As Liz Truss tackles a string of challenges as prime minister, her family will be adjusting to a new home and their place in the spotlight as the nation’s First Family.
“Downing Street has in the 21st century been transformed into a 100-room playground for prime ministerial children,” reported The Times. Each successive occupant, from Tony Blair to Boris Johnson but with the exception of Theresa May, has brought “with them their own noisy young families” or welcomed new “babies while there”.
While it was traditional for the prime minister’s family to occupy the flat at No. 10, ever since the Blairs, each has opted for the more spacious lodgings above No. 11, which boasts larger living quarters and an open-plan kitchen. Whichever the Trusses choose, “after the modest, unflashy calm of the Sunaks and the newborn and toddler mayhem of the Johnsons, the teenage ‘madhouse’ that is the Truss household might take some getting used to”, said the Evening Standard.
Who is ‘Mr Truss’?
Growing up in Liverpool before graduating from the London School of Economics and training as a chartered accountant, the 48-year-old Hugh O’Leary, described by the Mirror as a “gentle-looking everyman”, has kept a low profile during his wife’s relatively meteoric rise to power.
“Unlike Boris and Carrie Johnson, the new PM and her husband have kept public appearances to a minimum so far, with commentators questioning how much we’ll actually see of the man behind our country’s new leader,” said the Evening Standard.
“Quieter and more reflective than his wife, O’Leary is said to prefer to keep a low profile, getting on with domestic life during the week while his wife is busy at Westminster,” said The Guardian.
“He’s not going to be Denis [Thatcher],” a source told the paper, but he is more a “Philip May-type character, perhaps even less comfortable in the limelight than May was”, said the Standard.
A friend of his told The Guardian that as he works from home, he could return to their southeast London home daily or find an office nearer Westminster, rather than work from Downing Street.
Yet while he may shun the glare of the media spotlight, he is far from a political novice, having stood unsuccessfully as a Tory candidate in the 2002 local council elections. He even met his wife-to-be at the Tory party conference in 1997.
The couple married in 2000 and survived Truss’s now-public affair with former Tory MP Mark Field between 2004 and 2005, remaining silent on the subject ever since.
And their daughters?
It seems both their teenage daughters, Frances, 16, and Liberty, 13, are ready to embrace life in the UK’s most famous residence.
The Guardian reported the girls are, apparently, “very excited” at the prospect of living in No. 10 (or 11), where the back door leads directly into 23-hectare St James’s Park, and are “already planning sleepovers with their friends at Downing Street and Chequers, with its huge lawn and heated swimming pool”.
The Times said the addition of “two politically and computer literate young women who have already worked on Truss’s campaign, may seem at first more like an addition to the strategy staff than a childcare problem”.
“I talk to them about politics all the time,” Truss told The Sunday Times’ Tim Shipman earlier this summer, although 16-year-old Frances is “maybe a bit more centrist, and Liberty is maybe slightly more Conservative”. Liberty, 13, acts as her unofficial fashion guru, also “giving general political advice”, said The Times, while her older daughter, who has done a computing GCSE, has helped with her digital campaign.
But while Truss has been increasingly keen to talk about her daughters and the influence they have on her life and political outlook, she has been “careful to only ever share pictures of their birthday cakes or the backs of their heads on her Instagram page”, said the Standard.
In fact, unlike previous prime ministers who have been happy to be photographed with their children, there are no images of the Truss children in the public domain and the only picture to show their faces, taken at the Commonwealth Games last month and published by MailOnline, was promptly removed from the internet after a legal warning.