What does Liz Truss’s book tell us about her American ambitions? | Liz Truss

In her new book, the former British prime minister Liz Truss directs scathing attacks and mockery at Joe Biden, president of her country’s closest ally. Biden was guilty of “utter hypocrisy and ignorance”, Truss writes, when the US leader said he “disagree[d] with the policy” of “cutting taxes on the super wealthy” in the mini-budget Truss introduced in September 2022, shortly after taking power.

“I was shocked and astounded that Biden would breach protocol by commenting on UK domestic policy,” Truss adds. “We had been the United States’ staunchest allies through thick and thin.”

Such harsh words between British and American leaders, in or out of office, would normally seem unusual. But Truss has scores to settle. By the time Biden spoke, in an ice-cream parlor in Portland, Oregon, Truss’s mini-budget had already caused panic over British pension funds, threatened to crash the UK economy and been withdrawn – a humiliating reversal for any prime minister, let alone one little more than a month into the job. Six days later, Truss was forced to resign.

A year and a half later, offering the public her version of what went so terribly wrong, Truss still manages to thunder: “What the Biden administration, and the [European Union], and their international allies didn’t want was a country demonstrating that things can be done differently, undercutting them in the process.”

Perhaps. Either way, Biden is still president while Truss is now a mere backbench MP for a constituency in rural Norfolk. But the release of her book, Ten Years to Save the West, alongside her founding of Popular Conservatism, a new pressure group, says a lot about where she sees her future.

Far from taking her allowance and pursuing traditional, relatively sedate pursuits – lobbying, say, or trying to achieve peace in the Middle East – Truss wants to remain relevant on the global populist right, particularly in the US.

Truss’s book is published in the US and UK on Tuesday. The American jacket carries praise from two hard-right senators, Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah, both vocal enemies of Biden. It also carries a different subtitle from the British edition. In the UK, Truss is said to offer “Lessons from the Only Conservative in the Room”. In the US, she is “Leading the Revolution Against Globalism, Socialism, and the Liberal Establishment”.

It’s a lot to pack in between the school run – Truss has two daughters – and her duties as a Norfolk MP. But it all points to a clear ambition to carve out a presence in rightwing US media, long on plain display.

In February, Truss attended the CPAC conference in Maryland, giving an address to an audience of what Politico called “bewildered conservatives” before appearing with Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s former campaign chair and White House adviser, a leading far-right voice who pitched Truss into controversy with remarks about the jailed far-right figure Tommy Robinson.

Liz Truss meets Joe Biden at the UN, in September 2022. Photograph: Reuters

Truss will soon be back, visiting Washington to promote her book at the Heritage Foundation, the thinktank behind Project 2025, a vast and controversial plan for a second Trump administration.

Truss’s relationship with Heritage is well established. She spoke there in 2015, as trade secretary and over the objections of the British ambassador, and accepted an award named after Margaret Thatcher there last year. Kevin Roberts, president of Heritage, also blurbs the US edition of Truss’s book.

The foundation is a couple of miles from the White House, but Truss is hardly likely to seek contact with Biden or his administration. That may be just as well. Elsewhere in her book, she describes meeting the president at the White House in September 2021, when she was foreign secretary under Boris Johnson.

“Our Oval Office meeting lasted around an hour and a half,” Truss writes, adding that this was not a sign of favor.

“The truth was it owed more to Biden’s penchant for telling extended anecdotes in response to any issue that came up. ‘Ah, that reminds me …’ he would say, as his officials looked at each other with knowing smiles. Ten minutes later, the story would end and he would move on to something else.”

Biden’s age, 81, and mental capacity to be president are the source of constant media speculation and political attack – and strong White House pushback. But Truss has more to say. At the Cop 26 climate conference in Glasgow, later in 2021, she “bumped into Joe Biden again. He remembered our meeting at the White House, telling me he’d never forget ‘those blue eyes’, even though we’d both been wearing Covid masks.”

