New Environment Secretary Liz Truss reaches the Cabinet after only four years as an MP

Newly appointed environment secretary Liz Truss arriving in Downing Street, London. Credit: PA Images

New Environment Secretary Liz Truss is one of the fastest-rising stars of the 2010 intake of Conservative MPs, reaching the Cabinet at the age of just 38 and after only four years as an MP for South West Norfolk.

As a Northern state school-educated woman from the younger generation of MPs, her promotion marks not only the strong impression she has made in just a few years at Westminster but also David Cameron's determination to shake off the perception that he has surrounded himself with a coterie of middle-class, middle-aged white men from public school backgrounds in the home counties.

In Parliament, she has put herself at the head of a young group of low-tax free-market MPs, founding the Free Enterprise Group to restore the reputation of liberal economics in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008.

And she has been passionate in her advocacy of high academic standards in schools, backing Michael Gove's programme of academies and free schools and denouncing the progressive "child-centred" educational theories that she believes have held pupils back since the 1960s.

Brought up in Leeds by left-leaning parents who took her on CND marches as a child, Ms Truss was educated at the comprehensive Roundhay School and became president of Oxford University Liberal Democrats before moving to the Conservatives.

A qualified management accountant, she worked at multinationals Shell and Cable & Wireless and served as a Tory councillor in Greenwich, south London, before entering Parliament.

In 2008, she was appointed deputy director of the Reform thinktank, which promoted the introduction of private sector expertise into the delivery of public services.

After two unsuccessful tilts at Labour safe seats in 2001 and 2005, she was placed on Mr Cameron's "A-list" of talented young candidates and elected Tory MP for South-West Norfolk in the 2010 general election by a comfortable majority of more than 13,000 votes.

Her candidacy narrowly survived an attempt by traditionalist members of the constituency Conservative Association - nicknamed the "Turnip Taliban" - to deselect her after it emerged she had had an affair with married Tory MP Mark Field.

She joined other members of the "class of 2010" as co-author of a book entitled Britannia Unchained, which set out proposals to restore the UK's economic position by stripping back regulation and encouraging innovation, but caused controversy with a claim that British workers are "among the worst idlers in the world".

In 2012, she was appointed minister for education and childcare in Mr Gove's Department for Education, where her plans to reform pre-school care to allow nurseries to take more children per member of staff were blocked by Lib Dem Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

Ms Truss married husband Hugh in 2000 and has two daughters. She read philosophy, politics and economics (PPE) at Merton College, Oxford.