Liz Truss is Britain's next prime minister after winning Tory vote

Ms Liz Truss delivering a speech after being announced as Britain's next prime minister, in London on Sept 5, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS
Ms Liz Truss will be Britain's third female prime minister after Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May. PHOTO: REUTERS
Mr Rishi Sunak and Ms Liz Truss have spent the last eight weeks rallying support among Conservative Party members. PHOTO: REUTERS
Journalists waiting for the announcement of Britain's next prime minister outside 10 Downing Street on Sept 5, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss will become the next prime minister, after she won the ruling Conservative Party’s leadership race on Monday, defeating former chancellor Rishi Sunak following a two-month campaign. 

Ms Truss – who will be Britain’s fourth prime minister in six years – succeeds Mr Boris Johnson, who resigned in July after months of scandal eroded both public and party support for his government. 

The new leader will on Tuesday be formally appointed by Queen Elizabeth II in Scotland, and then return to No. 10 Downing Street in London to address the nation and appoint members of her Cabinet.

In a brief acceptance speech after the announcement of the result of the Tory vote, Ms Truss, 47, thanked Mr Sunak, 42, for a “hard-fought campaign” and vowed a “bold plan” of action for Britain. 

"I will deliver a bold plan to cut taxes and grow our economy,” the veteran politician said. “I will deliver on the energy crisis, dealing with people’s energy bills, but also dealing with the long-term issues we have on energy supply.”

Remote video URL

She also tweeted: “I will take bold action to get all of us through these tough times... and unleash the United Kingdom’s potential.”

Ms Truss comes to power at a turbulent time for Britain. 

On top of facing a prolonged war in Europe from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that has led to a severe energy crunch in the region, Britain is headed for recession, with inflation - 10.1 per cent in July - at a 40-year high and growing industrial unrest amid a worsening cost-of-living crisis. 

Ms Truss won 57 per cent (81,326 votes) of party members’ valid votes, to Mr Sunak’s 43 per cent (60,399 votes). 

The victory was the lowest proportion of votes secured by an incoming Tory leader since the party changed its election rules in 2001 to give members a final say, the BBC reported. 

It compares with Mr Johnson’s 66 per cent in 2019, Mr David Cameron’s 68 per cent in 2005, and Mr Iain Duncan Smith 61 per cent in 2001. Ms Theresa May, who took office in 2016 following the Brexit vote, did not face a ballot as her rival pulled out.

In her speech on Monday, Ms Truss – who will be Britain’s third female prime minister – appeared to rule out another national election for the next two years, saying she would win a “great victory” for her party in 2024.

Mr Sunak called for party unity following his defeat, tweeting: “It’s right we now unite behind the new PM, Liz Truss, as she steers the country through difficult times.”

Outgoing Mr Johnson also urged the party to rally around Ms Truss, adding that he supported her plans to tackle Britain’s cost-of-living crisis and address inequality. 

“Now is the time for all Conservatives to get behind her 100 per cent,” he wrote on Twitter. 

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, in congratulatory comments to Ms Truss, said London and Brussels must work “in full respect of our agreements”. 

Ms Truss had previously vowed to push through proposed legislation to tear up part of Britain’s Brexit deal with the European Union. 

Her other campaign promises include fleshing out a plan within a week to help struggling households and businesses cope with skyrocketing electricity and gas prices ahead of a winter crunch. 

She has also pledged to scrap tax increases and cut other levies that some economists say will worsen inflation, as well as to review the central bank’s mandate in a bid to grant her government more directive powers over interest rates. 

Ms Truss is expected to produce an emergency budget within her first month in office.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, Ms Truss’ long-time ally, has been tipped to become chancellor. 

On the diplomatic scene, Ms Truss has said she will continue to take a hard line against Russia over its war in Ukraine, and to crack down on Chinese investment in Britain.

Remote video URL

Truss' three top priorities 

1. Fixing rising energy bills 

Britain’s most urgent problems are skyrocketing inflation levels and soaring energy bills, which have exacerbated its cost-of-living crisis. 

Ms Liz Truss had vowed during campaigning to “deliver immediate support to ensure people are not facing unaffordable fuel bills” this winter. 

Her promise to announce, within a week of taking office, how she will tackle this issue comes as the country sees its highest inflation in 40 years at 10.1 per cent.

Households’ electricity and gas bills have already risen some 80 per cent on average even ahead of an impending winter crunch, with fuel costs set to account for as much as a 10th of household spending.

2. Implementing tax cuts 

Ms Truss has promised to implement some £30 billion (S$48.5 billion) worth of personal and business tax cuts to spur economic growth, with her campaign suggesting that she will release an emergency budget within the month. 

She has said she plans to “immediately tackle the cost-of-living crisis by cutting taxes, reversing the rise on national insurance and suspending the green levy on energy bills”. 

She could scrap this year’s increase in social security contributions that fund Britain’s public health service and welfare payments as early as October, and do away with next year’s planned rise in corporate tax. 

She has also proposed axing the fuel taxes that pay for the country’s transition to cleaner energy, amid the fuel crunch.

3. Renewing focus on growth 

Ms Truss aims to boost the British economy through supply-side reforms, which include reducing regulations and lowering taxes. 

She plans to make the public sector “more efficient” and bring public finances under control by raising Britain’s annual growth rate to 2.5 per cent – a level not consistently achieved since before the 2008 financial crisis. 

She has said she does not want to cut public spending and pledged “no new taxes” to pay for giveaways, while indicating her willingness to run up the country’s budget deficit. 

Ms Truss also plans to review the mandate of the central bank, which she has blamed for worsening inflation. This comes as the Bank of England has been raising interest rates and selling its own holdings of government bonds. 

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.