London Liz Truss wants to lead Britain out of the biggest crisis in 50 years and bring it back to its former glory. With a short, optimistic speech, the new Prime Minister tried to give her compatriots, who were stricken by numerous problems, new confidence: “We can do it,” said Truss, setting three priorities for the beginning of her term in office.
“I will make Britain work again,” promised the 47-year-old Conservative. To do this, she will boost economic growth, lower taxes and implement reforms. She did not give any details.
In addition, Truss announced that she would decide on the first measures against the acute energy crisis this week in order to slow down the sharp rise in the cost of living. And finally, she wants to ensure that the NHS state health system, which was badly hit after the pandemic, can get back on solid ground. “Britain is stronger than the storm,” said the Prime Minister at the end.
If the weather is to be a harbinger of things to come, however, then Truss needs more than an umbrella and confidence. Just in time for her planned inaugural speech in front of the seat of government at 10 Downing Street, it rained “cats and dogs” with thunder and lightning in London. That fitted quite well with the picture of the perfect storm of numerous crises that await Truss in her new office. However, the resolute head of government was not impressed by the bad weather and began her speech to the British one hour late during a break in the rain.
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Hundreds of onlookers had gathered in front of the seat of government to witness the first public appearance of the new head of government. Truss faces her first political baptism of fire on Wednesday, when she has to face the opposition for the first time during Question Time in Parliament.
Truss finds a mountain of problems on her desk: from sharply rising living costs to the weakening NHS health system and numerous strikes to the ongoing dispute with the EU over Brexit. At the top of her to-do list, however, is the energy price shock for citizens and companies, which the new Prime Minister wants to cushion with state aid.
The focus of their plans is said to be to freeze annual electricity and gas bills for the average UK household at around £2,500 for the next 18 months. The costs should actually increase by 80 percent to just under 3600 pounds by October 1st. Even energy managers like Keith Anderson, head of Scottish Power, consider that to be unmanageable.
Companies should also be relieved. According to the financial information service Bloomberg, the new government is working on a package of around £40 billion. Both together could therefore add up to more than 170 billion pounds.
It is still unclear how Truss will meet this financial need and at the same time reduce taxes as promised. The details of the aid package are expected to be announced later this week.
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According to reports in the British media, the new government has decided to close the financial gap with additional debt. The industry’s proposal to raise the money through a state-guaranteed emergency fund, which consumers would have to pay back in the form of higher energy bills after the crisis, seems to be off the table.
In addition to the financial aid, Truss also wants to secure the energy supply. To this end, the oil and gas deposits in the North Sea in particular are to be used more intensively and nuclear power is to be expanded rapidly. In addition, last week Johnson announced a government investment of 700 million pounds in the new Sizewell C nuclear reactor, which is to be built by the French energy company EDF.
This is what Truss’ cabinet could look like
Truss wanted to introduce the most important members of her cabinet on Tuesday evening. Many of them were already in the front row when Truss spoke. The long-time Truss confidant Thérèse Coffey is to become Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Health. It is considered certain that the previous economics minister, Kwasi Kwarteng, will become the new finance minister.
Suella Braverman, who sided with Truss early on, is being considered for the Home Office. She replaces Priti Patel, who steered a tough course in immigration policy with her controversial deportation of refugees to Rwanda.
James Cleverly, who previously served as Secretary of State under Truss, is expected to be the new Secretary of State. Ben Wallace remains Secretary of Defense. Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of the right-wing party, is to ensure more economic growth as the new economy minister and restrict the unions’ right to strike.
Johnson fuels speculation about a political comeback
Truss had been commissioned by Queen Elizabeth II to form a new government at her Scottish country estate of Balmoral. Johnson previously submitted his resignation to the Queen. The ex-prime minister had defended his government balance sheet that morning and at the same time fueled speculation about a possible political comeback.
A lover of the old classics, Johnson compared himself to the Roman statesman Cincinnatus, who, having accomplished statecraft, initially retired to his farm but later allegedly returned as a dictator. The reference sparked a heated debate about Johnson’s on Twitter future plans.
The outgoing prime minister said not a word about the numerous scandals and escapades that had forced Johnson to resign. “That’s it, folks,” he emphasized with a mischievous smile in farewell, leaving the audience at 10 Downing Street with doubts as to whether that was really it.
More: How do you feel about Liz Truss, the new British Prime Minister? Can she bring more stability to Britain than Boris Johnson? Write us your opinion in five sentences [email protected]. We will publish selected articles with attribution on Thursday in print and online.