LONDON: Mary Elizabeth Truss, popularly known as Liz Truss, defeated Rishi Sunak to become the new Prime Minister of Britain. Truss beat her Indian-origin rival Sunak by 81,326 votes to 60,399, after a summer-long internal contest sparked by Boris Johnson’s resignation in July.
Forty-seven-year old Truss was widely expected to become the British Prime Minister after 170,000 online and postal votes cast by Tory members. The election ended Sunak’s historic run as the first MP of Indian heritage to compete for the top job in the UK.
After taking the oath of office on September 6, Truss held her first Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street the next day. Before that, she announced one of the UK’s most diverse Cabinets, with key frontline posts going to ethnic minority members of Parliament, including Indian-origin Suella Braverman as the Home Secretary.
Another Indian-origin minister, Agraborn Alok Sharma, retained his climate action job as the COP26 President, as did Defence Secretary Ben Wallace in the new top team that is otherwise a complete shake-up of the old guard. Rishi Sunak missed the post in the new Cabinet.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Liz Truss on becoming the PM and expressed confidence that under her leadership, the India-UK Comprehensive Strategic Partnership will be further strengthened.
Truss is one of the senior British politicians who are known for championing deeper India-UK strategic and economic ties. In the Boris Johnson Government, she served as the International Trade Secretary and was later promoted to Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs. As the International Trade Secretary, Truss had signed the India-UK Enhanced Trade Partnership (ETP) for the Johnson Government in May 2021.
She had also visited India and held virtual talks with minster Piyush Goyal, during which she described India as a “big, major opportunity”. When asked about trade dynamics, Liz Truss had said that she sees India and the United Kingdom as a “sweet spot”.
As Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, Truss has often held forth on her views about strengthening the UK’s relationship with India. In March 2022, during a visit to India, she had expressed her desired to wrap up a trade deal with India by Diwali. “I want to get this trade deal done, preferably by Diwali, but definitely by the end of the year, and I want to make sure that the trade deal is as deep as possible covering everything from life sciences to technology to agriculture,” she said.
She had also taken a positive attitude about UK’s visa for Indians: “There is no doubt in my mind that many of the best and brightest in the world are in India. I will continue to look at our visa system to make sure it attracts those people.”
Meanwhile, scouring her Twitter feed shows that unlike her Labour counterparts, Truss has never made any antagonistic comments about New Delhi and has been largely pragmatic, focussing mostly about improving relationships. Unlike her predecessor and UK’s self-professed “son-in-law of India” Boris Johnson, Liz Truss’ views on India are largely more sober – literally and figuratively.
There are tweets about laying a wreath at the Taj Mahal Hotel in 2021 and visiting the Red Ford. Most tweets are about strengthening the relationship, especially the trade ties, with India.