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Liz Truss in office: Welcome to the Glass Cliff

Written By Aké Kibona

After two months of interviews and campaigning, Mary Elizabeth ‘Lizz’ Truss has been voted in as the new leader of the conservative party. Since Boris Johnson announced his resignation in July of this year, Truss will become the new prime minister of the United Kingdom. It’s been a long process. With the race initially starting with eight candidates, Truss made it to the final two alongside Rishi Sunak and eventually beat him in the final vote, which took place today.

Lizz Truss has been a member of parliament since 2010, representing her constituency in southwest Norfolk. Over the past decade, she’s held posts as Secretary of state for Justice, environment food and rural affairs, and international trade. She’s also been the minister for women and equality since 2019. However, what does she actually have in store for the nation during her time as PM? Her campaign heavily suggests that she’ll implement new tax cuts – mostly with corporation tax – which could be up to £30 billion. She also previously stated that she doesn’t believe in giving financial handouts even though the country is dealing with record high inflation and a cost-of-living crisis that most suffer from. People within the party, including former PM Johnson, state that Truss is an extremist in everything she does and right-wing economic theory will be guiding her during her term as PM.

We can’t be sure whether her plans will help our economy or worsen; however, there is one thing we are confident of – Lizz Truss has been given an arduous task to complete. With free trade negotiations ongoing, the aftermath of a pandemic, a failing economy, and the party under scrutiny, it seems Lizz Truss might be the next victim of the glass cliff effect.

The glass cliff is the term used when people of underrepresented groups are put in leadership positions that are risky and precarious. When appointed, the risk of failure is much higher than before. Most of the time, this sets a precedent for what happens when underrepresented groups are in charge. It helps perpetuate the idea that white men are the best leaders for nations, countries, and communities.

If you don’t believe this is the case, just take a look back to 2016 when Theresa May was appointed as Prime Minister. At that time, we’d just voted for Brexit, David Cameron had resigned, and the country was in unstable conditions. They appointed May, the 1st female prime minister after Thatcher, in this position. The conditions she was placed under were ones where the risk of failure was much higher than normal circumstances. In 2019, Theresa May resigned after being unable to fix Brexit's mess.

If we look outside of politics, we can still see victims of the glass cliff effect. Carol Bartz was appointed CEO of Yahoo in 2009. This was after the 2008 crash, and Yahoo was financially struggling and had ongoing failing negotiations with Microsoft. Even though Bartz had a 4-year-contract, she was fired after 2011 after only two years because she couldn’t fix the company.

This glass cliff phenomenon shows how people’s view of the status quo changes when a company comes under crisis. Especially since a stereotypical male leader would no longer fit the characteristics needed to deal with an institution in crisis, these characteristics have never been defined. Still, it’s suggested that women have better relational behaviours and are more likely to be trusted. It’s also important to note that the glass cliff perpetuates the idea that women don’t necessarily deserve their job but get it simply because a man can’t do it.

Following all this, I wonder how our new PM will bode under the given conditions and whether she can turn the glass cliff into stone and maintain her position as leader of the conservation party. She has just over two years until the next election,

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