Liz Truss book: Brexit, fleas and the Queen - 13 bizarre revelations from the ex-PM’s time in No 10

For a prime minister in office for just 49 days, Liz Truss’s new book is jam-packed with jaw-dropping tales from her time in Downing Street.

The ex-Tory leader, who took over from Boris Johnson in the summer of 2022, has offered a look behind the scenes in her memoir Ten Years to Save the West.

From thinking “why me, why now?” after learning the Queen had died to suggesting Boris Johnson’s dog left fleas in No10, The Independent looks at the key revelations from the bombshell book.

She thought ‘why me, why now?’ after Queen’s death

Ms Truss has revealed that she thought “why me, why now?” when she learnt that the Queen had died – just two days after she had been sworn in as prime minister.

Liz Truss thought ‘why me, why now?’ after learning the Queen had died (Getty)
Liz Truss thought ‘why me, why now?’ after learning the Queen had died (Getty)

The ex-PM said she went into “a state of shock” when told of the death of Queen Elizabeth II in 2022.

The memoir, serialised in the Daily Mail, details how the “machine kicked into action” when word reached No10 that the Queen would not be able to join via video link, as had been planned, for the formal swearing in of new ministers.

“My black mourning dress was fetched from my house in Greenwich, south London,” Ms Truss wrote. “Frantic phone calls took place with Buckingham Palace. I started to think about what on earth I was going to say if the unthinkable happened.

“On Thursday, we received the solemn news that the Queen had died peacefully at Balmoral. To be told this on only my second full day as Prime Minister felt utterly unreal. In a state of shock, I found myself thinking, ‘Why me, why now?’”

The Queen told her: “Pace yourself”... And she didn’t listen

Ms Truss also revealed the late Queen told her to “pace yourself” during their first and final meeting as prime minister.

Of her historic meeting at Balmoral in Scotland, which occurred just two days before the monarch’s death, Truss says she and the 96-year-old the Queen “spent around 20 minutes discussing politics”.

“She was completely attuned to everything that was happening, as well as being typically sharp and witty,” she wrote.

“Towards the end of our discussion, she warned me that being prime minister is incredibly aging. She also gave me two words of advice: ‘Pace yourself.’ Maybe I should have listened.”

The last words the Queen said to her: ‘I'll see you again next week’

Ms Truss has revealed the last words the late Queen said to her.

At the end of their Balmoral meeting, the Queen is said to have told the former PM: “I'll see you again next week.” But she passed away two days later, and did not see Ms Truss again.

Ms Truss’s husband predicted premiership ‘would all end in tears’

The former PM’s book details how her husband predicted her premiership “would all end in tears”.

She detailed the moment she learnt that her predecessor, Boris Johnson, was forced to resign.

Ms Truss was in Bali at the time as foreign secretary and said: “As I walked along the beach in Indonesia I started crying.”

Liz Truss said her husband thought her premiership would ‘all end in tears’ (Getty Images)
Liz Truss said her husband thought her premiership would ‘all end in tears’ (Getty Images)

“Even Hugh [her husband], 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 wrote.

She tried to cancel Cop26 climate conference

Liz Truss has admitted she tried to scrap the Cop26 climate conference, hosted in Glasgow in 2021.

The former PM was chief secretary to the Treasury at the time and, in her memoir, says she “strongly questioned” whether the “jamboree” should be a priority for the government - pointing to the £200m+ price tag.

Ms Truss’s predecessor and then boss Boris Johnson said Cop26 was a summit that “proved the doubters wrong”, hailing it as a success that drew 120 heads of state to Britain and saw the world “unite in calling time on coal”.

Ms Truss wrote in her book that she was in “a minority of one” in questioning the conference, which she described as “environmental virtue signalling”.

She added that, after trying to ditch Cop26, then environment secretary Michael Gove described her as “the Grinch who wants to stop Christmas”.

Accuses Joe Biden of ‘utter hypocrisy and ignorance’

Ms Truss took aim at her US counterpart, claiming Joe Biden’s criticism of her tax-cutting mini budget was “utter hypocrisy and ignorance”.

The ex-PM lashed out at Mr Biden for joining a “pile-on” against her plans.

She had wanted to scrap the 45p rate of income tax for top earners, and Mr Biden said he “disagreed with the policy”.

“This was utter hypocrisy and ignorance,” Ms Truss wrote. She added: “The top rate of income tax in the U.S. was 37 per cent and only charged to people earning the equivalent of £483,094 and above. By contrast, the top rate in the UK was 45 per cent and paid by those on more than £150,000.”

Downing Street was ‘infested with fleas’

Ms Truss suggested Boris Johnson’s dog Dilyn left fleas in No 10 in extraordinary extracts from her new book.

She claims to have spent several of her six weeks as prime minister “itching” because Downing Street was “infested” with the pests.

