derisive or sympathetic? In fact, they approached the book with such a wonderfully balanced and neutral tone; it really does allow the reader to make up their own mind about her. Even Truss’ extramarital affair with Mark Field, highly criticised at the time, is presented objectively, not failing to point out the misogyny involved in the response towards her.
Chronologically, the two writers take us through the entirety of Truss’ life, from her beginnings in Paisley, Scotland, where her left-wing mother took her on her first political outing: a CND march, where Truss recalls chanting “Maggie, Maggie, Maggie, out out out!”, in a Scottish accent. This is highly ironic, as Liz Truss has frequently been praised/criticised for trying to associate herself with Margaret Thatcher. The book then follows her to her university days and her dalliance with the Liberal Democrats, to being elected as an MP, through the various ministerial positions she has held since 2010, all the way through the door of Downing Street.
Truss herself apparently admitted “the last time I ignored all these people they were right”
The writing throughout is highly accessible; I got through it in a matter of three days. There is just enough detail, dialogue, and fun facts to be getting on with, without becoming too bogged down with jargon. Gently mocking references to incidents such as the infamous “cheese” speech, when Truss was Secretary of State for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs are integrated, along with a humorous University event, where Truss hung up posters reading “Free the Weed”, at the Liberal Democrats Fresher’s Fair stand.
A mixed character is portrayed in this book. On the one hand, it is clear and unarguable that Liz Truss is a force to be reckoned with; determined, hard-working, and resilient. She has taken on a wide range of roles within government, including Education Secretary, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and Foreign Secretary. Particularly in Education, she was not afraid to fight for what she believed in, contesting what many believed were the right courses of action. Despite her steely demeanor, many have also commented on her loyalty to her colleagues.
However, negative aspects of Truss’ personality are certainly given page time. Her obsession with perfecting her Instagram posts, particularly on foreign visits, does hint at egocentricity and misplaced priorities. Furthermore, Truss undeniably has a ruthless and borderline rude streak to her, once reportedly telling an aide that they should have been “shot at birth”. Rumours of her notorious habit of leaking information to the press also puts a dampener on her shine. And of course, her failure to listen to advice in the run up to, and aftermath of, the Mini Budget, highlights a major character flaw. Truss herself apparently admitted “the last time I ignored all these people they were right.”
the most emotive sections of the biography are the final chapters
All of this is speculation of course; nothing can really be proved. The writers emphasise in the prologue to the book that this is not an authorised biography, and much information is taken from discussions with witnesses to events.
Without doubt, the most emotive sections of the biography are the final chapters, which give us a painfully clear insight into Truss’ final days in office. Cole and Heale actually had to rewrite parts of the book, and add the last section on at the last minute, plus changed the subtitle from ‘Her Astonishing Rise to Power’, to ‘The Unexpected Rise and Rapid Fall of Liz Truss’. From her tearful sacking of Kwasi Kwarteng, to her last words to Downing Street staff, it is almost impossible not to appreciate the human toll this must have taken on Truss, whether or not you choose to be sympathetic.
I really would advise everyone to read this biography, particularly if you are somebody with an interest in politics. Whether you detest, sympathise with, or even endorse Liz Truss, I guarantee that you will learn something that somewhat breaks down the one-dimensional stereotype often portrayed.
Featured image courtesy of Alex Watkin. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.
In-article image courtesy of Hannah Walton-Hughes. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to these images.
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