Liz Truss
Liz Truss Official Portrait.jpg
Official portrait, 2022
Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs
Assumed office
15 September 2021
Prime MinisterBoris Johnson
Preceded byDominic Raab
Minister for Women and Equalities
Assumed office
10 September 2019
Prime MinisterBoris Johnson
Preceded byAmber Rudd
Secretary of State for International Trade
President of the Board of Trade
In office
24 July 2019 – 15 September 2021
Prime MinisterBoris Johnson
Preceded byLiam Fox
Succeeded byAnne-Marie Trevelyan
Chief Secretary to the Treasury
In office
11 June 2017 – 24 July 2019
Prime MinisterTheresa May
Preceded byDavid Gauke
Succeeded byRishi Sunak
Secretary of State for Justice
Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain
In office
14 July 2016 – 11 June 2017
Prime MinisterTheresa May
Preceded byMichael Gove
Succeeded byDavid Lidington
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
In office
15 July 2014 – 14 July 2016
Prime MinisterDavid Cameron
Preceded byOwen Paterson
Succeeded byAndrea Leadsom
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Childcare and Education
In office
4 September 2012 – 15 July 2014
Prime MinisterDavid Cameron
Preceded bySarah Teather
Succeeded bySam Gyimah
Member of Parliament
for South West Norfolk
Assumed office
6 May 2010
Preceded byChristopher Fraser
Majority26,195 (50.9%)
Personal details
Mary Elizabeth Truss

(1975-07-26) 26 July 1975 (age 46)
Oxford, England
Political party
Hugh O'Leary
(m. 2000)
EducationRoundhay School
Alma materMerton College, Oxford (BA)
  • Politician
  • diplomat
  • former management accountant
WebsiteOfficial website

Mary Elizabeth Truss (born 26 July 1975)[1][2] is a British politician who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for South West Norfolk since 2010. She has served as Foreign Secretary since 2021 and Minister for Women and Equalities since 2019.[3] A member of the Conservative Party, she has served in various cabinet positions under Prime Ministers David Cameron, Theresa May, and Boris Johnson.

Truss attended Merton College, Oxford, where she was President of Oxford University Liberal Democrats. She graduated from the University of Oxford in 1996, and subsequently joined the Conservative Party.[4] She worked in sales and as an economist, and was deputy director at the think-tank Reform, before becoming a member of parliament at the 2010 general election. As a backbencher, Truss called for reform in a number of policy areas including childcare, maths education, and the economy.[5] She founded the Free Enterprise Group of Conservative MPs, and authored or co-authored a number of papers and books, including After the Coalition (2011) and Britannia Unchained (2012).

Truss served as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Childcare and Education from 2012 to 2014,[6] before being appointed to the Cabinet by Prime Minister David Cameron as Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the 2014 cabinet reshuffle. Though she was a prominent supporter of the unsuccessful Britain Stronger in Europe campaign for the UK to remain in the European Union in the 2016 referendum, she came to support Brexit after the result.[7]

After Cameron resigned in July 2016, she was appointed Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor by Theresa May, becoming the second female Lord Chancellor in the thousand-year history of the office (after Eleanor of Provence in 1253).[8][9][10] Following the 2017 general election, Truss was appointed Chief Secretary to the Treasury.[11] After May resigned in 2019, Truss supported Boris Johnson's successful bid to become Conservative leader. After Johnson was appointed Prime Minister, he appointed Truss as Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade, before appointing her as Foreign Secretary in 2021, replacing Dominic Raab. She is the first female Conservative Foreign Secretary and the second female Foreign Secretary, after Margaret Beckett. Truss was appointed as the UK government's chief negotiator with the European Union and as the UK chair of the EU–UK Partnership Council on 19 December 2021, succeeding Lord Frost.[12]

Early life

Truss was born Mary Elizabeth Truss on 26 July 1975 in Oxford, England, to John Kenneth and Priscilla Mary Truss.[1][13][14] From an early age she has been known by her middle name "Elizabeth".[15] Her father was a professor of pure mathematics at the University of Leeds, while her mother was a nurse, teacher, and member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.[16] Truss has described both as being "to the left of Labour".[5] When Truss later stood for election to Parliament, her mother agreed to campaign for her while her father declined to do so.[5][17]

