Truss fails her first big test

16 November 2021

10:40 PM

16 November 2021

10:40 PM

Can anything stop the irresistible rise of Liz Truss? The power-dressing insta lover reinvented herself at International Trade, becoming the darling of the Tory faithful and rising to the top of the ConservativeHome ministerial rankings, where she sits 15 points ahead of her nearest rival. Having served at the top table of Tory politics since 2014, the longest serving Cabinet minister was finally given a Great Office of State eight weeks ago when Boris Johnson entrusted her with the Foreign Office.

Since taking up the role, Truss and her allies have been keen to project a more Sinosceptic image than her defenestrated predecessor Dominic Raab. Just this weekend, the Mail on Sunday carried a prominent story headed ‘Our woman in Beijing “lobbying Cabinet ministers for appeasement with China”‘ citing sources who accused Dame Caroline Wilson, the British ambassador to China, of sending letters to ministers at the National Security Council that ‘effectively argue for the appeasement of China’. Such a move apparently ‘risks putting Dame Caroline at odds’ with Truss, ‘one of the most hawkish members of the Cabinet on China.’

It comes a fortnight after another story in the Times which recounted a meeting in October 2020 between Truss, then International Trade Secretary, and Wilson, shortly after her appointment to the Beijing post.  The paper quotes an ‘ally of Truss’ as saying ‘Wilson ended their discussion by asking why the UK couldn’t treat China “like we treat the French.”‘ According to the source, ‘Truss said: Because the French aren’t committing genocide.”‘ Punchy stuff.

So Mr S was curious to discover whether Truss would back up her (alleged) private views with public action when it came to calling out Beijing’s abuses in Xinjiang. Alas, like so many ministers before her, Truss appears to have gone native. For the government’s response to the Foreign Affairs Committee report on Xinjiang camps, released last week, appears to be the usual concoction of cynicism and defeatism. Ministers refused to back Parliament’s call to declare China’s actions there a genocide, declined to create a mechanism to collect evidence on crimes currently being committed and rejected calls for a special session of the UN General Assembly.

Proposals for improved atrocity prevention guidance, training and designated departmental leads were rejected; a  Human Rights Council Commission of Inquiry will not be established. Such a response allows the Foreign Office to continue to hide behind the international courts, despite knowing that nothing will be done, with mandarins able to free to their finely worded statements while doing little to actually hold China to account.

Still, Mr S looks forward to reading the Foreign Secretary’s next sassy rejoinder in another Fleet Street newspaper.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Show comments