Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has been named leader of the governing Conservative Party, taking power as Britain’s next prime minister at a time when the country faces a cost-of-living crisis, industrial unrest and a recession.
After weeks of an often bad-tempered and divisive party leadership contest that pitted Truss against Rishi Sunak, a former finance minister, Monday’s announcement triggered the beginning of a handover from Boris Johnson.
Johnson was forced to announce his resignation in July after months of scandal and he will travel to Scotland to meet Queen Elizabeth on Tuesday to officially tender his resignation.
His successor will follow him and be asked to form a government.
In a short victory speech at the announcement in a central London convention hall, Truss said it was an “honour” to be elected after undergoing “one of the longest job interviews in history”.
Al Jazeera’s Jonah Hull, reporting from London, said Truss won not as resoundingly as the opinion polls might have earlier suggested.
“She picked up 57 percent of eligible votes among Conservative Party members. Rishi Sunak, former chancellor of the exchequer, got 42 percent,” he said.
“She promised that she campaigned as a Conservative and she will govern as a Conservative, she promised to cut taxes, to grow the economy, she promised to deal with the energy crisis,” he added.
EU chief Ursula von der Leyen congratulated Truss, but said London and Brussels must work “in full respect of our agreements”.
Truss has warned that she will push ahead to pass proposed UK legislation to tear up part of Britain’s Brexit deal with the European Union.
“The EU and the UK are partners. We face many challenges together, from climate change to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” von der Leyen said, in a congratulatory tweet.
“I look forward to a constructive relationship, in full respect of our agreements,” she added, in what will be seen as a reference to the Northern Ireland Protocol.
From crisis to crisis
Long the frontrunner in the race to replace Johnson, Truss became the Conservatives’ fourth prime minister since a 2015 election.
Over that period the country has been buffeted from crisis to crisis, and now faces what is forecast to be a long recession triggered by skyrocketing inflation which hit 10.1 percent in July.
Truss, aged 47, has promised to act quickly to tackle Britain’s cost-of-living crisis, saying that within a week she will come up with a plan to tackle rising energy bills and secure future fuel supplies.
Speaking in a TV interview on Sunday, she declined to give details of the measures she says will reassure millions of people who fear they will be unable to pay their fuel bills as winter approaches.
She declined to comment on a report that her energy plan could exceed 100 billion British pounds ($115bn), but the legislator tipped to be her finance minister, business minister Kwasi Kwarteng, wrote on Monday that the government could afford to borrow more to fund support for households and businesses.
Truss signalled during her leadership campaign she would challenge convention by scrapping tax increases and cutting other levies that some economists say would increase inflation.
That, plus a pledge to review the remit of the Bank of England while protecting its independence, has prompted some investors to dump the pound and government bonds.
Kwarteng sought to calm markets on Monday, saying in an article in the Financial Times newspaper that under Truss there would need to be “some fiscal loosening” but that her administration would act in “a fiscally responsible way”.
Born 26 July 1975, Mary Elizabeth Truss is a British politician who is Leader of the Conservative Party and the Prime Minister designate of the United Kingdom.
She has served as the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs since 2021 and Minister for Women and Equalities since 2019.
A member of the Conservative Party, she has been Member of Parliament (MP) for South West Norfolk since 2010. She has served in various Cabinet positions under Prime Ministers David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson.
Truss attended Merton College, Oxford, and was President of Oxford University Liberal Democrats. In 1996, she graduated and joined the Conservative Party. She worked at Shell and Cable & Wireless, and was deputy director of the think tank Reform.
Truss was elected for South West Norfolk at the 2010 general election. As a backbencher, she called for reform in several policy areas including childcare, mathematics education and the economy. She founded the Free Enterprise Group of Conservative MPs and wrote or co-wrote 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, before being appointed to the Cabinet by Cameron as Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the 2014 cabinet reshuffle. Though she was a supporter of the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign for the UK to remain in the European Union in the 2016 referendum, she supported Brexit after the result.
After Cameron resigned in July 2016, Truss was appointed Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor by May, becoming the first female Lord Chancellor in the thousand-year history of the office. Following the 2017 general election, Truss was appointed Chief Secretary to the Treasury. After May resigned in 2019, Truss supported Johnson’s bid to become Conservative leader. He appointed Truss as Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade. She took on the additional role of Minister for Women and Equalities in September 2019. She was promoted to Foreign Secretary by Johnson in the 2021 cabinet reshuffle. She was appointed the Government’s chief negotiator with the European Union and UK chair of the EU–UK Partnership Council in December 2021. Following Johnson’s resignation, Truss won the 2022 Conservative Party leadership election.
On 10 July 2022, Truss announced her intention to run in the Conservative Party leadership election to replace Boris Johnson. She pledged to cut taxes on day one if elected, and said she would “fight the election as a Conservative and govern as a Conservative”, adding that she would also take “immediate action to help people deal with the cost of living”.
She said she would cancel a planned rise in corporation tax and reverse the recent increase in National Insurance rates, funded by delaying the date by which the national debt is planned to fall, as part of a “long-term plan to bring down the size of the state and the tax burden”.
Truss and Rishi Sunak were chosen by Conservative Party MPs to compete in the final stage of the leadership election.
In this final stage, a majority of Party members who voted selected Truss, making her the new leader.
In 2000, Truss married Hugh O’Leary, a fellow accountant; the couple has two daughters. From 2004 until mid-2005, she had an extra-marital affair with the married MP Mark Field, whom the Conservative Party had appointed as her political mentor. However, her marriage with O’Leary survived the affair.
In 2022, Truss said: “I share the values of the Christian faith and the Church of England, but I’m not a regular practicing religious person”
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES