At the end of her new book, Ten Years to Save the West, Liz Truss responds to a question. What would she have done differently in her time in government if she had it all over again? “My answer is that I would start much earlier,” she writes. “I do not regret trying to turn my country around”, attributing the failure of the economic programme from her 49-day tenure as Prime Minister in 2022 to “an over-mighty administrative state and too many CINOs (conservatives in name only).”

Ten Years to Save the West is due to be released on 16 April but I managed to buy a copy on Friday that had already been set out at the London bookshop next to our office.

It is partly a memoir, partly a manifesto, bridging the two genres by portraying her fall as the fault of establishment conspiracy. She urges conservatives to fight against the purported left-wing deep state.

Truss’s professed ideology in her book has little grounding in traditional British conservatism, history or identity. Instead, she articulates an aggressive form of libertarianism couched in culture war rhetoric against the “worst excesses of the woke brigade and the eco-extremists” particularly popular on the American right. Brexit, of which Truss was initially an opponent – she voted to Remain – is presented as an opportunity for Britain to become “Singapore on steroids”. She does not mention the more nationalistic demands “to take back control” or for levelling up that characterised Boris Johnson’s vision. Her focus on growth as Prime Minister spoke to her fixation on the risk of falling behind authoritarian competitors. 

The book opens with her flight to see the Queen at Balmoral just after she won the Conservative leadership election in September 2022. “I was impatient to get going. Plans had been made. I knew what needed to be done, but the weather was against us”. Boris Johnson had gone ahead and the Cabinet Office had refused to let her risk flying in the same plane for security reasons.

Upon landing in Scotland, she was taken to see the Queen. “I was told in advance that she had made a special effort to be standing to greet me,” Truss writes, “and she gave no hint of discomfort.“ On 8 September, the Queen died. “After the frenzy of the leadership election and on my second full day as Prime Minister, it seemed utterly unreal”, Truss remembered. “Amid profound sadness, I found myself thinking: Why me? Why now?”

Critics have pointed out that “why me?” is an odd thing to think or say about the death of the Monarch.

Indeed, there are tonal parallels with the Sussex memoir Spare in which the erstwhile Prince makes everything about him and his gripes. This book might be thought of as Spare for Truss supporters – overly emotional, self-regarding, tin-eared and delusional.

At their now infamous meeting, after inviting her to form a government, the Queen offered two words of advice to her new Prime Minister: “Pace yourself”.

Truss wonders, “Maybe I should have listened”.


That is the only concession – or even real piece of self-awareness – that Truss makes in relation to her time in office. The book is mostly a salvo of defiance with a fixation on a conspiracy that the establishment had been too attached to left-wing orthodoxy and intentionally blocked her reformist, tax-cutting programme and, ultimately, orchestrated her removal from office.

In Ten Years to Save the West, she argues that the left-wing mentality has a hold on the institutions of power in Britain and abroad. The British economic orthodoxy correlates with the global agenda of the Americans and Joe Biden – who, she also writes, told her at their second meeting that he’d never forget “those blue eyes”. On the eve of the Queen’s funeral, King Charles hosted a reception for visiting heads of state and government. Looking around at the assembled leaders – Biden, Trudeau and Macron – Truss mused to herself:

“Has the fact that the global left has been in charge emboldened our adversaries? Does the West have the leadership required to face down these challenges and prevail? And why am I the only conservative in the room?”

Truss portrays the Conservative prime ministers under whom she served as either unwilling or unable to challenge the entrenched left-wing agenda. In David Cameron, she writes, “I never really sensed a drive to transform the country.” Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, Truss says, had cemented the left-wing orthodoxy, and Cameron and Osborne expressed no wish to change it. Theresa May and Philip Hammond continued that orthodoxy in line with the Treasury officials, she says.

The establishment’s agenda is not restricted to the civil service and, a particular obsession of Truss’s, the “quangos”. Even Dominic Cummings is deemed insufficiently pro-Brexit and controlling of Johnson. Truss writes that she finally managed to get Johnson to sign off on trade talks with the US when the Prime Minister was in hospital in April 2020: “I knew he would have his mobile on him and be free of nefarious Downing Street influences”.

In the cabinet, Michael Gove was Truss’s main antagonist, and she characterises him as an obstinate opponent of her true conservative agenda. After the 2016 referendum, she writes, she urged Gove to run for the Conservative leadership but he declined. When Gove did decide to run, forcing Johnson’s withdrawal, he phoned to ask for her support. “By this time, my shock had given way to anger. I told him bluntly I could not back him.” She continues: “His actions in stabbing Boris in the back were unforgivable. I simply did not understand how someone could do that”.

Later, during her time under Johson as International Trade Secretary, the Prime Minister phoned Truss about the leak of parts of a potential trade deal with Australia. She remembers: “I told him it had been Gove, and what did he expect given that Gove was a serial offender? I asked him if he thought Gove had been leaking”. Truss quotes Johnson as replying, “Do bears shit in the woods?”.

Amusingly, Truss claims to have spent no time herself as a minister building her leadership campaign – for example, the images of her in a tank while visiting British troops are claimed to be the outcome of a media fixation and distraction from imminent war. Those who know Truss will regard this claim as unintentionally hilarious.

Chapter titles like “A Leftist Education,” “A Hostile Environment,” and “Liberty, Equality and Wokery” give a sense of the mindset of much of the book. By contrast, the chapters that cover her time under Boris Johnson have the mundane headings of, “Free Trade and Lockdowns,” “Out into the World“ and “The World at War“.

