Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, is the current favourite to win the Conservative leadership contest and become UK prime minister. Here are 10 things you may not know about her:
Truss probably first crossed over from political fringe figure to meme in the public consciousness with her bizarre delivery of the line “That. Is. A. Disgrace.” about the amount of cheese the country imports in her 2014 party conference speech. But she really does talk a lot about cheeses in interviews. In 2015 she told the Telegraph that one of her favourites was Stinking Bishop, and she has also sung the praises of Binham Blue and the Wells Alpine, both produced on the Norfolk coast (her constituency is South West Norfolk). In 2018 she joked at conference that she was forbidden from talking about cheese in that year’s speech. “When you eat a local cheese, you’re enjoying the traditions, livestock and the landscape special to that place,” she once said.
There surely aren’t many cabinet ministers who could name their favourite potato, but for Truss it is the Norfolk Peer. Having been a minister at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and representing an area of agricultural production, food has loomed large in her career. She said in 2015 that she bases her philosophy on a sign in the window of a Chinese restaurant, recalling “growing up in Leeds quite often I would be stuck in the city centre next to the bus stop at Briggate and I would look at the Chinese restaurant over the road and the sign in the window, which said: ‘Enjoy life. Dine here often.’ That just struck me, it’s the philosophy I have now adopted for the way I live, because food is vitally important for all of us.”
Truss is on record as an enthusiastic karaoke singer, and is known to have the Dirty Dancing anthem (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes in her repertoire, having been spotted singing it in Manchester at a party conference fringe event in 2021. You will need deep pockets to join her, though – the offer of a karaoke session with her was reportedly sold for £22,000 at a fundraiser last year.
Brexit isn’t the only thing Truss has changed her mind on over the years. In recent weeks she has said in interviews that she loves 1980s music and that her favourite song is I Wanna Dance With Somebody by Whitney Houston. In 2001, as a 25-year-old Truss featured in a mini interview in NME where she revealed that the most recent album she had bought was Toploader’s Onka’s Big Moka, and that her favourite song at that time was I Try by Macy Gray. It isn’t just 80s music she has a soft spot for – Truss once listed her favourite movies as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Breakfast Club and St Elmo’s Fire.
She once had her own “Ed Balls moment” on Twitter. Fifteen months after the former Labour shadow chancellor famously tweeted out his own name by mistake when trying to search for comments about him, Truss simply tweeted “Elizabeth truss”.
That tweet came from her BlackBerry, and she must lament their demise as in 2013 she described herself as “a BlackBerry person”.
In a 2016 interview with Countryfile magazine, asked about her favourite countryside pursuits, Truss said: “My best memory is when I use to stay with friends and attend their local flower show. I used to love entering my miniature gardens and rock cakes.” By contrast she cited “getting badly lost in the rain in the Lake District” as her worst countryside experience, recalling that her parents used to take her “youth hostelling” around the UK.
It isn’t entirely clear that she actually had anything to do with Gladstone’s bow tie personally, but the Treasury cat featured on her 2017 Christmas card in the snazzy attire, alongside a ministerial red box filled with Christmas decorations. Truss confused people last year by appearing to issue her Christmas Day greetings 10 days early, with a tweet that now very much looks like the image of someone gunning for the top job.
In 2019 Truss recalled being absolutely furious at being given a name badge with Mary on it at her first day at school as, while that is the name she was given, she had always been called by her middle name, Elizabeth. She told an interviewer that she marched up to the teacher and demanded it be changed – then demurred and suggested that maybe she could just write her preferred name on the back of the badge.
This week her local newspaper, the Eastern Daily Press, went down to Downham Market and showed pictures of Truss to her constituents, asking if they could name her. “It might be Maggie Thatcher or Theresa May,” one 82-year-old, who said he was a Conservative supporter, told the reporter. In all, just nine people out of 30 asked could put a name to the face.
Listing her favourite TV shows in 2019 as Line of Duty and The Bridge, she went on to say that if she was a character from the fantasy epic Game of Thrones, she would be Maisie William’s character, the face-changing assassin Arya Stark. Truss didn’t give knife-wielding as her reasoning, though, preferring to say that she admires that “she refuses to conform to what’s expected of her at any point”.