LONDON — A swanky Downing Street job title on the CV used to be a ticket to ride in Westminster. But Liz Truss and her loyal band of followers are unlikely to find the post-power gravy train offering the same riches as it did to their predecessors.
While former prime ministers, chancellors and some of their backroom staff have notoriously cashed in after leaving office, earning millions delivering speeches, signing lucrative book deals and being snapped up for big advisory jobs, senior figures in those sectors say the prospects are less bright for Truss and her closest allies, who held power for just 45 days before being forced to resign amid market turmoil.
Former Prime Minister Theresa May, who was herself pressured into resigning after failing to win support for her Brexit plans, earned more than £1.86 million in her first two years after returning to the backbenches. She got upwards of £127,000 ($150,000) for a single speech in Florida earlier this year.
Boris Johnson, who only left office in September after a host of scandals, has already been paid £276,130 for a speech to the Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers in Washington.
But Truss — Britain’s shortest-serving prime minister — is unlikely to attract such big figures if she too wants to go down that path.
One former speaking agency employee said Truss would be unlikely to break the $100,000 mark, with her market value more likely to hover in the $75,000-a-speech territory.
The “revolving door” at 10 Downing Street has “significantly cheapened” the value of former PMs, the ex-employee, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, said — adding that Truss is “no Maggie Thatcher.”
“There are a lot of options on the market right now — Cameron, Major, Brown, Blair, May are all on the market and still doing speaking engagements, so there’s a lot of choices,” they added, reeling off the list of ex-prime ministers now doing the rounds.
In the month since she stepped aside, Truss has kept a low profile. She’s been spotted ordering lunch in parliament, and last week was out campaigning for a new hospital in her local area.
Those who know her well insist the Tory MP left Downing Street with her head held high. She was “remarkably resilient” at her farewell party, Simon Clarke, a key ally who served in Truss’ Cabinet, told Sky News earlier this month. “She has always been exceptionally dignified and there was no self-pity there,” he said.
Her first chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng — sacked after a disastrous mini-budget that sent markets into meltdown — has been highly visible around parliament since his sacking, breezing around Portcullis House and laughing with friends, seemingly without a care in the world. However, a friend who had dinner with Kwarteng recently said he had been “destroyed” by what happened during the Truss administration.
It’s common for former chancellors to pick up lucrative new jobs, with firms tapping up the know-how of those who’ve served as the U.K.’s top finance minister.
After picking up an almost-comical number of post-government jobs, including stints as a newspaper editor and fund manager, George Osborne is now a full-time banker at investment firm Robey Warshaw. His successor Philip Hammond has a raft of paid positions, including as a partner at the investment firm Buckthorn Partners and as an economic adviser to the Kingdom of Bahrain.
Yet one former policy adviser, who left government before Truss became prime minister, was skeptical Kwarteng will have the same opportunity to cash in.
Before entering politics, Kwarteng worked for Odey Asset Management as an analyst, and while the former adviser quipped that Odey might have him back, they questioned whether he’ll have many other options.
“Are clients whose money you are looking after really going to trust you? I don’t think so — they lost control of the markets,” the former adviser said.
In an interview earlier this month Kwarteng sought to distance himself from the decisions of the Truss administration, telling TalkTV he had advised her to “slow down” and take a more “methodical and strategic approach” to boosting growth. Kwarteng’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
While Truss and Kwarteng still have their £84,000-a-year jobs as MPs to fall back on, the advisers who worked with them, and who have not been kept on by Truss’ successor Rishi Sunak, will have to find new gigs.
Most will have been given a three-month severance payout, and some have even been posting Instagram pictures from palm tree-adorned beaches, or hiking in Africa.
But senior figures in public affairs say those without jobs to return to may find it difficult to secure the lucrative employment some of Boris Johnson’s team snapped up over the summer.
While some of Johnson’s ex-advisers who jumped ship earlier this year have been signing on for “very big six-figure salaries” from the major London public affairs agencies over the summer, according to one well-connected consultancy boss involved in recruitment, out-of-work former Truss aides are unlikely to command anywhere near those sums.
“We wouldn’t be looking to hire any of that team,” the strategist said.
The Tories’ dire poll ratings, which put the opposition Labour party on course to win power when the next election is due to be held in 2024, are also doing little to inflate former Tory adviser salaries.
“Their market value is probably not as high as it was in summer given the debacle that happened in such a short period of time, and given a lot of agencies are looking for people with Labour links,” the consultancy boss added.
The former adviser who moved into the private sector earlier this year put it more starkly.
“If you think about how disastrous those six weeks were, if you think the main sort of thing that ex-SpAds do is go back into the consultancy world and companies are paying for advice, are you really going to trust people’s judgment after that palaver?” they said.
“If I was them I would hide that fact I had ever been in the administration, I wouldn’t even put it on my LinkedIn profile,” they added.
But former members of Team Truss are more optimistic, with one saying the economic debacle had not come up in potential job discussions they had been having. The same person pointed out that many of their cohort had previous experience from before they joined the Truss administration.
“People know they weren’t the ones who made those disastrous decisions — that was on Liz and Kwasi,” one current SpAd said of former staffers.
“Most people advised against it, or weren’t in the room when the decisions were taken,” a former Truss adviser agreed.
“There’s a bunch of very smart people in there. They will end up falling on their feet. It will just take time to figure out,” the consultancy boss quoted above added.
Jack Blanchard contributed reporting.