The family moved to Scotland when she was four years old. Truss attended West Primary School in Paisley, Renfrewshire,[5][14] followed by Roundhay School, a comprehensive school in north-east Leeds. She lived in Canada for a year, and contrasts the competitive attitude in schooling there with the "trendy" education she received in Leeds.[5] She read Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Merton College, Oxford.[1]

Truss was President of Oxford University Liberal Democrats and a member of the national executive committee of its youth and student wing. She also expressed republican sentiments in a speech at the 1994 Liberal Democrats conference.[18][19] Truss joined the Conservative Party in 1996.[4]

Professional career

After graduating in 1996, Truss worked for Shell as a commercial manager and Cable & Wireless as economics director, and became a qualified management accountant.[20]

After losing her first two elections, Truss became the full-time deputy director of Reform in January 2008,[21] where she advocated more rigorous academic standards in schools, a greater focus on tackling serious and organised crime, and urgent action to deal with Britain's falling competitiveness. She co-authored The Value of Mathematics[22] and A New Level[23] amongst other reports.

Political career

She served as the chairman of the Lewisham Deptford Conservative Association from 1998 to 2000.[4] She was elected as a councillor in the London Borough of Greenwich in 2006, standing down in 2010, shortly before the end of her term of office.

Parliamentary candidature

Truss stood for the Labour-held constituency of Hemsworth in 2001, raising the Conservative vote by 4%.[24] Prior to the 2005 general election, parliamentary candidate for Calder Valley Sue Catling was pressured to resign by the local Conservative Association,[25] whereupon Truss was selected to fight the seat.

Under David Cameron as Conservative leader, Truss was added to the party's 'A List'.[24] In October 2009, she was selected for the South West Norfolk seat by members of the constituency Conservative Association. She won over 50% of the vote in the first round of the final against five other candidates.[26][27] Shortly after her selection, some members of the constituency association objected to Truss's selection, saying that information about her extramarital affair, reported to have taken place several years earlier, with the Conservative MP Mark Field had been withheld from the members.[28][29][30] A motion was proposed to terminate Truss's candidature, but this was defeated by 132 votes to 37 at a general meeting of the association's members three weeks later.[31]

Parliamentary career

Following her election to the House of Commons on 6 May 2010, Truss campaigned for issues including the retention of the RAF Tornado base at RAF Marham in her constituency;[32] over seven months she asked 13 questions in the Commons about RAF Marham, secured a special debate on the subject, wrote dozens of letters to ministers and collected signatures on a petition which was delivered to Downing Street.[33] She also successfully lobbied for the dualling of the A11 west of Thetford.[34] With an eye on the Thetford Forest, in her constituency, she spoke out against the proposal to sell off forests[35] and played a leading role in preventing a waste incinerator being built in West Norfolk.[33] Her work to campaign for design improvements to road junctions in her constituency, notably the A47, led to her being named Road Safety Parliamentarian of the Month by road safety charity Brake in January 2013.[36]

In March 2011, she wrote a paper for the liberal think-tank CentreForum in which she argued for an end to bias against serious academic subjects in the education system so that social mobility can be improved.[37] Truss wrote a further paper for the same think-tank in May 2012, in which she argued for change in the structure of the childcare market in Britain.[38]

In October 2011, she founded the Free Enterprise Group, which has been supported by over 40 other Conservative MPs.[39] In September 2011, together with four other members of the Free Enterprise Group, she had co-authored After the Coalition, a book which sought to challenge the consensus that Britain's economic decline is inevitable by arguing for the return of a more entrepreneurial and meritocratic culture.[40]

A further volume by the same authors, Britannia Unchained, contained the assertion that "Once they enter the workplace, the British are among the worst idlers in the world".[41] It was published in September 2012,[42] and billed as "an insightful and critical assessment of Britain's challenges in the face of future uncertainty". As part of a serialisation in The Daily Telegraph, Truss wrote an article previewing her chapter on the importance of science in education.[43]

