Liz Truss as Prime Minister would be a disaster for women in politics - Jayne Dowle

I’m not a Tory voter, or a Conservative party member, or a particular fan of Rishi “divorced from reality” Sunak, but in the very limited field of two candidates, I’d rather back him than Liz Truss for PM.

It absolutely pains me to say this, but Truss would be a disaster for women in politics. All women, whichever side of the divide they sit on, and those in the middle too.

The key problem is, she is not her own woman and everything leading up to this current leadership challenge has illustrated her lack of substance and tendency to flip-flop. This will do other women in politics no favours whatsoever.

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Give me Penny Mourdant smashing the “fourth wall” any day; her language might be fruity on occasion but at least she displays the ability to make connections with “normal” people. And I salute the clear determination of Kemi Badenoch, who surely has a much longer and more interesting journey to take in the political arena.

Jayne Dowle says that the he key problem with Liz Truss is that she is not her own woman and her lack of substance has been shown.Picture: PA Wire.

I know lambasting Truss is a damning thing to say about a woman who has served as Minister for Women and Equalities since 2019, alongside her senior Cabinet responsibility as Foreign Secretary since 2021.

However, I fear that if she becomes Prime Minister, given her patchy and lacklustre reputation to date, every single decision she makes, at home or away, whether on tax or Ukraine, will be held up to such scrutiny and found wanting by a Westminster still baying for blood that she will do nothing to further the cause of women in senior political positions.

Perhaps the only thing that most people outside Westminster would know her for, before the tumultuous events of recent weeks, would be the fact that she was once a staunch Remainer in a senior ministerial team stuffed with arch Brexiteers.

And now, she’s even turned that on its head and says she regrets her previous stance; we all understand the benefits of hindsight, but how can anyone trust her when she is capable of vacillation on such a major issue of national, political and global importance?

When she was a Liberal Democrat – more of which later – she made an extraordinary speech at the party’s conference in 1994 calling for the abolition of the monarchy. Now, we’ve all had our youthful political passions, since ground down by crushing reality, but how are we to balance this with her hopeful rebirth as serious world leader?

Now 46, Truss has made very much of her humble Yorkshire background, although her comments about Roundhay School, where she studied from the age of 13, have caused more controversy than perhaps she intended.

She has said that here, an inner-city comprehensive which had previously been a grammar school, she encountered “children who failed and were let down by low expectations”, and pointed out that this was part of the reason why she had eventually – her parents were left-wing academics, and she was a Liberal Democrat studying PPE at Merton College, Oxford – become a Conservative convert, and later MP, for South West Norfolk. A major misfire. Critics jumped on her assertions, arguing that she had misrepresented the school.

I might stop here for a moment and ask; where is the candidate with a vision, a vigour and something different and arresting to say? Not since those early invigorating times of David “Big Society” Cameron, before the economy tanked and we ended up with punishing austerity instead of communal flower beds and slow-living, has right wing politics come up with anything which puts society before self-interest. And now, battered and bloodied by the Johnson years, the Conservative party has gone backwards, not forwards.

Inevitably, the only sure touchstone it can light upon is Margaret Thatcher. And this is another reason why we must all – Tories or not – be wary of Truss.

She has made no secret of her admiration for “the Iron Lady”, apeing her style of dress – those pussy-cat bows – and photo opportunities, on top of a tank, tick, wearing a big fur hat, tick, and she’s not the first female politician to cite the grocer’s daughter from Grantham as a role model. That’s fine but up to a point. We live in very different times. For all the easy comparisons with the “Winter of Discontent” in 1979 and even the recent heatwave bringing to mind the sweltering summer of 1976, we’re talking about a time four decades ago, before the internet, before globalisation, before another war in Europe and before the world was ravaged by a pandemic.

Let Jacob Rees-Mogg do his reactionary thing, out of harm’s way (mostly), and give the rest of us a political leader who understands that it’s morally wrong to shoehorn hoary old tropes onto modern-day challenges.

What we need, after the lies and deceptions of Johnson’s time in Downing Street, is a leader as transparent and outward-facing as glass. I fear, however, that Truss looks only at her own reflection.