Ideas about the Foreign Secretary taking over are eerily reminiscent
The Tories can’t be serious, can they? According to a ConservativeHome survey, Truss is now favourite to succeed Johnson as next Conservative leader (though by the merest sliver over Rishi Sunak). If this takes place before the next election, this would mean making her Prime Minister too.
Her career is certainly on an upward trajectory. After a successful stint as Secretary of State for International Trade, she was promoted to the Foreign Office earlier this year. Following Lord Frost’s resignation before Christmas, she’s also taken the lead on post-Brexit negotiations with the EU.
So, next step Number 10? Not if the Conservatives want to win the next election. Just look at the latest polling from Opinium.
Unprompted – Con 32 Lab 39
Johnson as leader – Con 29 Lab 41
Sunak as leader – Con 34 Lab 37
Truss as leader – Con 27 Lab 43
Gove as leader – Con 23 Lab 41 pic.twitter.com/M3xUhlcWxB
— Chris Curtis (@chriscurtis94) December 27, 2021
It shows the Conservatives seven points behind Labour. However, if voters are reminded that Boris Johnson is in charge the Tory deficit grows to 12 points — a sure sign the current PM has become a liability. The bad news for Truss is that if voters are asked to imagine her as leader, the deficit grows to a calamitous 16 points. With Sunak as leader, however, it shrinks to just three points.
Liz Truss likes to present herself as a latter day Margaret Thatcher, but I fear that a much closer parallel might be with Sir Alec Douglas-Home — who became Prime Minister on 19 October 1963 and lasted for just 363 days.
In 1963, the Tories had been in power for twelve years. Harold Macmillan, the once popular Old Etonian Prime Minister, had become hopelessly bogged-down in scandal (remind you of anyone?). When he resigned, the Conservative Party had to find a new leader (and Prime Minister). But instead of choosing the obvious candidate, Rab Butler, they picked the Foreign Secretary instead.
It was an astonishing decision, not least because as an Earl, Douglas-Home was a member of the House of Lords. He was, therefore, the last peer to become Prime Minister. Of course, he quickly renounced his earldom to become plain old Sir Alec and got himself elected as an MP.
However, the rebrand could not disguise the fact that he was a throwback. Stiff and uncomfortable in front of the cameras, he didn’t stand a chance against his Labour opponent Harold Wilson. And so, after thirteen years in power, the Tories lost the 1964 general election.
Liz Truss is also a throwback: not to the aristocratic past, but to the equally dead-and-buried Thatcherite era. That’s not to say that she won’t become Prime Minister. But if she does, then — like Sir Alec — it’s unlikely to be for long.