Truss has championed Britain following Germany's lead in allowing people to have tax-free and less-heavily regulated "mini-jobs".[44] Since Truss published a paper on the policy for the Free Enterprise Group in February 2012, the policy has been examined by the Treasury as a policy to promote growth.[45][46]

Truss has campaigned for improved teaching of more rigorous school subjects, especially mathematics. She has noted that only 20% of British students study maths to 18,[47] and called for maths classes to be compulsory for all those in full-time education.[48] Truss herself studied maths and further maths at A level.[47] She has argued that comprehensive school pupils are being "mis-sold" easy, low-value subjects to boost school results: comprehensive school pupils are six times as likely to take media studies at A-level as privately educated pupils.[49] Truss has also criticised the over-reliance on calculators to the detriment of mental arithmetic.[50]

From March 2011, she was a Member of the Justice Select Committee,[51] remaining on the committee until her appointment as a government minister.

Ministerial career

Junior ministerial career (2012–2014)

Truss at the think-tank Policy Exchange in 2013
Truss at the think-tank Policy Exchange in 2013

On 4 September 2012, Truss was appointed as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Education, with responsibility for childcare and early learning, assessment, qualifications and curriculum reform, behaviour and attendance, and school food review.[52] In this role, she developed some of the policy areas that she had pursued as a backbencher.

In January 2013, she announced proposals to reform A-Levels, by concentrating examinations at the end of two-year courses.[53] She sought to improve British standards in maths for fear that children are falling behind those in Asian countries,[54] and led a fact-finding visit to schools and teacher-training centres in Shanghai in February 2014 to see how children there have become the best in the world at maths.[55]

Truss also outlined plans to reform childcare in England, which would overhaul childcare qualifications and increase the maximum number of children relative to adults in a care establishment, with the intention of widening the availability of childcare along with increasing pay and qualifications among staff.[56] The proposed reforms were broadly welcomed by some organisations such as the charity 4Children,[57] the Confederation of British Industry[58] and the College of West Anglia.[59] However, the proposals met opposition from others. The TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady and the then Shadow Education Secretary Stephen Twigg were among those criticising the reforms,[60] echoed by some parents and childcare bodies, such as the charity National Day Nurseries Association.[61]

The columnist Polly Toynbee was highly critical of the minister's plans,[62] and challenged Truss to demonstrate how to care for two babies alongside four toddlers on her own. Truss responded to Toynbee's challenge by saying that being an early educator was a very demanding job, requiring great and specialist expertise, for which she was not trained.[63] In the event, aspects of the reforms relating to relaxation of childcare ratios were blocked by the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.[citation needed]

Environment Secretary (2014–2016)

In a 15 July 2014 cabinet reshuffle, Truss was appointed Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, replacing Owen Paterson. In apparent contrast to her predecessor,[64] Truss declared that she fully believed that climate change is happening,[65] and that "human beings have contributed to that".[66]

In November 2014, Truss launched a new 10-year bee and pollinator strategy to try to reverse the trend of falling bee populations,[67] including a strategy to revive traditional meadows which provide the most fertile habitat for pollinators. In July 2015, she approved the limited temporary lifting of an EU ban on the use of two neonicotinoid pesticides, enabling their use for 120 days on about 5% of England's oil seed rape crop to ward off the cabbage stem flea beetle;[68] campaigners have warned that pesticides have been shown to harm bees by damaging their renowned ability to navigate home.[69]

Truss cut taxpayer subsidies for solar panels on agricultural land, as her view was that the land could be better used to grow crops, food and vegetables.[70] She described farming and food as "hotbeds of innovation"[71] and promoted the production and export of British food, including cheese, pork pies and apples.[72] Her remarks at the Conservative Party conference in 2014 that "We import two-thirds of our cheese: That! Is! A! Disgrace!", and her grinning claim to be "opening up new pork markets" in Beijing were widely mocked.[73][74]

In March 2015 she was one of only two Cabinet Ministers to vote against the government's proposals to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes, in what was technically a free vote.[75]

