Utilizing her political expertise to edge off rival Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss has emerged as the overwhelming favorite to succeed Boris Johnson as leader of the ruling Conservative party and UK prime minister.
After resigning in protest of a number of government misdeeds, Sunak assisted in igniting the contest by inspiring others to do the same and Johnson to do so.
However, while being seen as a stronger public speaker, he has drawn criticism for sticking to fiscal orthodoxy to address the economic crisis and being constrained by his reputation as a wealthy technocrat.
Sunak, who would go on to become the first prime minister of color in Britain, has additionally been accused of betraying the Tories by bringing down Brexit hero Johnson.
While Johnson has been criticized, Truss has steadfastly hammered home a straightforward and consistent message, offering significant tax cuts.
John Curtice, a political scientist at Glasgow’s University of Strathclyde, asserted, “She’s a better politician.”
“If you ask me what the focus of Liz Truss’ campaign was, I will reply, “A tax cut, not a handout. Very obvious,” he said to AFP.
“Sunak has nothing, not even a strapline.”
For Curtice, Sunak has been more nuanced while Truss has successfully delivered “classic Conservative messages” to Tory members.
He acknowledged that under pressure, he had come across as “a little bit brittle” and added, “It’s also a little of a lecture.”
She has obviously played the game for a longer period of time, he continued.
Truss, 47, has called her ascension to the top of British politics a “adventure” and said that she has faced criticism for being overly ambitious and opportunistic throughout that time.
She comes from a left-leaning background and initially joined the liberal democratic party before defecting to the conservative party.
In 2010, she was elected to represent the eastern English district of South West Norfolk after surviving the disclosure of an affair that nearly cost her the nomination.
Since 2012 she has held a series of ministerial posts in the education, finance and departments as well as a difficult spell in justice.
In 2016, she campaigned for the UK to remain in the European Union but quickly became one of its strongest supporters when Britons voted for Brexit.
When the UK left the EU, Johnson put her in charge of negotiating new free trade deals before appointing her as foreign secretary last year.
In the role, she took on the controversial task of trying to overhaul differences with Brussels about post-Brexit trade in Northern Ireland.
Like Johnson, she has talked tough on Russia and given unswerving backing for Ukraine.
Truss’s dress sense and photo opportunities — posing in a tank in Estonia and wearing a fur hat in Moscow — have earned her comparisons to Tory icon Margaret Thatcher.
Her sometimes stiff style has become visibly more relaxed and allies have sought to soften her image, revealing her love of karaoke and socialising.
“For a party that’s gone in quite a populist direction in recent years, she’s been able to present herself as more authentic, more ordinary than Rishi Sunak, who is all too easily presented as part of the global elite,” said Tim Bale, from Queen Mary University of London.
“Like Boris Johnson, she is keen on the idea that there is some kind of elite that has to be countered and she sets herself up as being outside the establishment, despite having been in government for eight years.”
Sunak, 42, the grandson of Indian immigrants, grew up as the son of a doctor and a pharmacist in Southampton, on England’s south coast.
He attended the prestigious fee-paying Winchester College school, then Oxford University.
Truss, who went to a state school in Leeds, northern England, also studied at Oxford. Both studied politics, philosophy and economics.
Sunak met his wife, Akshata Murty, whose father founded the Indian tech giant Infosys, at US university Stanford before jobs at Goldman Sachs and investment funds.
He has represented the constituency of Richmond in northern England since 2015, where he was soon marked out as a potential future prime minister.
He became finance minister in early 2020, quickly winning plaudits for spearheading government support to people and businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Sunak, a self-described geek and fan of Star Wars, saw the tide of public opinion turn against him this year when it became known that his wife had not been paying UK taxes.
Critics have also utilized his own wealth, beautiful homes, and clothes to paint him as being disconnected from the general populace.