Few Dozen Britons Can’t Be Wrong: Liz Truss Is UK’s New Prime Minister

Few Dozen Britons Can’t Be Wrong: Liz Truss Is UK’s New Prime Minister

The Boris Johnson party era has ended, and the United Kingdom has a new prime minister, Liz Truss. Queen Elizabeth invited Truss to form a government Tuesday after accepting Johnson’s resignation in an earlier meeting. It was a busy day for the Queen, who’s scaled back her public duties recently. Truss is the Queen’s 15th prime minister over 70 years.

The meeting was held at Balmoral Castle in Scotland where the Queen spends the summer. She’s 96 and suffers from mobility challenges, so her doctor advised that she not travel to London's Buckingham Palace.

Monday, Truss defeated rival Rishi Sunak in the Conservative Party leadership contest with 81,326 votes to 60,399. Yes, that’s thousands not millions. We pause here to comment that the UK parliamentary system is wacky and that less than .3 percent of Britain’s 67 million residents actually selected the new prime minister.

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Scandal-plagued Johnson resigned while his Conservative Party still maintains a majority in Parliament, so the Conservatives could choose a successor through a party leadership contest.

The New York Times explains:

The initial stages of a Conservative leadership race take place among the party’s members of Parliament, from whom all the potential candidates are drawn. Each needed the nomination of 20 fellow lawmakers to reach the first ballot in July, a threshold met by eight of the 11 who sought to run.

Then Conservative lawmakers, through five rounds of voting, narrowed the candidates to two: Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak. After that, it was up to the rest of the party’s dues-paying members to decide.

There’s an estimated 160,000 eligible party members. Party members pay an annual subscription of 25 pounds. They voted by mail and online throughout August (FRAUD!).

Across all UK political parties — Conservative, Labour, SNP and Liberal Democrat — the average age of members is in the mid-50s and just three to four percent are racial and ethnic minorities. Most members belong to the highest social class. Two-thirds of citizens no longer identify with any political party. Not surprisingly, the Conservative Party is even older and whiter. About 71 percent of Conservative Party members are male, and 54 percent live in London or southeast England.

While this process seems like how they elect the HOA board president in a gated community, nonetheless, Liz Truss is the new prime minister. On a slightly related note, here’s her weird ass speech from the 2014 Conservative Party conference where she rambled about cheese and pears.

I want to see us eating more British food here in Britain. At the moment, we import two-thirds of all our apples. We import nine-tenths of all our pears. We import two-thirds of all our cheese. That ... is ... a ... disgrace.

From the apples that dropped on Isaac Newton's head to the orchards of nursery rhymes, this fruit has always been part of Britain. ... I want our children to grow up knowing the taste of a British apple, of Cornish sardines, of Herefordshire pears, of Norfolk turkey, of Melton Mowbray pork pies and, of course, of black pudding.

This speech was an extended Jeb Bush “please clap” moment, but it wasn’t career-ending for Truss. That’s the advantage of only the most extra-special, select people choosing the prime minister.

During her college years at Oxford, Truss was a member of the Liberal Democrats who supported the legalization of cannabis and the abolition of the monarchy. She campaigned against the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. She joined the Conservative Party in 1996 when she was 21. That seems like a sharp turn and the Guardian describes her as a “shapeshifting Tory” leader. This quote from her former colleague Anna Soubry is scorching:

SOUBRY: [Truss] was the most ambitious person many people had encountered. I honestly believe she was given jobs – ministerial promotions – just to shut her up. Her ambition is, undoubtedly, considerably greater than her ability.

That’s harsh but the Isaac Newton line from her 2014 speech bolsters Soubry’s point.

Truss is scheduled to give her first official remarks as prime minister later today. Let’s hope she avoids food themes. Ambition got her this far, but she’ll need at least some talent to survive the “poison chalice” the British press claims she inherited.

[The Guardian / New York Times]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."


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