Conservatives back Truss in Leadership Race05 September 2022 - by Cris Cloyd
Conservatives have submitted their ballots in the race for a new UK Prime Minister and it’s Liz Truss, MP for South West Norfolk, who has emerged as the victor. The final two contenders, Rishi Sunak MP for Richmond (Yorks) and Liz Truss MP battled through constituencies for the last 6 weeks but it was Truss who won with 81,326 votes from party members coming through in her favour.
So, what do we know about the new Prime Minister and what can we expect?
Liz Truss has been the MP for South West Norfolk since 2010 and Foreign Secretary since the Government reshuffle in September 2021. Outside of politics she was an accountant for Shell and Cable & Wireless.
She is among one of the longest serving government ministers, holding ministerial posts since 2012, and serving in the cabinet since 2014, under three different prime ministers. Ministerial posts have included:
- Foreign Secretary (September 2021 – present)
- Minister for Women and Equalities (2020 – present)
- International Trade Secretary (2019-21)
- Chief Secretary to the Treasury (2017-19)
- Justice Secretary (2016-17)
- Environment Secretary (2014-16)
- Junior Minister in Department of Education (2012-14)
Truss initially backed the Remain campaign before the EU referendum in 2016. However, by 2017, she had changed her mind on this issue. As Foreign Secretary, she has signed a number of post-Brexit free trade deals that have served to boost her credentials with euro-sceptics within the party.
Critically, she did not resign alongside much of the cabinet, including Sunak and has remained in post as Foreign Secretary.
She has led negotiations with the EU around the NI Protocol, having been given the job by Boris Johnson after European relations were returned under the responsibility of the Foreign Office. Initially seen by EU negotiators as a welcome change from the tone and approach of Lord David Frost, this quickly changed, with her introduction of the NI Protocol Bill.
Citing economist Patrick Minford, she has positioned herself as an economic libertarian in opposition to Sunak, promoting the value of free markets, backing low taxation and repeatedly speaking out against “nanny state” politics.
With backing from key Johnson loyalists, she is more of a continuity than ‘clean break’ candidate, though notably she has pledged to reverse the National Insurance and Corporation Tax rises that Sunak introduced as chancellor as well as spreading the repayment of the UK’s covid debt across a longer time period. She has also said she will increase defence spending by 3 percent by the end of the decade, has pledged to abolish housing targets, and said that she would lift a ban on fracking.
She has been criticised by other MPs for her speaking style but is generally popular with the party membership. She faced a more difficult route to the final two than her opponent but has now emerged as the favourite and will occupy No. 10 as Prime Minister today.
Liz Truss was criticised for stating that she would introduce regional rather than national pay boards for public sector salaries. Such was the backlash that she released a statement to affirm that public sector pay would be maintained at its’ current level.
Her temporary reawakening of old Anglo-French tensions when she that she was unsure if French President Emmanuel Macron was a ‘friend or foe’ may have been met with disappointment by former diplomats and ambassadors but Macron himself took it in his stride, describing the British as "a friendly nation, regardless of its leaders, sometimes in spite of its leaders".
Moving from international relations to relations between the constituent parts of the UK, as a self-described “child of the Union” Truss criticised Sinn Féin for, “driving a wedge between Great Britain and Northern Ireland” while promising to ignore Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s calls for another Independence Referendum.
As Prime Minister, Liz Truss is expected to advance the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill with some sources saying her government could reverse the Northern Ireland Protocol within days. Others anticipate that Truss will pursue a continued strategy of seeing the legislation through parliament as it passes through the House of Lords in the coming weeks.
Liz Truss has not published any details of what cost-of-living support she will provide. To date, she has committed to cut green levies and VAT on energy bills in response to the rise in energy bills while ruling out any form of energy rationing over the winter.
This of course is the third Prime Minister since 2016 – May, Johnson and now Truss have taken up the mantle of leading the UK after David Cameron’s resignation following the Brexit referendum.
With new Cabinet Ministers, what does that mean for Northern Ireland? Will Shailesh Vara remain in post, or could Conor Burns MP be elevated to the role, or indeed, could we see the rumoured Sajid Javid?
From inflation to cost of living, Winter is coming. How will our new PM fare? Only time will tell.