Third Woman Prime Minister of Britain


Watching the BBC on the election-result-announcing meeting of the Conservative Party on 5 September; the final speech of the outgoing, resigning PM; and the installation of the new Prime Minister; had me contrasting how important matters and events pan out in Sri Lanka against how it all unfolded in Britain.

A final two were in the running to be leader of the Conservative Party. The extremely competent Rishi Sunak. The Ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer was pitted against Liz Truss who had been Foreign Secretary in Boris Johnson’s Cabinet. Truss won the majority Conservative vote and thus was the next PM of Britain.  Boris J made his final speech as PM, in front of 10, Downing Street on the morning of Tuesday 6 September, and then took flight to Sandringham where the Queen was in residence, to tender his resignation. Truss, who travelled in the same plane to Norfolk, then had an audience with the Queen who invited her to form a government and be the Prime Minister until elections were due in a little over two years. The change of leader was carried out so smoothly and with such ritualistic tradition. The Queen has thus had interactions with PMs from the time of Sir Winston Churchill in 1952 to now, a period spanning 70 years.

Liz Truss

Born on 26 July, 1975, to John Truss and Priscilla, the new PM was christened Mary Elizabeth  Truss. Her father was an emeritus professor of pure mathematics at the University of Leeds, while her mother was a nurse, teacher and member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

They were both ‘left of Labour’. Liz has three younger brothers. When she campaigned for election to Parliament as a Conservative, her father declined to support her.

When Liz was four years old, the family moved to Paisley, Scotland, and lived there from 1979 to 1985.  She attended the Roundhay School near Leeds, a school she later said “let down” its students, for whatever reason. She lived in Canada for a year and was happy in school over there. Her classmates said she was studious. She was interested in social issues such as homelessness. Her graduation subjects were Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Merton College, Oxford, where she was President of the University’s Liberal Democrats. In 1996, she graduated and joined the Conservative Party, but first worked at Shell and Cable & Wireless and was Director of the think-tank Reform. She was elected to Parliament from Southwest Norfolk in the 2010 election. She moved fast from backbencher to serve in various Cabinet positions under PMs David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson and ended as the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs since 2020.

She first supported the UK, remaining in the European Union in the first referendum in 2016, but moved to campaigning for Brexit when she joined Boris Johnson’s Cabinet, When Theresa May was PM, she appointed Truss as Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor, becoming the first female Lord Chancellor in the thousand-year history of the office. She was appointed Chief Secretary to the Treasury, also by May. When the latter resigned in 2019, Truss switched loyalty and campaigned for Boris Johnson as Leader of the Conservative Party.

She met her husband Hugh O’Leary at a Conservative Party confab in Blackpool in 1997 and married him three years later. They have three teenage daughters. He studied mathematics in the London School of Economics and became an accountant. He keeps a low profile and is not often seen in the limelight with his wife. A former neighbour remembered him as ‘very earnest and very quiet but a lovely boy’. Liz had a relationship with a Party colleague and the marriage was strained, but that was overcome and seemingly, they are now a united, happy family.

Two former Heads of Government

Britain had the first woman PM in Margaret Thatcher, outstandingly firm and very popular at the beginning. She was elected Prime Minister in 1979, again with a landslide victory in 1983 and 1987.  She withdrew from the leadership of the Conservatives in 1990. Her span of three terms was a rather golden age for Britain as she doused the power of trade unions which were crippling the economy and fostered excellent relationship with the USA, particularly with President Reagan. It was the Russian media that dubbed her ‘The Iron Lady.’ 

Maybe Liz Truss aspires to be another Iron Lady by emulating Thatcher. Left to be seen, but doubtful. Watching the BBC reportage of the announcing of the election between her and Rishi Sunak, it was obvious she is pushy and determined. I was surprised and rather shocked that she did not speak to him, shake him by the hand or demonstrate any such gesture of winner to the defeated.

In contrast to these two women, Theresa May (1956 -), the second woman PM of Britain, was a rather colourless Head of Government from 2016 to 2019. 

MP from Maidenhead in Berkshire since 1997, she was Home Secretary in Cameron’s government. It was in her time that Brexit negotiations with the EU started. She remains in the House of Commons as a backbencher.