Liz Truss' constituency hangs in the balance after voters look to cast ballots on her record as PM

22 June 2024, 22:07 | Updated: 23 June 2024, 15:06

In 2019, Liz Truss was once again elected MP for South West Norfolk - her fourth election win.

The then international trade secretary and later prime minister romped home to victory with nearly 70% of the vote.

Her constituency was one of the safest in the country.

Now, if the polls are to be believed, it is hanging in the balance.

A dramatic reversal of fortune akin to her time in Downing Street.

And it is that brief time as prime minister - the shortest ever premiership - which seems to have played an important part in why even in this most conservative of constituencies Conservatives are considering not voting for her.

Being a senior cabinet minister for such a long period of course means your local constituency can't always be your top priority. Lots of travel, speeches and parliamentary business is part of the job.

But since Liz Truss returned to the backbenches, voters I spoke to feel like nothing has changed.

In this election, she is keeping a low profile - with lots of voters suggesting that when they do see her, it's only briefly.

So, I travelled the length and breadth of South West Norfolk to gauge views on the former prime minister.

"My husband lost 40% of his pension when she did what she did. So he's 67 and still working," one voter said to me.

Another talked about how she couldn't vote for Truss because her daughter's mortgage had risen three times in the past 18 months.

It went on and on. In fact, I was taken aback by the reaction.

There are some who will continue to back her and many who are yet to fully decide who they might back.

But I've spent a lot of my time talking to voters in different parts of the country over the past decade and I can't remember a more visceral reaction to one candidate - and not in a good way.

Time again, there was criticism about how little Truss spends in the constituency and how visible she is during the campaign.

Lots of voters complained of the few chances they had had to interact with her, via brief visits and Facebook posts.

A spokesman for Truss claimed the former prime minister has never attended hustings at any election but she does hold constituency surgeries. However, she doesn't publicly advertise them for security reasons, they added.

Her political opponents are trying to make this election effectively a referendum on Liz Truss.

Labour, who drew little support here five years ago, reckon they are now in with a chance.

Terry Jermy, the party's candidate, said: "At the start of this election campaign I didn't intend to write a victory speech. I'm writing one now."

The Lib Dems also argue Truss' record is coming up on the doorstep. "People are very disappointed with her performance as our constituency MP," says Josie Ratcliffe.

Another candidate, James Bagge, is pitching himself as a true-blue independent Conservative - even if he frankly has a small chance of success.

Truss' campaign didn't take up the offer of an interview, insisting she is not engaging with national media, in a statement to Sky News.

They said she's focusing her time on the campaign trail talking directly to residents and as an experienced, high-profile campaigner who will continue to fight for traditional conservative values and stand up for South West Norfolk.

When you stand in a safe Conservative seat, as a former prime minister, you don't ordinarily need to worry.

But this is no ordinary election and Truss is a very divisive politician.

It means for the first time in generations this part of Norfolk is up for grabs.

The full list of candidates in the South West Norfolk constituency is:

• Earl Elvis of East Anglia - The Official Monster Raving Loony Party
• James Bagge - Independent
• Gary Conway - Heritage Party
• Pallavi Devulapalli - Green Party
• Lorraine Douglas - Communist Party of Great Britain
• Terry Jermy - Labour Party
• Toby McKenzie - Reform UK
• Josie Ratcliffe - Liberal Democrats
• Liz Truss - Conservative and Unionist Party