Inside Liz Truss' Relationship With Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson and Liz Truss have both had a rocky time in the world of British politics. By the end of her brief stint as prime minister, Truss became the least popular leader in U.K. history, with an approval rating of minus 70%, beating the terrible scores that Johnson achieved during the height of his scandalous leadership.

The pair have more in common than just their disastrous track record with the British public, however: Both Conservative politicians have also overcome cheating scandals. Johnson is particularly infamous for having various mistresses, especially after he tried to hide the existence of two children that he fathered outside of his marriage. He also has a history of getting involved with his employees, including an affair with columnist Petronella Wyatt that led to Johnson being fired from his first major political position for publicly lying.

Truss also made headlines with her infidelity after the Daily Mail reported in 2006 that the young aspiring politician had an 18-month affair with a married Tory MP named Mark Field. Shadow Minister for London at the time, Field had been assigned to Truss as a political mentor. "It seems Mark took his mentoring duties more seriously than intended," an inside source told the papers. Although Field got a divorce, Truss stayed married to her husband Hugh O'Leary.

What's the relationship like between these British politicians who have navigated the political landscape as rivals and allies?

They both wanted to be leader in 2019

After Theresa May's Brexit negotiations fell apart and she was forced to resign in 2019, the Conservative party had to find another prime minister. One of the first senior ministers to put themselves forward was the man who had pushed for Brexit in the first place: Boris Johnson, who spoke at a Switzerland economic conference on the same day that May quit and promised the room that "[Britain] will leave the EU on October 31, deal or no deal."

Truss launched her own campaign and criticizing other candidates like Johnson for not being bold enough on economic matters, adding: "Whatever you say about Donald Trump, he's got a deregulatory agenda, a tax-cutting agenda, and the American economy is growing by three percent." But the controversial American president actually ended up giving his support to Johnson, an endorsement that many saw as fitting due to both men's distinctive hair and well-publicized antipathy towards the truth. "I think Boris would do a very good job. I think he would be excellent," Trump told the press, per The Guardian.

Liz Truss endorsed Boris Johnson after dropping out of the race

Liz Truss officially abandoned her campaign to be the next prime minister in 2019, telling the Sunday Telegraph that her previous opposition to Brexit made her unsuitable as a candidate. "We're now in a critical situation," the politician stated, adding that the next prime minister should make Brexit happen soon. "There's been a short time frame set for the contest and I don't want to be part of prolonging that process."

Describing Johnson as a "British freedom fighter," Truss announced that she was joining his team as a policy expert. "Boris Johnson is the person with the credibility and oomph to lead at this crucial time and bring Britain with us," she declared, per the Daily Mail. Truss added that "[Johnson] has massive appeal to people in Britain who ask nothing more than for the opportunity to lead a better life," claiming that he was the man to lead the U.K. out of the European Union.

She also defended his previous scandals and reputation as "the worst foreign secretary in living memory," telling BBC Radio 4 that his affairs were irrelevant and the unjust imprisonment of British author Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in Iran was not his fault. "He has got nothing to hide," Truss insisted, per the Evening Standard, adding: "I think it's a sign — that he is being attacked shows the huge public appeal he has." And when Johnson won, he rewarded that loyalty by promoting her to the cabinet.

She criticized his Brexit plan in a leaked letter

As trade secretary, Liz Truss was caught criticizing Borsi Johnson's plans in a letter to fellow senior Conservative politicians Rishi Sunak and Michael Gove.

The letter, which was published by Business Insider, showed Truss sharing her worries about whether Brexit could be implemented without the U.K.'s border descending into chaos. "We need to ensure that the U.K. border is effective and compliant with international rules," the politician wrote, explaining that Johnson's plans might be considered illegal by the World Trade Organisation and ruin the U.K.'s global reputation. She also expressed concern over the risky Northern Ireland situation, adding that her department desperately needed a "clear view of operational plans, timescales, and risks going forward" so that they could avoid mayhem. "I would like assurances that we are able to deliver full control at these ports by July 2021," Truss insisted.

