Elected Monday, Liz Truss takes office Tuesday

The very liberal Liz Truss won the race to become British Prime Minister and succeed Boris Johnson on Monday, immediately promising to act “boldly” in the face of the historic crisis of purchasing power that is hitting the UK.

Liz Truss, 47, who has run a very right-wing campaign focused on tax cuts, will become the third woman to lead the British government on Tuesday, after Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May.

The foreign minister won with 57 per cent of the vote – a smaller lead than expected over her former finance colleague Rishi Sunak (43 per cent) – in an internal Conservative party vote triggered by the resignation in early July of Boris Johnson, who was dogged by repeated scandals.

Elected party leader, Liz Truss will automatically come to power because of the majority enjoyed by the Tories in the House of Commons.

She remained loyal to Boris Johnson to the end, whom she applauded in her victory speech, and she entered Downing Street in an explosive economic and social context, marked by inflation exceeding 10%, an exorbitant rise in energy bills expected in the autumn and spreading strikes.

There is no respite for convincing, with two years to go before elections in which the labour opposition, which has a clear lead in the polls, hopes to unseat the conservatives in power since 2010.

Call for unity

After announcing her victory, Liz Truss promised “a bold plan to cut taxes and grow our economy.” While she is preparing to announce a freeze on energy bills, according to press reports, she said she wants to address immediate price issues as well as “long-term” supply issues.

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She promised a “great victory” for her party in the legislative elections scheduled for 2024, seemingly ruling out early elections for the time being.

Liz Truss will also have to deal with the shadow of Boris Johnson, who is already missed by some members of the Conservative Party – more male, older and white than the average Briton – and has not ruled out a return to politics.

The outgoing leader called for unity in the party, after a campaign that exposed divisions and resentments among the Conservatives.

Social discontent

The Irish government gave a cautious welcome to Liz Truss’ victory, while Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon congratulated her, but called on Twitter to “freeze energy bills […]to give out more grants and increase funding for public services.

In Europe, Emmanuel Macron said he was “ready to work with allies and friends” with Liz Truss, who during the campaign had refused to decide whether the French president was “friend or foe”.

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, warned that she hoped for “full respect (of) the agreements” between the United Kingdom and the European Union, while London’s desire to reverse the pro-Brexit status of Northern Ireland heralds difficult confrontations.

Along with the economic crisis, this issue is likely to be one of the thorny ones facing the new leader, along with the war in Ukraine, Scotland’s desire for independence and the ever-increasing number of illegal immigrants arriving across the Channel.

Boris Johnson will hand in his resignation to Elizabeth II on Tuesday at her summer residence in Balmoral, Scotland, a first for the 96-year-old sovereign, who has difficulty getting around and will not be making the trip to London.

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Liz Truss will follow him, to become 15e head of government of the 70 years of the Queen’s reign, before returning to London to make his first speech before the 10, Downing Street.

She will then be able to form her government, which, given the names that are circulating, is likely to be very right-wing, in the image of the campaign she has led. The latter, a late convert to conservatism as well as to Brexit, has seduced people by promising massive tax cuts and adopting a very tough tone against the unions. But it was only belatedly that she decided to promise aid to households, without ever detailing its nature.

Rishi Sunak, a wealthy ex-banker, was a favourite among conservative MPs, but he struggled to win over the party’s base by advocating economic realism and was seen as unable to understand the difficulties of households.

In Swaffham, in Liz Truss’ constituency in eastern England, Susan Allen, 67, has confidence in her: “She’ll do a good job,” she assures AFP, while acknowledging that “everything is difficult at the moment.” Martin Childs, sitting in a pub, is more circumspect: “Her policy seems to be moving in a zigzag way, it is not clear what she will do.

While she is popular with the Conservatives, less than a fifth of Britons (19 percent) trust her to act on the cost of living crisis, according to a YouGov poll released Monday.