The first Greenwich councillor to become a cabinet minister rose to the highest job in the land today – and has been invited back to Woolwich Town Hall to talk about the cost of living crisis by the council’s new leader.
Liz Truss, who represented Eltham South between 2006 and 2010, beat Rishi Sunak to become Conservative leader, winning 57 per cent of party members’ votes. She will take over from Boris Johnson as prime minister tomorrow.
Despite quitting the borough’s politics to become MP for South West Norfolk, Truss has kept her home in west Greenwich – with fellow right-wingers Kwasi Kwarteng and Lord Frost joining her close by.
Greenwich Council leader Anthony Okereke said the new Tory leader would be welcome back at the town hall to discuss the cost of living crisis.
He told 853: “Liz Truss’s first priority is simple. Fix the mess the government has caused.
“In Greenwich we are seeing the devastating impact of the cost of living crisis. Nearly 1,000 residents have told us how the crisis is affecting them via our live survey: 41 per cent are already cutting back on their energy costs, nearly 50 per cent are cutting back on food and grocery shopping, with 26 per cent admitting they had skipped meals last month.”
Okereke said the discount on fuel bills needed to he at least doubled and brought forward. He added: “We need universal free school meals across the country, an immediate freeze on the energy cap this winter and a windfall tax on major corporations.
“This is not a catastrophe which can be solved by tax cuts for big businesses or a review of speed limits. We need a government which puts people before profit and communities before corporations.
“If Liz Truss wants to discuss what improvements can be made, she can jump on the 53 bus to Woolwich Town Hall – we’re always open to hearing residents’ opinions.”
After being involved with the Liberal Democrats as a student, Truss joined the Conservatives in 1996. She stood for the Tories in the old Vanbrugh ward in 1998, and in its successor ward Blackheath Westcombe four years later.
She had to head south for success, but only scraped home in Eltham South in 2006 – ousting Mark Pattenden, a Liberal Democrat councillor, by 57 votes. Before being elected in South West Norfolk, she also stood for the Tories in two West Yorkshire constituencies, Hemsworth and Calder Valley. Truss joined the cabinet as environment secretary in 2014.
Greenwich Conservative leader Matt Hartley said: “We are thrilled that one of our former councillors, and a long-standing friend to Greenwich Conservatives, has made it all the way to Number 10.
“Liz Truss cut her political teeth taking on Labour in Yorkshire and here in Greenwich, and ever since she has always gone above and beyond the call of duty to support our campaigning locally.
“We surveyed our local party members in the borough and there was no surprise that she was streets ahead in the leadership contest here.”
“Liz is someone who cares deeply about what she believes in, takes the time to listen to people and is great on the doorstep. The quality that marks her out during her political rise is that she has always stayed so down-to-earth. She has a lot of warmth, and people like her.
“Anyone in the Labour Party who is currently underestimating Liz Truss is in for a very big shock at the general election.”
Asked what her first priority should be, Hartley said: “There’s obviously an urgent need to do more to help households through the escalating cost of living crisis. I voted for Liz because I know her first priority will be getting money into people’s pockets – both by cutting taxes and helping those on the lowest incomes.”
Truss will be the first prime minister since John Major – a former Lambeth councillor – to have served in local government.
Alex Grant, a former Labour councillor, wrote in a blog post in July that the prime minister-designate was “largely invisible” in the two elections they both fought.
“I have no memory of any maiden speech, any hard-fought campaigns to expose Labour incompetence, or for that matter any gaffes or scandals,” he wrote. “Some Labour councillors felt that Truss was entitled and petulant, but I always found her friendly and polite.”
He added: “It was hard to dislike Truss. But it was equally hard to see her as a future MP, let alone as a credible minister or prime minister. She always seemed to be a bit bored in Greenwich, impatient to become a Tory MP for a safe seat in Middle England, and keen to put the fruitless work of being a Tory councillor in a safely Labour London borough behind her.”
Grant later told The Observer: “If you’d said to anyone in Greenwich in 1998 or 2002 that Liz Truss was going to become the Conservative party leader in 2022 and automatically become prime minister we’d have all fallen off our chairs with laughter.”
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