It is not clear if the reader should think Biden or Truss was under the impression mouth coverings also obscure the eyes.

Truss is still not done. She includes the president with the former House speaker Nancy Pelosi among US politicians deemed “unhelpful” over Northern Ireland issues, their interventions “generally on one side of the argument, doubtless egged on by the Irish embassy in Washington”.

She also describes how in September 2022, as prime minister, she attended the UN general assembly in New York. There, she says, “Biden regaled me with tales of the Democrat campaign trail, including an incident in which he had fallen over. He said, ‘I can see them thinking, ‘You can’t get up, grandpa’, but I got up.’

“I formed the view that he was running again in 2024,” Truss writes, before risking a self-own by writing about a faux pas at the same event, when she called out “Hi, Dr Biden!” to “a blonde lady” who turned out to be Brigitte Macron, the wife of the president of France.

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“I hope she didn’t hear!” Truss writes.

The vignette about Biden at the UN is not the only one in Ten Years to Save the West in which Truss uses “Democrat” to refer to the Democratic party. It is a telling choice. Republicans have long used the incorrect term as a term of political abuse. Nor is it the only instance in which Truss – or her US editors – must adapt or explain her language.

When writing about UK politics, as in most of the book, Truss must often offer translations or explanations for US readers. For one small but telling example, in referring to her distaste for National Insurance – a payroll tax that supports state pensions and unemployment and incapacity benefits – she calls it “a social security entitlement”. On the US right, “entitlement” is almost as dirty a word as “Democrat”.

At least until the eve of publication day, Truss had shied from saying Donald Trump’s name but said she wanted a Republican in the White House in 2025. She says so in her book but abandons any pretense of subtlety when it comes to praising Trump, now the presumptive GOP nominee despite facing 88 criminal charges and multimillion-dollar penalties for tax fraud and defamation, the latter arising from a rape allegation a judge called “substantially true”.

Calling herself “an early fan of the TV show The Apprentice” who “enjoyed the Donald’s catchphrases and sassy business advice”, Truss says that when Trump entered politics in 2015, colleagues in parliament and “elderly ladies” in Swaffham, a town in her constituency, were united in “seem[ing] genuinely animated by the disruptive Republican candidate”. She makes a common link between support for Trump and support for Brexit – which she campaigned against before becoming its hardline champion on her way to leading her country.

Liz Truss, second left, looks on as Boris Johnson meets Donald Trump in New York in 2019. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

When Trump was president, Truss writes, she “chased” Boris Johnson “down a fire escape” in New York, to demand inclusion in a meeting between the British and American leaders. According to Truss, who was then trade secretary, that meeting saw Trump urge her and his own trade representative, Bob Lighthizer, to get on with talks for a UK-US trade deal – only for Johnson to try to make Trump focus on restoring the Iran nuclear agreement, a tactic that did not work.

Truss never got her trade deal. In part, she blames “many in Number 10” Downing Street who “seemed to want to hold Trump at arm’s length for political reasons”.

“The UK media provided universally negative coverage of Trump, and leftists in the Conservative party were keen to insult him at every opportunity,” Truss writes. “My view was that he was the leader of the free world and an important ally.”

That view stands in stark comparison to her abuse of Biden, who beat Trump conclusively in an election Trump still refuses to concede. Furthermore, when it comes to the deadly fruits of that refusal – the attack on Congress Trump incited – Truss keeps her observations to a single paragraph.

On 6 January 2021, Truss writes, she was “on a phone call with Bob Lighthizer”, “working on” removing a US tariff on Scottish whisky. From the Executive Office building, next to the White House, Lighthizer “remarked … in passing that the street was full of people with huge American flags walking towards Congress. Little did I realise how seismic that event would turn out to be.”

Truss eventually saw the whisky tariff removed – in summer 2021, after “talks with the new Democrat administration”.

“But with Joe Biden as president,” Truss writes, “it was made quite clear that a trade deal with the United Kingdom was no longer a priority. We had missed the boat.”

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