On Ukraine or Covid, Truss has little new to say. The only revelations she attempts to offer concern either the establishment who blocked her or the support she receives from surprising corners – for example, after the badger cull during her time as Environment Secretary, “the Duke of Edinburgh Prince Philip congratulated me on actually getting the job done.”

Upon taking over as Prime Minister in September 2022, Truss was convinced Tory MPs favoured Rishi Sunak over her and that his supporters harboured “outright hostility” toward her agenda. The condition in which the Johnsons had left No. 10, with an infestation of fleas, only compounded the challenges of her rocky transition. Her anxiety fuelled a bunker mentality inside Downing Street. “I felt cut off from anyone beyond my immediate circle of advisers and officials,” Truss laments, adding “I simply didn’t have enough trusted senior people on the political side who could immediately get to grips with the immense challenges of running a government.” Stung by criticism in the conservative press, she stopped reading the news almost altogether. “The gilded cage was just a cage. With fleas”.

It is unclear, she says, whether or not the fleas came from Boris Johnson’s dog Dilyn.

Truss reserves the most vitriol for how the economic establishment obstructed her tax-cutting agenda as Prime Minister. The Treasury, the Bank of England, the Office for Budget Responsibility were, she argues, “pro-China“, “for remaining in the EU“ and “pro-immigration“. She says they share the same belief in the established economic orthodoxy and have “too much vested interest in protecting the status quo”.

When, on 23 September 2022, the Chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, announced the “mini budget” with a raft of tax cuts funded by more borrowing, the pound sank. The forecasting process particularly infuriated Truss, who derides the OBR’s econometric modelling as the “hideous hell of forecasting”. Her refusal to conform to their agenda, she argues, is what mobilised them to undermine her.

Truss portrays the aftermath of the mini budget as akin to a war between her and the entrenched powers. In retrospect, she wishes that she had more actively challenged them on their fundamental assumptions, but they were not willing to engage. “Given that economic modelling was what I did in my professional career,“ she writes, “I suppose I could have cleared a weekend at Chequers to crunch the numbers and write my own detailed forecast”.

As the pound fell and markets panicked, Truss writes that, “Having failed to stop it in advance, the economic establishment was now seeking to do so after the event.” Andrew Bailey, Governor of the Bank of England, blocked her chosen appointee for Permanent Secretary of the Treasury and the OBR, she alleges, “took its revenge” by leaking a warning of a £72 billion hole in the public finances. “It became a question of who had more power over economic and fiscal policy, the elected politicians or the unelected technocrats. As I soon discovered, the answer was worryingly clear: it was them”.

In Downing Street, Truss became even more withdrawn and suspicious about the alliance between the financial establishment and her parliamentary opponents. It is difficult to read her descriptions as anything other than paranoid conspiracy. “I came to realise there is no such thing as the ‘the market’ in this sense”, she writes. “Rather, there are groups of influential individuals in the financial establishment, all of whom know and speak to one another in a closed feedback look”.

On the parliamentary side, the supporters of Rishi Sunak were using “psych-ops” to undermine the Prime Minister and push for the sacking of Kwasi Kwarteng as Chancellor. When the (Bailey-approved) new Permanent Secretary at the Treasury told her that she needed to reverse the mini-budget, “I knew they had me at gunpoint. This warning was in fact an ultimatum”.

Kwarteng was in Washington DC at the time, for a meeting of the IMF. “Kwasi,” she told him over the phone, “I’m being threatened with a market meltdown. This is f***ing serious”. Truss writes that she truly believed that the establishment would crash the British economy to stop her. She decided to replace Kwarteng with Jeremy Hunt. When she initially tried to call Hunt, he rejected her call as he did not have her number, but he ultimately realised it was Truss calling and agreed. “The Treasury establishment had defeated me, so now I had appointed a classic Treasury man as Chancellor. I was no longer in control of economic policy”. Kwarteng learnt of his sacking from Twitter on the drive back to central London from the airport.

It was still not enough, however. After a chaotic parliamentary vote on fracking, in which her whips resigned and then unresigned, Truss knew that she would have to go. “Seeing the looks of despair on the faces of colleagues all around the Commons that night, I just thought to myself: This is done. This is terminal”.

“In a last twist of the knife from the market whisperers,” Truss writes of the final push, “the Chancellor told me that my going was now ‘the price the markets wanted'”.

This is, fundamentally, an odd book.

Truss tries desperately to be funny but there is an awkward gulf between her humour and her self-importance. There is no mention of the lettuce; criticism of Truss’s awkward mistake when she confused regions of Russia as being in Ukraine as Foreign Secretary is dismissed as a press fixation. “Unfortunately, useful idiots in the Western media do a lot of our enemies’ work for them”.

Such a blatant lack of self-awareness means the conspiracy becomes jumbled with the comically inept. For example, Truss recalls a time when a press officer held up a sign behind an interviewer’s head with the word “rhythm” for her during a spelling test. Later, Truss writes that not even the Prime Minister could stop the “environmental juggernaut” because a bridge for bats had been constructed across the A11 (“Anyway, bats fly!” she reminds us). She wishes the reader to understand that she is not afraid to take tough, life-and-death decisions, like ordering the gassing of 5000 ducks during a potential outbreak of avian flu.

A person popularly regarded as unserious but who takes themselves seriously should not be dismissed, however. Taking a step back from its endemic awkwardness and delusion, Ten Years to Save the West is a paranoid book playing with conspiracy and revenge. It is more manifesto than memoir, because Liz Truss still believes there is much that she can do in politics.

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