Out of the Blue review: The rise and fall of Liz Truss | biography books

Famously, she was the first British Prime Minister to be topped by a head of lettuce.

More pertinently to the book industry, however, liz truss he was also the first to unravel almost faster than a biographer can write. He resigned eight days before The Sun’s political editor Harry Cole and Spectator chronicler James Heale delivered a portrait already being written at breakneck speed, and a book emerging in the circumstances arguably represents something of a heroic technical achievement. Admittedly, the writing is clunky in places. But no one is going to buy this book for its literary elegance; the point is to obsess over what’s left of the crash site, and if that’s not what Cole, Heale, or most of their interviewees originally intended to offer, well, life comes to you fast in British politics these days.

What emerges is a two-part book, the second of which focuses heavily on his seven weeks in office as prime minister and is essentially a long-read Sunday paper on acid. However, most of the clues as to what went wrong are to be found in the first part, a very readable gallop through Truss’s childhood as the daughter of slightly eccentric left-wing parents who read The Guardian, through her political awakening in university, first as free market Lib Dem. , then as a libertarian conservative, to her time as foreign minister, traveling the world in search of the perfect Instagram photo. (It was during this stage that she was told that her ministerial “clause” included multiple espressos in a flat white-sized cup and a bottle of sauvignon blanc that she chilled with each overnight stay.)

I was intrigued by Truss’s mother, Priscilla, who moved briefly to Eastern Europe in the 1970s to “get a taste of life under the communists”, took her children to the Greenham Common protests and made herself a yellow banana costume. brilliant to promote fair trade. she marries in Leeds. When Truss recalls her schoolmates yelling “I saw your mum in Tesco dressed like a banana again,” other children of freethinking ’70s parents can understand her apparent indifference to criticism a little better. I suspect you don’t grow up with a banana-clad mother without developing a certain sturdiness.

However, forgetfulness is not always a blessing in politics, as is clear from her first job as a minister in the early years under David Cameron. Truss had devised a plan to cut childcare costs by drastically reducing the number of adults needed to supervise the children, which, unsurprisingly, proved controversial. Instead of patiently trying to build public and political support for it, she simply ducked her head and attacked, as she would a decade later with her mini-budget, and with equal success. All young politicians make mistakes. What’s unusual about Truss is that the lesson she apparently took from her was to believe in herself even more and listen to others even less.

The appetite for risk taking arises early. The authors sympathetically recount the hackneyed story of how a previous extramarital affair with married ex-Tory MP Mark Field almost botched Truss’s quest for a parliamentary seat, correctly pointing out the double standards that never seemed to hurt Field. But they also touch on some of the more explosive smears that circulated about her during the leadership race, including claims of an affair with an assistant, allegations of predatory behavior toward staff, and even a wild suggestion that there might be a sex tape of her. On circulation. The authors interviewed her twice, but her planned third session was canceled when she quit, so perhaps they simply never got to meet them.

Despite their professional closeness with Truss, Cole and his co-writer strive to put some distance between them in their final thoughts on where it all went wrong. Putting aside her own fear, reportedly expressed to a visitor from the Foreign Office, that “I’m weird and I don’t have any friends”, plausible theories for her implosion include that self-confidence (including in her post-preparation speech). resignation). to the staff, she still insisted that she had been on the right track) and the determination to put the wrong people in the cabinet.

But it is also perhaps significant that she has gotten away with so much in the past, leading her to be overconfident in her ability to improvise, as she did even in the early days of her leadership campaign. If there’s anything missing from this juicy tale of high political farce, it’s arguably a more unforgiving account of what allowed such a flawed politician to rise so high at the expense of all of us: a former leader who promoted her to spite his followers. rivals, a dysfunctional Conservative Party, but also a lenient right-wing press that turned on her only when it was too late. Less an “out of the blue” drama, perhaps, than a car crash waiting to happen.

Out of the Blue: The Inside Story of the Unexpected Rise and Rapid Fall of Liz Truss by Harry Cole and James Heale is published by HarperCollins. To support The Guardian and Observer, order your copy at guardianbookshop.com. Shipping charges may apply

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