by Peter Franklin
Thursday, 30
December 2021

Is Liz Truss set to be the new Alec Douglas-Home?

Ideas about the Foreign Secretary taking over are eerily reminiscent
by Peter Franklin
The forgotten PM

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.

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.

Join the discussion

  • Too early to rely on such polls. Most ordinary voters haven’t heard of Truss, so of course she doesn’t appear strongly, and they’ve barely registered the inflation caused by Sunak’s spendthrift policies, so his score is over rated. As for the rest, the most obvious throw back is to Tony Blair. A principled conservative is far more likely to appeal than yet another muddled heir to Blair.

  • For me, Truss’ great virtue is that she is anti-woke — as simple as that. She will defend us, our children and our womenfok from the multiple horros of critical race and gender theory. Boris won’t –not with his lovely lady whispering into his earhole. Will Sunak? I don’t know. Gove? probably not. And Truss is, I think, tough, like Thatcher. Am I right or am I right?

  • These historical parallels are really rather silly. The way Labour appeared in 1963-4 and how they appear now are entirely different entities.
    Also polls are of little value at the best of times. At this stage of a parliament, they are virtually meaningless.

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