Liz Truss doesn’t waste energy on unnecessary emotion. At the announcement of her victory at the QE2 Centre, she ditched the convention of hugging your partner and shaking hands with the runner-up. Instead she grabbed her notes from her husband Hugh O’Leary and marched past Rishi Sunak without a second glance. No time for sentimentality! Different from Johnson, surrounded by his siblings and ubiquitous father, or the uxorious Cameron and doting May. She knifed to the microphone with the same steely determination she showed all those decades ago when she told the Lib Dem conference to abolish the monarchy. The script has changed, the focus has not. Just before midnight on the first day of her regime, she rejected another convention: the showy buttering of POTUS. After her first telephone conversation with Joe Biden, she made no reference to the famous ‘special relationship’, the bond between the world’s two richest anglophone nations, the shared history of challenging tyranny (some of the time). Instead Liz talked coolly of ‘working together as leaders of free democracies to tackle shared challenges – particularly the economic problems caused by Putin’s war’. Her pragmatism, her rejection of the conceit of ‘specialness’, is certainly refreshing. Whether colleagues and world leaders will find it bracing remains to be seen.
None of which is to say she is dull. I’ve chatted with assorted foreign secretaries over many years, and most – even Boris Johnson in his pomp – played the ball not the man. Truss cares less about diplomatic niceties. At a party last year, she responded to a technical point I was making about the UK’s trade deal with the EU by calling me a ‘walking cliché’. It’s a badge I wear with pride.
At Oxford, she shared eight tutorials in mathematical logic with one of my heroes: the BBC’s magnificent debunker of statistical fallacies, Tim Harford of More or Less.