"We do not comment on leaks," a spokesperson for the government told Business Insider after the letter was published, although Dominic Cummings, Johnson's right-hand man and chief advisor at the time, reportedly summoned Truss for a serious dressing down. Their opposition party, Labour, was quick to use the leaked correspondence as evidence that the Conservative party was floundering. "This email confirms fears that several ministers have been making things up as they go," stated shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, declaring that the Tories had "a lack of awareness of the real world consequences of border policies they've had four years to develop."

Johnson distanced himself from Truss' Ukraine comments

Liz Truss got herself in trouble again in 2022 after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, when her statements as foreign secretary possibly prompted a nuclear alert. A spokesperson for the Kremlin insisted that suggestions about using NATO against Russia had caused Putin to prepare his nuclear forces, as the BBC reported. "We believe that such statements are absolutely unacceptable," he insisted. "I would not call the authors of these statements by name, although it was the British foreign minister."

Truss also made waves by saying that she completely supported people from the U.K. traveling to Ukraine to help their resistance movement fight Russia, which Boris Johnson's office later contradicted. "That is something people can make their own decisions about," the minister declared in a BBC interview, per The Guardian. "The people of Ukraine are fighting for freedom and democracy, not just for Ukraine, but for the whole of Europe." This inflammatory statement undermined her own department's official website, which advised against British volunteer fighters.

"We think the best way to help Ukraine would be to ensure Putin fails," a representative of Johnson told The Guardian, refusing to support Truss and her speech. "We fully recognize the strength of feeling about British people wanting to support the Ukrainians following the Russian invasion." The spokesperson added that while there were different ways for British citizens to help the cause, they strongly discouraged anyone from actually traveling to Ukraine.

Liz Truss replaced Boris Johnson after scandals

As the prime minister who was in charge of the U.K. during the COVID-19 pandemic, Boris Johnson faced a series of scandals, including fraud, lies, and the so-called Partygate, when the public found out that top Conservatives had been throwing illegal parties while thousands died from the virus. In his last speech to parliament, Johnson bid the nation a cheery "hasta la vista, baby," as if promising that he would be back.

The following leadership race saw Liz Truss beat opponents like Rishi Sunak to become Johnson's replacement, but the politician defended her predecessor in interviews. "I wanted Boris to carry on as prime minister," she told BBC Radio 4′s Today program, per the Huffington Post. "I think he did a fantastic job with the 2019 election, winning us a massive majority." Truss insisted that "the positive side of the balance sheet was extremely positive," despite Johnson's many blunders.

"I will be offering this government nothing but the most fervent support," Johnson told reporters in his final moments at Downing Street. "I say to my fellow Conservatives: It's time for politics to be over, folks. It's time for us all to get behind Liz Truss and her team and her program and deliver for the people of this country."

Many people thought he could replace her

After crashing the pound with a disastrous mini-budget and being abandoned by her allies, Liz Truss was forced to resign on October 20, 2022, making her 45-day leadership the shortest in U.K. history. "I recognize that, given the situation, I cannot deliver the mandate on which I was elected by the Conservative party," the prime minister told reporters.

Since her final days were so chaotic, some were already calling for Boris Johnson to come back, only six weeks after he was given the boot. As The Guardian reported, he needed at least 100 MPs to put his name forward before the leadership contest. Loyal ministers like Nadine Dorries and Jacob Rees-Mogg declared their support for the former leader, and, according to his father's interview with Good Morning Britain, Johnson started heading back from his Caribbean vacation to the U.K. shortly after Truss quit. Other politicians disagreed with the idea, however, pointing out how Johnson's reputation had plummeted. "I don't think we can go back there," Crispin Blunt told Sky News

Johnson ultimately ruled out his return, claiming, "I have cleared the very high hurdle of 102 nominations" and saying he was well placed to deliver a Conservative victory in 2024, but declaring that he didn't believe that he could effectively unite the party. He admitted that he had tried to negotiate with frontrunners Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt, but hadn't managed to reach an alliance.