📚 Finished listening to Out of the Blue by Harry Cole.

Cue the obvious jokes about that it must be the world’s shortest book - I suppose it actually is on the shortish side for a biography of a Prime Minister to be fair. It seems that the Telegraph’s suggestion that first draft of the book was submitted with the original subtitle “The inside story of the unexpected rise of Liz Truss” before a matter of days later it became critical to add “and rapid fall” is real. Indeed, you can still find images of the book with both titles out there.

It seems thorough and well-researched enough but I’m not sure there’s a tremendous number of revelations held within it that anyone who kept somewhat on top of British political news in recent years wouldn’t already know. Oddly, it misses out one or two bits and pieces that even very casual observers might have come across; the lack of explicit reference to the Daily Star livestream of a decaying lettuce being one that caught my attention (although it’s very gently hinted at in the intro - that her “seven days in control” is “….the shelf-life of a lettuce”).

But if you too want to relive the highs and lows of Britain’s record-breaking shortest tenure Prime Minister from childhood through to political demise, then this book might satisfy you.

Famously she was an anti-monarchist Liberal Democrat in her youth. Here’s the famous vid of her youth politicking.

Her premiership ended up being disrupted by the sad death of the Queen, leading to one of the finer lines in the book:

Within a week of the last leadership hustings at Wembley, the one-time teenage republican was kissing the hand of Queen Elizabeth II. Two days later, the beloved Monarch was dead;

Let the correlation vs causation debate break forth!

Truss' upbringing was decidedly left-wing. Her mother even moved to try out the communist lifestyle.

In spite of her upbringing as the privately educated granddaughter of a capitalist mill boss, Priscilla was clearly sympathetic to the Marxist cause. After spending time in Prague in the early 1960s, and with a babe in arms, she upped sticks to ‘try out life under the communists’ in 1977.

Life under the communists didn’t last long though, for either mother or daughter.

Whilst her mother retains many of her leftist ideals, Liz Truss comes across as have being as obsessionally wedded to the idea that free markets will solve all of life’s ills from the very start, whilst taxes are the devil’s work in all their forms. I think she’s a true believer, to give her credit, unlike many of her purely-populist libertarian-when-it-suits peers.

When Truss started campaigning in the early 200s it did put her mother in a tricky situation though, a battle between the personal and the political.

But it wasn’t an easy decision for Priscilla Truss, according to a former neighbour, after Liz stood again in 2005. ‘She said she was quite torn. She’d agonised over whether to support her because she was her daughter, or not to support her because she was a Tory. In the end, she decided that family ties should win out.’

Her father did not campaign with her.

Liz seemingly showed great ambition, a tireless fervor and the ability to remain committed to a cause no mater what obstacle or person gets in her way. That, for both the pursuit of her political and personal career goals. No setback was too much for her to come back from. I recall the vibes of even her resignation speech and associated interviews as somehow exuding some “I was right, everyone else is just too stupid to understand” energy. Certainly her book-promo interview in the Mail on Sunday claimed that “the fundamental problem was there wasn’t enough support for Conservative ideas” - but of course it’s the support that’s the problem, not the ideas. Hmm.

This sheer amount of determination, resilience and energy to move forward is surely extremely useful for the successful pursuit of goals - it’s just a shame her goals weren’t something more bearable.

There were nonetheless some aspects of Truss that I hadn’t fully appreciated. But those were more on her personal life and her style rather than her well-documented political accomplishments and failures. I hadn’t understood how obsessed she was with social media, especially Instagram. Call me old but I don’t tend to follow politicians on Insta. But she apparently put some real influencer effort in, continuously focusing on getting the perfect shot even at the expense of tremendous amounts of her team’s time, and in some cases her actual job of attending meetings.

The next stop in Sydney would become a defining image of Truss’s boosterist style of promoting both Brexit Britain and herself. With the rain still pouring, it took many, many goes to get the final snap of Truss on a British-made Brompton bike with a Union flag umbrella in a car park under Sydney Harbour bridge, with the opera house looming large. Freedom of Information requests would later reveal a £1,483 freelance photographer was hired for the trip – but the picture went around the world.

I know you’re dying to see the results, so:

Liz Truss with a Union Jack umbrella on a bike

She also seems to have been something of a party animal, fueling her days with espresso and her nights with alcohol. Unlike some of her retinue she somehow appeared to be frequently able to pull off something vaguely day’s work after a night at the clubs though. Not always though, which caused its own problems:

The drinking began at the airport and continued on the plane … her main advisers drank two bottles of champagne on a four-hour flight. On the ground the FS [Foreign Secretary] would drink well past midnight … and be incapable of working the next day. On several trips, Truss would cancel/attempt to cancel important parts of her programme, alienating foreign representatives, due to her hangover or to restart the party.

Honestly it does sound like a pretty fun lifestyle, I’m kind of jealous. If only she wasn’t supposed to be doing something fairly important.

At one point during her tenure as foreign secretary, she, celebrity-like, apparently insisted on in another environment would surely be termed a rider.

…orders were sent ahead to embassies around the world with details of what the Foreign Secretary would expect on a visit:

  • Double espressos served in a flat white-sized takeaway cup.
  • No big-brand coffee, independent producers only, except Pret if in the UK.
  • No pre-made or plastic-packed sandwiches – nothing to be served that has not been freshly prepared.
  • Bagels or sushi for lunch – absolutely no mayonnaise on anything, ever.
  • A bottle of Sauvignon Blanc provided in the fridge of any overnight accommodation.

And then it all went wrong. Her focus on only the freest of free markets, libertarianism (one of her children is, of course, called Liberty) and her predilection for ignoring everything anyone else would suggest that didn’t perfectly align with her world view led to a catastrophic time for Britain’s economy and a final ousting of its architect, who became Britain’s shortest serving Prime Minister ever after just 45 days in office.

It also introduced (to me) the harshly named economic concept of the moron premium. Per the FT who later went on to try and quantify it a bit:

At the height of the Trussonomics experiment, the additional yield that investors were demanding on government bonds became known in financial markets as the “moron premium”.

Nonetheless, from what we’ve learned of her character in this book and elsewhere, it doesn’t seem likely that she’ll retire quietly into the night.

Book cover for Out Of The Blue