Critics who have attempted to engage with her, according to George Monbiot in The Guardian,[76] have said that she is:

indissolubly wedded to a set of theories about how the world should be, that are impervious to argument, facts or experience. She was among the first ministers to put her own department on the block in the latest [2015] spending review, volunteering massive cuts. She seems determined to dismantle the protections that secure our quality of life: the rules and agencies defending the places and wildlife we love.[76]

Justice Secretary (2016–2017)

On 14 July 2016, Truss was appointed as Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor in Theresa May's first ministry. Truss became the first woman to hold either position. The decision to appoint her was criticised by the then Minister of State for Justice Lord Faulks, who resigned from the government, questioning whether she was going to have the clout to be able to stand up to the Prime Minister when necessary, on behalf of the judges.[77] Truss herself said that he did not contact her before going public with his criticism, and she had never met or spoken to him.[78]

In November 2016, Truss was further criticised, including by former Attorney General Dominic Grieve and the Criminal Bar Association, for failing to support more robustly the judiciary and the principle of judicial independence, after three judges of the Divisional Court came under attack from politicians and sections of the press for ruling against the government in the article 50 Brexit case.[79] Lord Falconer, the former Lord Chancellor, who had previously suggested that, like her immediate predecessors Chris Grayling and Michael Gove, she lacked the essential legal expertise that the constitution requires, called for her to be sacked as Justice Secretary as her perceived inadequate response "signals to the judges that they have lost their constitutional protector."[80]

Truss denied she had failed to defend the judges. "An independent judiciary is the cornerstone of the rule of law, vital to our constitution and freedoms", she wrote. "It is my duty as Lord Chancellor to defend that independence. I swore to do so under my oath of office. I take that very seriously and I will always do so."[81] She also said that the independent judiciary was robust enough to withstand attack by The Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail.[82] However, in March 2017, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd told the House of Lords constitution select committee that Truss was "completely and utterly wrong" to say she could not criticise the media adding that

I can understand how the pressures were on in November, but she has taken a position that is constitutionally, absolutely wrong – the circuit judges were very concerned. They wrote to the Lord Chancellor because litigants in person were coming and saying "you're an enemy of the people" – I don't think it is understood either how absolutely essential it is that we [the judges] are protected because we have to act as our oath requires us without fear or favour.[83]

Following a significant rise in prison violence incidents in 2015 and 2016,[84] Truss announced in November 2016 a £1.3 billion investment programme in the prison service and the recruitment of 2,500 additional prison officers, partly reversing the cuts made under the previous coalition government.[85][86] In December 2016, Truss described how patrol dogs at HMP Pentonville were being used to deter drones from smuggling drugs into prisons, as the noise of the dogs' barking could alert prison staff.[87]

Chief Secretary to the Treasury (2017–2019)

On 11 June 2017, following the general election, Truss was moved to the position of Chief Secretary to the Treasury, attending the cabinet but not a full member of it, in what was seen by some as a demotion.[88]

Truss developed an enthusiasm for cultivating her presence on Twitter and Instagram. The Times described this as an unorthodox approach that had won her fans.[89][90] She was also closely involved in the launch of the free market campaign group, Freer.[91] Some of her civil servants were reported as finding her tenure as Chief Secretary "exhausting" because of her demanding work schedule and her habit of asking officials multiplication questions at random intervals.[92]

In June 2018, Truss gave a speech at the London School of Economics outlining her declared commitment to freedom and individual liberty. She criticised regulations that get in the way of people's lives and warned that raising taxes could see the Tories being "crushed" at the polls;[93] in particular, she criticised ministerial colleagues who should, in her view, realise "that it's not macho just to demand more money. It's much tougher to demand better value and challenge the blob of vested interests within your department."[94] Her speech also contained jokes at the expense of other ministers, including Michael Gove.[95] She was reportedly berated for this by the Prime Minister Theresa May, although Truss and Gove both maintained that they were good friends.[96]

In September 2018, during a three-day visit to Washington, Truss met with a series of rightwing American think tanks to discuss deregulation and the benefits of Reaganomics.[97]

