London (AFP) – Liz Truss She became the prime minister of the United Kingdom on Tuesday and was immediately faced with the daunting task at hand amid mounting pressure to rein in high prices, ease labor unrest and reform a healthcare system burdened by long waiting lists and staff shortages.
Her inbox tops the energy crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukrainewhich threatens to pay energy bills To unsustainable levels, closing businesses and leaving the country’s poorest people Shivering in ice houses this winter.
Truss, who refused to spell out her energy strategy during the two-month campaign to succeed Boris JohnsonBritish media reported, on Tuesday, that the company now intends to cap energy bills at a cost to taxpayers of up to 100 billion pounds (116 billion dollars). She is expected to reveal her plan on Thursday.
“You have to know the cost of living crisis in England, and it’s very bad right now,” said Rebecca MacDougall, 55, who works in law enforcement outside the House of Representatives.
“It makes promises for that, saying it will deliver, deliver, deliver. But in the next few weeks we will see, hopefully, some announcements that will help the average working person.”
Truss, 47, took office on Tuesday afternoon at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, when Queen Elizabeth II formally asked her to form a new government in a carefully choreographed ceremony. It is dictated by centuries of tradition. Johnson, who announced his intention to step down two months ago, formally resigned during his meeting with the Queen shortly before that.
It was the first time in the Queen’s 70-year reign that power was handed over at Balmoral, rather than at Buckingham Palace in London. The ceremony has been moved to Scotland to confirm the schedule, as the 96-year-old Queen has had mobility issues that have forced palace officials to make decisions about her travel on a daily basis.
Truss became prime minister a day after the ruling Conservative Party chose her as party leader in an election in which 172,000 fee-paying party members were the only electors. As party leader, Truss automatically became prime minister without the need for a general election because the Conservatives still had a majority in the House of Commons.
But as a national leader chosen by less than 0.5% of British adults, Truss is under pressure to show fast results.
Ed Davey, the leader of the opposition Liberal Democrats, on Tuesday called for a snap election in October – something that Truss and the Conservative Party are highly unlikely to do as the Conservatives are lagging in the polls.
“I listened to Liz Truss during the (campaign) Tory leadership and I was looking for a plan to help people with very high energy bills, with the NHS crisis and so on, and I haven’t heard of any plan at all,” he told the BBC. “Since people are really worried, because people are losing sleep because of energy bills, companies are not investing because of the crisis, I think that’s really wrong.”
Johnson noted the tensions facing Britain when he left the prime minister’s official residence at 10 Downing Street for the last time, saying his policies left the government the economic power to help people weather the energy crisis.
Always colourful, he hid his bitterness when forced out.
“I’m like one of those booster rockets that did its job,” Johnson said. “I will now gently re-enter the atmosphere and fall invisibly into a remote and mysterious corner of the Pacific.”
Many observers expect Johnson to attempt a political comeback, although he has been cynical about his plans. Instead, the man who studied the classics at Oxford supported Truss and likened himself to Cincinnatus, the Roman dictator who relinquished power and returned to his farm to live in peace.
“Like Cincinnatus,” he said, “I’m back to my plow.”
Johnson, 58, became prime minister three years ago after his predecessor, Theresa May, failed to deliver Brexit. Johnson subsequently won an 80-seat majority in Parliament with a promise to “get Brexit done”.
But he was forced out of office by a series of scandals that culminated in the resignations of dozens of government ministers and lower-level officials in early July. That paved the way for Truss, a one-time accountant who was first elected to the House of Commons in 2010.
Many people in Britain are still learning about their new leader.
Unlike Johnson, who made himself a media celebrity long before he became prime minister, Truss quietly rose through the Conservative ranks before she was appointed Secretary of State, one of the top Cabinet posts, just a year ago.
She is expected to deliver her first speech as prime minister on Tuesday afternoon outside 10 Downing Street.
Truss is under pressure to explain how she plans to help consumers pay home energy bills that are set to rise to an average of 3,500 pounds ($4,000) a year – three times last year’s cost – on October 1 unless she steps in.
Food and energy prices soared as a result of the invasion of Ukraine And the aftermath of COVID-19 and Brexit, pushed UK inflation over 10% For the first time in four decades. The Bank of England expects it to reach 13.3% in October, and that the UK will slip into a prolonged recession by the end of the year.
Train drivers, port employees, garbage collectors, postal workers and lawyers have staged strikes to demand higher wages to keep up with inflation, and millions more, from teachers to nurses, could withdraw in the next few months.
Truss, a low-tax Conservative government and admirer of Margaret Thatcher, says her priority is to cut taxes and reduce regulations to support economic growth. Critics say it will drive up inflation while failing to tackle the cost of living crisis. The uncertainty rattled financial markets, pushing the pound below $1.14 on Monday, its weakest since the 1980s.
In theory, Truss has time to make his mark: She doesn’t have to call a national election until late 2024. But opinion polls are already giving the opposition Labor a steady lead, and the worse the economy gets, the more pressure grows.
In addition to Britain’s internal problems, Truss and her new government will also face multiple crises in foreign policy, including the war in Ukraine and frosty relations with the European Union after Brexit.
Truss, as foreign minister, was a staunch supporter of Ukraine’s resistance to Russia. She said her first phone call with a world leader would be with President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Truss also pledged to increase UK defense spending to 3% of GDP from just over 2% – another costly promise.
But she is likely to hold quieter talks with EU leaders, who have been upset by her hardened stance as foreign minister in talks over Northern Ireland’s trade rules, the unresolved Brexit issue that has soured relations between London and Brussels. With the UK threatening to breach a legally binding divorce treaty, and the EU starting legal action in response, the dispute could escalate into a trade war.
“I think she has a big, challenging job ahead of her,” said Robert Conway, 71, an electronics maker, in London. “I hope it brings that, a new team, a fresh start, but it’s going to be a tough job.”
This story was contributed by Susie Blan, Sylvia Hue, and Kwon Ha.
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