Liz Truss: Environment secretary, but not necessarily an environmentalist
15 July 2014 12:00 AM

Liz Truss: A not-very-green environment secretary

15 July 2014

Liz Truss, the woman now charged with watching out for Britain's environment, used to spend her days working for Shell – and has been a vocal supporter of a third runway at Heathrow.

So why has David Cameron made her the next environment secretary? It's the latest move in an extraordinary career where the backing of the PM has proved critical more than once.

Truss, almost unbelievably, used to be a lefty. "My mum was a member of the CND and I have memories of going on marches with her when I was a child, so I suppose I had an awareness of and an interest in politics from quite an early age," she told Politics.co.uk soon after arriving in parliament in 2010. The exposure to the left-wing academic circles frequented by her parents in the 1980s didn't sink in, though. Instead Truss found herself attracted to the Liberal Democrats, a party she ended up joining at the age of 17. At Oxford she was the Lib Dem president.

"When I left university," she told the New Statesman in 2012, "I got a job with Shell on their graduate scheme." She explained that her job involved managing the shipping of liquid natural gas around the world, as well as "project economics and contract negotiation". To suggest, at that stage, that she would one day be the Cabinet minister tasked with looking after Britain's countryside would have been incredible. But that was a while ago, and Truss' political transition was far from complete.

She had already realised at university that her true allegiance was with the Conservatives. And so the next decade was spent working her way up to become an MP. It didn't work out in 2001 or 2005. But 2010 looked a more likely prospect, as she took on the challenge of the eminently winnable Norfolk South West.

The Tories were doing everything to push her. She was a councillor in Greenwich at the time, but having made it on to the A-list was a prime candidate. Unfortunately, the local Conservatives weren't keen on having their candidate imposed on them by Eric Pickles, the then-party chairman. When a local paper broke the story about her affair with Mark Field, the MP for Westminster, they responded by attempting to deselect her. They failed, after Cameron intervened to publicly support her. "There's an element of hurtfulness but I accept… when you put yourself in the spotlight you put yourself in a certain degree of scrutiny,"

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