In 2019, Truss declared that she could be a candidate for the leadership of the Conservative Party to succeed May.[98] However she ultimately elected not to stand and endorsed Boris Johnson.[99]

International Trade Secretary (2019–2021)

Truss and US National Security Advisor John Bolton in 2019

After Boris Johnson became Prime Minister, Truss was tipped for promotion in return for her support during his leadership campaign, during which she advised Johnson on economic policy, and was the architect of plans to cut taxes for people earning over £50,000.[92] Consequently, it was thought she would be appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer or Business Secretary but was instead promoted to the position of Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade,[3] succeeding Liam Fox. Following the resignation of Amber Rudd, Truss was additionally appointed Minister for Women and Equalities.

Twice in September 2019, Truss said that the Department for International Trade had "inadvertently" allowed shipping of military supplies to Saudi Arabia in contravention of an order of the Court of Appeal, which found that UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia for use in the war in Yemen are unlawful.[100][101][102] While Truss apologised to a Commons committee on arms export controls, opposition MPs said her apology was insufficient and called for her to resign for breaking the law.[103]

On 19 March 2020, Truss introduced to Parliament the Trade Act 2021. Which established the legal framework for the UK to conduct trade deals with nations around the world.[104][105]

On 7 July 2020, Truss announced the lifting of a yearlong ban on the export of arms and military equipment to Saudi Arabia.[106] She said "that there is not a clear risk that the export of arms and military equipment to Saudi Arabia might be used in the commission of a serious violation of international humanitarian law."[107]

In August 2020 meetings Truss held with the Institute of Economic Affairs, were removed from the public record, raising concerns about integrity, transparency and honesty in public office. Truss claimed the meetings were "personal discussions".[108]

Truss undertook negotiations for a post-Brexit free trade agreement between the UK and Japan. She held meetings with the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs Toshimitsu Motegi, before an issue in relation to stilton cheese caused the talks to stall.[109] An agreement between the two countries was struck in September 2020, which Truss said would result in "99% of exports to Japan" being "tariff-free". It was the first major trade deal the UK had signed since leaving the European Union, and hailed as a "historic moment" by Truss despite the fact it mostly merely copied the existing trade deal the EU agreed with Japan.[110][111]

In December 2020, Truss made a speech on equality policy stating that the UK focused too heavily on "fashionable" race, sexuality, and gender issues at the expense of poverty and geographical disparity. It also criticised postmodernist philosophy and Foucault. In the speech, she announced that the government and civil service would no longer be using unconscious bias training.[112][113]

Foreign Secretary (2021–present)

Truss meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on 20 September 2021
Truss meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on 20 September 2021
Truss and Armenian President Armen Sarkissian at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow on 2 November 2021
Truss and Armenian President Armen Sarkissian at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow on 2 November 2021

On 15 September 2021 during a cabinet reshuffle, Boris Johnson promoted Truss from International Trade Secretary to Foreign Secretary, replacing Dominic Raab. She is the second female MP to have held the position of Foreign Secretary, after Margaret Beckett, and the first Conservative female Foreign Secretary.[114]

In October 2021, Truss and the Deputy Prime Minister, Dominic Raab, were told by Boris Johnson that they must share use of Chevening, a 115-room grace and favour mansion, after they failed to agree who should have sole use of it.[115]

At the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, she said that France had acted unacceptably during the Jersey fishing dispute.[116]

In October 2021, she called on Russia to intervene in the Belarus–European Union border crisis.[117] In November 2021, Truss and her Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid announced a new decade-long deal which is aimed at stopping Iran from developing nuclear weapons.[118] In December 2021, she met Sergey Lavrov in Stockholm, urging Russia to seek peace in Ukraine.[119] She later made a keynote foreign policy speech at Chatham House.[120] She wants a "closer trading and investment relationship" with the Gulf Cooperation Council which includes Saudi Arabia and Qatar.[121] A group of British Members of Parliament urged Truss to intervene and stop Saudi Arabia from sentencing the Saudi scholar Hassan al-Maliki to death for "conducting interviews with western news outlets" and "owning books" that are "not authorised" by the kingdom.[122]