Mr Johnson and dog Dilyn, who Liz Truss suggested left fleas in Downing Street (Getty Images)
Mr Johnson and dog Dilyn, who Liz Truss suggested left fleas in Downing Street (Getty Images)

“The place was infested with fleas,” she wrote. “Some claimed that this was down to Boris and Carrie’s dog Dilyn, but there was no conclusive evidence. In any case, the entire place had to be sprayed with flea killer. I spent several weeks itching.”

And in a sign of the brevity of her term, Ms Truss says she ordered furniture for Downing Street but was forced to resign before it arrived.

Press conference after mini-budget was like ‘officiating at my own funeral’

Ms Truss said a press conference in the dying days of her administration felt like “officiating at my own funeral”.

She described her chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng rejecting calls to stay in the UK while markets were going into meltdown, instead heading off to an IMF conference in Wasington, DC.

After sacking Mr Kwarteng, she described facing “the media frenzy alone” at a press conference to reverse the corporation tax cut and explain how his replacement Jeremy Hunt would restore confidence in markets.

“It was a pretty ghastly experience, which felt a lot like officiating at my own funeral,” she wrote.

She wanted to sack the governor of the Bank of England

Ms Truss has also revealed she wanted to sack the governor of the Bank of England, Andrew Bailey, during her time as PM.

And her disastrous economic policy – which led to her being ousted from office – could have been even more extreme because she wanted to “appoint new senior leaders” in the UK’s central bank.

She admitted the move would have “amounted to a declaration of war on the economic establishment”.

In the end, she decided to “try to work constructively with the governor” of the bank.

Liz Truss was ‘too busy’ to back Brexit

Liz Truss has said she was “too busy” to back Brexit during the 2016 referendum campaign.

The ex-PM, who campaigned for Remain in the run-up to the Brexit vote, said she may have backed Vote Leave if she had “time for more existential thinking”.

Ms Truss said wanting to leave the EU was “considered quite a far out, fringe position”.

But she added: “Had I spend more of my time thinking about it during those years, I might have come to share that view… but I had been busy as a minister, knee-deep in floods and other distractions”.

She also said she was reluctant to back the Leave campaign because she “did not think it could win” and out of loyalty to David Cameron and George Osborne who had “put me where I was”.

She bemoans having to sort out her own hair and makeup

In one extract from the book, Ms Truss complained about having to sort out her own hair and makeup despite being prime minister.

She said: “Despite now being one of the most photographed people in the country, I had to organise my own hair and makeup appointments.”

And she describes feeling like a prisoner in No 10, even struggling to get medicine for a cough.

“On one occasion when I had a cough, my diary secretary had to go out in the middle of the night to buy me some medicine. This clearly wasn’t her job, but there was no one else to ask,” Ms Truss wrote.

Ms Truss mixed up Emmanuel Macron and Joe Biden’s partners

The former PM said she mixed up US first lady Jill Biden and Emmanuel Macron’s wife, Brigitte.

Writing about an event at the Ukrainian Institute of America, Ms Truss said: “Across the room I saw a blonde lady I recognised. I called out ‘Hi, Dr Biden!’ to the woman I believed was the US First Lady.

“As she got closer, I realised it wasn’t her at all, but French President Macron’s wife, Brigitte. I hope she didn’t hear.”

Liz Truss called for National Insurance to be scrapped - in 1997

Liz Truss has revealed that she called for National Insurance (NI) to be scrapped in 1997, a pledge which Rishi Sunak has adopted in recent weeks.

As senior Labour figures including Wes Streeting warn that a vote for Rishi Sunak is a vote for Ms Truss, the ex-PM’s book reveal that she called to abolish the tax at Tory conference in front of Margaret Thatcher 27 years ago.

“It was a fake tax, claiming to be an ‘insurance’ against unemployment and sickness. In fact, it was just another way of fleecing the British public,” she said.

Mr Sunak said last month it is his “long term ambition” to scrap the levy, describing it as a form of “double taxation”.

Shadow paymaster general Jonathan Ashworth said Mr Sunak was “drawing from the Liz Truss playbook” and risked “making the same mistakes” as the ex-PM, who sent mortgage rates soaring.

Partygate investigator Sue Gray gave Liz Truss a hug

Sue Gray hugged Liz Truss after the ex-PM was demoted from justice secretary to chief Treasury secretary by Theresa May, the memoir reveals.

Ms Truss has described being taken by Ms May into the Margaret Thatcher study and told that she was being demoted to the more junior post outside the cabinet.

The then deputy cabinet secretary Ms Gray was on hand for consolation, however.

Ms Truss wrote: “Before I left Downing Street, I had to see the Cabinet Office official responsible for the mechanics of ministerial appointments, Sue Gray.

“To my surprise, she took it upon herself to commiserate with me by giving me a hug, before telling me that as a result of my demotion, my salary was being cut.

“I didn’t welcome her unsolicited embrace – I am not a hugger – but given how delicate I was feeling, she got off lightly.”

Ms Gray went on to author the daming Partygate report into Boris Johnson’s No10 during lockdown and now works as Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s chief of staff.