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Liz Truss book says husband predicted premiership ‘would all end in tears’

Liz Truss ran for Conservative leader and prime minister despite her husband’s prediction that “it would all end in tears”, according to her book, Ten Years to Save the West, which will be published in the UK and US next week.

She agreed with an ally that the mini-budget she planned to introduce once elected would prompt “brutal turbulence”, then resigned after just 49 days in power, seeing herself as “the Brian Clough of prime ministers”. The Guardian has obtained a copy of the book.

Truss became prime minister on 6 September 2022 after Boris Johnson was forced to resign. In her book, she describes learning of Johnson’s exit while in Bali as foreign secretary.

“As I walked along the beach in Indonesia I started crying,” Truss writes, in one of a number of frank admissions of human frailties under pressure, including descriptions of struggling to cope after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, just two days after their meeting confirmed Truss as prime minister.

The possibility of further tears was raised, she writes, when she asked her husband, Hugh O’Leary, if he thought she should run.

“Even Hugh, who predicted it would all end in tears, accepted that this was the moment I was expected to run and that if I didn’t, people would say I had bottled it,” Truss writes.

She says her political agent in her Norfolk constituency said “I should run – but he thought it would be best if I came second”.

In the event, Truss did finish second in voting by Conservative MPs, behind Rishi Sunak. But Truss’s popularity with Conservative party members, the decisive electorate, was enough to see her become prime minister.

In partnership with her chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, a long-term ally, Truss sought to implement drastic economic action that she thought – and still thinks, according to her book – was needed to save the UK economy.

Though she divined “an environment deeply hostile to the economic policies we were advancing: tax cuts, supply-side reform and public spending restraint”, and indeed thought her government not “ready for this level of [media] onslaught”, Truss ploughed on with plans for a mini-budget.

Describing a “walk through the woods at Chevening”, the foreign secretary’s country residence, she says Simon Clarke, then chief secretary to the Treasury and another close ally, “with typical understatement suggested we were in for a ‘bracing time’”.

“I … said it would be a brutal six months of turbulence and we would have to batten down the hatches,” Truss writes.

In the event, the mini-budget produced a full-blown hurricane: a pensions crisis that Truss now insists she did not see coming amid predictions of economic disaster. Kwarteng was replaced by Jeremy Hunt but Truss had lost control. On 20 October she resigned.

Analysing her failed premiership, Truss admits faults but also apportions blame, particularly to what she calls the “administrative”, “leftist” or “deep” state: bureaucrats and officials, particularly at the Treasury and the Bank of England.

She also delivers a remarkable allusion to another polarising figure: the former Leeds United and Nottingham Forest manager Brian Clough.

Noting that the first leadership hustings against Sunak was held at Elland Road, home of Leeds United, in the city where she grew up, Truss writes: “In my speech there, I made reference to Don Revie, the legendary manager of the 1970s Leeds team that had won the league who then went on to manage England.”

Clough, Truss writes, “took over from Revie at the club in 1974. As dramatised in the film The Damned United, Clough tried to shake up the team and get them to play better … the players rebelled and Clough was sacked after just 44 days.

“In the final days of my premiership, I had said to my private secretary, Nick Catsaras: ‘If the Conservative party bin me after six weeks and I’m the Brian Clough of prime ministers, then so be it.’ I lasted 49 days.”

Truss is not the first writer to compare herself to Clough at Leeds. Writing in the Guardian last month, the Cambridge politics professor David Runciman considered Truss’s “brief and calamitous premiership”, the shortest in UK history, and her attempts to remain on the global stage, of which the book is a key part.

“Stepping back from the fray is not the Liz Truss way,” Runciman wrote. “Instead, she seems to be modelling herself on another public figure who crashed and burned shortly after reaching the pinnacle of his profession.”

Clough’s “precipitate failure was a humiliation for such a strident and self-confident man”, Runciman wrote. “What saved him was that it was over so quickly. He was able to say … that he hadn’t been given enough time to tackle the deep-seated problems he had inherited. That the people who fired him were cowards, and he was the victim of vested interests who never wanted him to succeed in the first place. Being kicked out after barely a month was evidence that he never stood a chance.”

Clough took Nottingham Forest to the English league title and two European Cups. Like Clough, Runciman wrote, Truss now “appears to believe that lasting little more than a month in a job she had aspired to all her adult life is evidence not of her profound incompetence but of her virtue”.

Rather than manage Nottingham Forest, Truss formed Popular Conservatism, a group to promote libertarian rightwing policies.

On the page, Truss repeatedly says Ten Years to Save the West is less a memoir than a prescription for her global political vision. Accordingly, the book is being heavily promoted in the US. Next Monday, Truss will appear at the Heritage Foundation, a hard-right Washington thinktank behind Project 2025, a vast plan to institute radical and discriminatory policies should Donald Trump be re-elected.

Attenders at Heritage HQ, on Massachusetts Avenue, are promised a conversation between Truss and Nile Gardiner, director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, about “fighting the global left”. A light lunch will be available afterwards.