LONDON – Liz Truss is expected to be named leader of the ruling Conservative Party and Britain’s next prime minister on Monday, taking office at a time when the country is dealing with a cost-of-living crisis, industrial unrest, and a recession.
After weeks of an often fractious and divisive party leadership contest in which Truss faced former finance minister Rishi Sunak, Monday’s announcement at 1130 GMT will mark the start of a handover from Boris Johnson. After months of controversy, he was forced to resign in July.
The winner will travel to Scotland on Tuesday to meet Queen Elizabeth, who will request that the new leader form a government.
Truss, who has long been considered the frontrunner in the race to replace Johnson, would become the Conservatives’ fourth prime minister since the 2015 election. Over that time, the country has been tossed from crisis to crisis and is now facing what is expected to be a long recession caused by skyrocketing inflation, which reached 10.1% in July.
Truss, the Foreign Secretary under Boris Johnson, has promised to act quickly to address Britain’s cost of living crisis, stating that she will present a plan to address rising energy bills and secure future fuel supplies within a week.
In a TV interview on Sunday, she declined to provide details on the measures she claims will reassure millions of people who are worried about not being able to pay their fuel bills as winter approaches.
She has signaled during her leadership campaign she would challenge convention by scrapping tax increases and cutting other levies that some economists say would fuel 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.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies cast doubt last month on Britain’s next prime minister having room to make large, permanent tax cuts.
Truss: No Early Elections
Truss faces a long, costly and difficult to-do list, which opposition lawmakers say is the result of 12 years of poor Conservative government. Several have called for an early election – something Truss has said she will not allow.
Veteran Conservative lawmaker David Davis described the challenges she would take on as prime minister as “probably the second most difficult brief of post-war prime ministers” after Conservative Margaret Thatcher in 1979.
“I actually don’t think any of the candidates, not one of them going through it, really knows quite how big this is going to be,” he said, adding that costs could run into tens of billions of pounds.
Truss has said she will appoint a strong cabinet, dispensing with what one source close to her called a “presidential-style” of governing.
First she will turn to the urgent issue of surging energy prices. Average annual household utility bills are set to jump by 80% in October to 3,549 pounds (RM18300.40), before an expected rise to 6,000 pounds in 2023, decimating personal finances.
Britain has lagged other major European countries in its offer of support for consumer energy bills, which opposition lawmakers blame on a “zombie” government unable to act while the Conservatives ran their leadership contest.
In May, the government set out a 15-billion-pound support package to help households with energy bills as part of its 37-billion-pound cost-of-living support scheme.
Italy has budgeted over 52 billion euros (RM231.89 billion) so far this year to help its people. In France, increases in electricity bills are capped at 4% and Germany said on Sunday it would spend at least 65 billion euros shielding consumers and businesses from rising inflation. – Reuters