Liz Truss’s biggest gaffes and awkward moments

From Brexit U-turns to forgetting where she is, we bring you the moments Britain’s short-lived leader would probably much rather forget

Liam James
Friday 21 October 2022 09:50 BST
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Kay Burley lists Liz Truss' numerous U-turns

Liz Truss has resigned as prime minister just seven weeks after succeeding Boris Johnson.

“I cannot deliver the mandate on which I was elected by the Conservative Party,” she said as she announced her resignation from a lonely lectern outside 10 Downing Street, revealing that she had already spoken to King Charles III and that the Tories would choose her successor within a week.

After spooking the markets and crashing the pound with her disastrous “mini-Budget”, sending the Tory Party plummeting in the polls and losing her chancellor and home secretary within the space of six days, Ms Truss’s 45-day reign will at least be remembered as historic, although perhaps not for the reasons she intended.

But even before her humiliation on the world stage, the woman who was out-lasted in power by a wilting head of lettuce was never too many words away from embarrassing herself, her party or her country, doing so repeatedly while holding a number of high-profile ministerial jobs.

Below, The Independent has rounded up some of the most painful exchanges with Britain’s would-be Iron Lady.

No second referendum

Ms Truss was a Remainer who changed her tune when she came to serve in a government that was resigned to trying anything it could to push Brexit through Parliament.

When that process dragged on for years without progress, calls grew for a second referendum on EU membership. In an interview with LBC’s Eddie Mair, Ms Truss was caught out when trying to dispute the case for another vote.

Mr Mair: “What about people who have changed their minds on Brexit?”

Ms Truss: “I don’t think people have changed their minds.”

Mr Mair: “You have.”

Ms Truss: “I have, that’s true...”

‘This is so awkward’

Ms Truss was asked by children why Mr Johnson had not been “kicked out yet” while she was campaigning for the Tory leadership in Peterborough in July.

In the meeting at local children’s charity Little Miracles, another asked “Where’s Boris Johnson?”, and another butted in saying: “We hate him.”

Drily, Ms Truss replied: “Boris is back at 10 Downing Street.”

With cameras rolling, one teenager exclaimed: “This is so awkward”.

How many houses?

Ms Truss floundered in an interview with Andrew Neil in 2019 when he pressed her on the government’s housebuilding record.

Mr Neil asked the then-trade secretary how many homes the Conservatives had built since their 2015 pledge to build 200,000 starter homes in five years.

She said she did not know the number. Mr Neil said it was easy to remember: Zero.

‘Britain will never recognise Russia’s sovereignty over Russia’

Behind closed doors in Moscow on 10 February 2022 Ms Truss met Sergei Lavrov, her Russian counterpart as foreign secretary, to discuss what subsequently proved to be the build-up to the Ukraine war.

In trying to stand up for Kyiv’s dominion over territories to the east as Russia amassed its forces along the border, Britain’s foremost diplomat made an embarrassing geographical error.

Ms Truss demanded Russia pull its troops back, as western powers then feared Moscow was preparing to enter Ukraine through the country’s eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, which had years before been claimed by Kremlin-backed separatists.

Kommersant, a Russian newspaper, reported that Mr Lavrov was adamant Russia had done nothing to warrant Britain’s concern as its troops were within Russia’s regions of Rostov and Voronezh. He asked her: “You do recognise Russia’s sovereignty over the Rostov and Voronezh regions?"

After a brief pause, Ms Truss replied: “Great Britain will never recognise Russia’s sovereignty over those regions.”

Ms Truss forgot where she was at a recent hustings event

Out west or up north?

Ms Truss tried to play to a crowd in Derbyshire. She was in Gloucestershire.

At Tory leadership hustings on 9 August at Cheltenham racecourse, she told party members: “We need to get on with delivering the small modular nuclear reactors which we produce here in Derbyshire.”

She was answering a question about her plan to help with the cost of living crisis, which involves a turn away from wind and solar energy in favour of nuclear and fossil fuel power.

Pork markets

In her now-notorious 2014 Conservative Party Conference speech, the then-environment, food and rural affairs secretary looked very pleased to tell the crowd: “In December, I’ll be in Beijing opening up new pork markets.”

Ms Truss smiled to the watching Tory members for a few torturous seconds before they realised they were expected to applaud what was being presented as a triumph of Britain and China’s Golden Age.

Grow your own cheese

“When it comes to British food and drink, we have never had it so good,” Ms Truss told the crowd at the 2014 conference.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. She went on: “At the moment we import two-thirds of our apples. We import nine-tenths of all of our pears. We import two-thirds of our cheese.”

After a long pause, she added: “That. Is. A. Disgrace.”

Say, what?

Ms Truss was roundly mocked on social media in June when she pronounced “Taoiseach”, the Irish name for their prime minister, as “tea sock”.

She was discussing Britain’s plan to unilaterally override the Northern Ireland Protocol. Irish taoiseach Michael Martin had called the plan a “new low”.

In responding, Ms Truss said: “I would strongly encourage the Irish ‘tea sock’ to discuss this with the EU.”

‘It’s cheap and you know it’

Liz Truss was caught on a hot mic apologising for attacking the media during the Tory leadership hustings in Darlington.

The leadership contestant accused host Tom Newton Dunn, a former political editor of The Sun, of asking questions in “a left-wing way”.

“The whole media does it all the time, drives me mad,” she said. She later refused to disagree with the crowd when they blamed the media for Mr Johnson’s resignation.

As she left the stage at the end of the hustings, Ms Truss leaned into Mr Newton Dunn and said: “I’m sorry I was mean about the media.”

He could be heard to reply: “It’s cheap and you know it”.

Beware the neighbours

At the penultimate Conservative leadership hustings, Ms Truss said “the jury is still out” on whether French president Emmanuel Macron was a “friend or foe”.

In response, Mr Macron said it was “not good to lose your bearings too much”. He said if he were asked the same he “wouldn’t hesitate for a second. France is a friend of the British people.”

If France and Britain “cannot say whether they are friends or enemies – and that is not a neutral term – then we are headed for serious problems”, he added.

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