Liz Truss seems set to become the next PM, says Tony Blair’s former advisor John McTernan in UnHerd, and Labour “can’t believe their luck”. But if they think she’ll be a walkover they’re sorely mistaken. For a start, Truss highlights Labour’s own “longstanding women problem”. Despite a record of “powerful female ministers” – the likes of Barbara Castle and Harriet Harman – the Labour Party still hasn’t had a woman leader. Truss also has a more distinctive strength: her “political journey” from anti-monarchist Lib Dem, to moderate Remainer, to staunch Brexit champion. Her evolution makes her seem infinitely flexible compared to staunch party loyalists with their “unchanging commitment to ideology”.
Some of the top politicians of the Blair era – John Reid, Alan Milburn and David Blunkett – began their careers as hard leftists before converting to the New Labour vision. I saw how their political skills, just like Truss’s, were “strengthened by their journey”. As a former Lib Dem, she’s uniquely placed to understand why voters find progressive policies attractive, and what the Tories can do to convince them otherwise. Truss can address Labour voters with arguments “based on empathy rather than angry disagreement”; after all, she too “once was blind, but now can see”. In dismissing her appeal, Keir Starmer risks becoming the next in a “long line of men who have underestimated Liz Truss” and come to regret it.