In January 2022, the former Australian prime minister Paul Keating, who serves on the international board of the China Development Bank,[123] accused Truss of making "demented" comments about Chinese military aggression in the Pacific, saying that "Britain suffers delusions of grandeur and relevance deprivation."[124]

Truss was appointed in December 2021 as the government's chief negotiator with the EU, following the resignation of Lord Frost.[125] On 30 January 2022, she told the BBC's Sunday Morning show that "we are supplying and offering extra support into our Baltic allies across the Black Sea, as well as supplying the Ukrainians with defensive weapons."[126] This was mocked, as the Baltic states are located on or near the Baltic Sea and not the Black Sea, which is 700 miles away from the Baltic.[127] Her scheduled trip to Ukraine was cancelled after she tested positive for COVID-19 on 31 January 2022.[128]

On 10 February 2022, Truss met with her Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov. In the context of tensions between Russia and the West over a build up of Russian troops near the Russia–Ukraine border talks between the two foreign ministers were described as "difficult".[129] Lavrov described the discussion as "turning out like the conversation of a mute and a deaf person".[130] He dismissed "demands to remove Russian troops from Russian territory" as "regrettable" and asked Truss if she recognized Russia’s sovereignty over the Voronezh and Rostov regions,[131] two Russian provinces where Russian troops are deployed.[132] She mistakenly thought Lavrov was referring to areas of Ukraine and replied that "the U.K. will never recognize Russian sovereignty over these regions."[133] Later that day, the Foreign Office prepared legislation to allow for more sanctions on Russian organisations and individuals.[134] On 21 February 2022, Truss condemned Russia's diplomatic recognition of two self-proclaimed separatist republics in Donbas.[135] She also stated that the British government will announce a new sanctions against Russia.[136]

On 27 February 2022, in an interview on BBC television, Truss was asked if she supported anyone volunteering to travel to Ukraine to help in its defence against the Russian invasion, and responded “absolutely”. She was later criticised by other Conservative MPs who said that such action would be illegal under the Foreign Enlistment Act 1870.[137] Boris Johnson's spokesperson stated that British citizens should not travel to Ukraine.[138] Following the Russian military's being placed on high alert on 27 February, Russian officials said it was in response to Truss's comments.[139] She said it was necessary to "work with all of our allies around the world" including Saudi Arabia so the UK is no longer "dependent" on Russia for oil and natural gas.[140] On 27 April 2022, Truss said Western allies, including the UK, must "double down" and "keep going further and faster" to "push Russia out of the whole of Ukraine", including Crimea.[141][142]

Political positions

Protesters outside Downing Street highlighting the UK's complicity in Saudi Arabia's bombing campaign against Yemen
Protesters outside Downing Street highlighting the UK's complicity in Saudi Arabia's bombing campaign against Yemen

Truss is known for her libertarian views on economics and trade. Truss founded the Free Enterprise Group of Conservative MPs, a free-market collection of parliamentarians arguing for a more entrepreneurial economy and fewer employment laws.[143]

Initially, Truss supported the United Kingdom remaining in the European Union during the 2016 referendum, saying: "I don't want my daughters to grow up in a world where they need a visa or permit to work in Europe, or where they are hampered from growing a business because of extortionate call costs and barriers to trade. Every parent wants their children to grow up in a healthy environment with clean water, fresh air and thriving natural wonders. Being part of the EU helps protect these precious resources and spaces."[144] However, in 2017 she said that if another referendum were held, she would vote for Brexit, saying: "I believed there would be massive economic problems but those haven't come to pass and I've also seen the opportunities."[145] She called Saudi Arabia a "partner" and an "ally".[140][146]

On culture, Truss has discussed 'Woke culture' significantly, stating that the Conservative Party should: "reject the zero-sum game of identity politics, we reject the illiberalism of cancel culture, and we reject the soft bigotry of low expectations that holds so many people back".[147] She has also suggested that Britain should not ignore the history of the British Empire but the UK should embrace the "warts and all" of the UK's history if they are to compete with hostile states.[148]

Personal life

In 2000, Truss married fellow accountant Hugh O'Leary. The couple have two daughters.[149]



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