New leader Liz Truss has promised to help Britain’ride the storm” inflation, recession and soaring energy prices. She is committed to making the country work and grow again through tax cuts and deregulation. She used the word “we” a lot.
But neither Truss nor Johnson mentioned their Conservative party had been in power for 12 years. years and thus contributed to the country’s frightening economic forecasts. Johnson did not note that it was his party lawmakers who forced him out of office after a series of scandals and lies. And Truss didn’t recognize that she had been installed by legislators and deputies of their party, rather than getting a mandate from Britain at large. It was chosen by 0.3% of the population.
The day was a pas de deux – by tradition.
Usually, outgoing and incoming prime ministers almost pass each other on the five-minute drive from Downing Street to Buckingham Palace, both in London. But because Queen Elizabeth II is 96 and has limited mobility, she asked the couple to go to her home, to her Balmoral Royal Estate and summer holiday home in Scotland.
Johnson and Truss flew in separate Royal Air Force passenger jets arrive for their separate audiences with the monarch. Reducing carbon emissions, it seems, was not the main concern of the day. Officials claimed the double flights were necessary for safety.
Johnson had served as caretaker prime minister since July, when a flurry of resignations from his government forced him to announce that he would resign. But his meeting with the queen made it official. He bowed and tendered his resignation.
Then it was Truss’ turn to meet the monarch and ask permission to form a new government. In photos cleared by the palace, she appeared to be making a shallow bow.
The transition offered a preview of the queen, which has become a rarity since health issues forced her to reduce her workload. Dressed in a gray cardigan, tartan plaid skirt and her signature pearls, she smiled at Truss and held out her hand to the new Prime Minister.
In her other hand, the Queen held a cane, an aid she has been pictured using regularly in recent months.
She looked tiny – and a bit frail – but chipper.
The farm is the 15th Queen’s Prime Minister. The first was Winston Churchill, born in 1874. Truss was born over 100 years later, in 1975.
She becomes Britain’s third female Prime Minister, after Theresa May and Margaret Thatcher — all Conservatives, by the way. And Britain can now claim membership in the small club of countries that have elected or appointed at least three female heads of state or government.
Truss also made history on Tuesday in name three people of color to the so-called “big offices” of state: James Cleverly as Foreign Secretary, Suella Braverman as Home Secretary and Kwasi Kwarteng as Chancellor of the Exchequer or Chief Financial Officer. For the first time there will not be a white man holding one of Britain’s four highest political seats. Powerful.
Truss herself held senior positions under three prime ministers, including her last stint as foreign secretary. Yet many Britons admit they don’t really know Truss, not as they knew Johnson – former London mayor, newspaper columnist, Brexit cheerleader, serial prevaricator.
It’s fair to say that Truss is a shapeshifter.
She describes herself as a “plain-speaking Yorkshirewoman” (who went to Oxford, like many British leaders).
Her political journey began on the left, as a liberal democrat. Down with the monarchy! she wept in her college days. But today she is staunchly conservative and says the Royal Family is “essential” to Britain’s success.
Truss also voted for Britain to remain in the European Union before becoming a die-hard Brexit supporter.
It has made EU officials nervous with threats to roll back the provision of the Brexit deal that deals with Northern Ireland. President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen gave Truss pointed congratulations this week: “I look forward to a constructive relationship, in full respect of our agreements.”
The United States – a key backer of the Good Friday peace deal – is also wary of Truss’ moves in Northern Ireland.
In his congratulatory message, President Biden instead highlighted cooperation between the United States and Britain to provide “continued support to Ukraine as it defends itself against Russian aggression.”
Johnson cited Britain’s early support for Ukraine as one of his proudest accomplishments. Truss, who previously helped impose sanctions on Russian oligarchs, promised to be forceful in his dealings with Moscow. His first conversation as Prime Minister with a foreign leader was with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov collapsed in his criticism of Britain’s new leader on Tuesday, decrying her “knowingly negative stance on Russia”.
Lavrov said: “She is defending Britain’s interests without any will to compromise, which is unlikely to strengthen London’s position on the international stage.”
Although Truss inherited a wide range of challenges, the Brits have a very clear idea about what they think should be at the top of his inbox: the cost of living crisis.
People are alarmed by rising energy bills. The average annual household fuel bill is expected to jump from around $2,300 to $4,100 next month, a jump of almost 80%. And analysts say the average could top $6,900 next year. That is if the government does not intervene.
At the same time, inflation is at 10%, a 40-year high, and the Bank of England is forecasting a prolonged recession.
In her first speech as prime minister On Tuesday afternoon, Truss promised “bold” action. “I will deal directly with the energy crisis caused by Putin’s war,” she said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin and blaming Russia’s invasion of Ukraine outright.
She was unclear on the specifics of how the state will help or how the government will fund the interventions. The Financial Times reported that Truss’ team is finalizing a package that could cost more than $115 billion to deal with the crisis.
Truss pledged to help “transform Britain into a nation with ambition, with well-paying jobs, safe streets and where everyone, everywhere has the opportunities they deserve”.
The new leader said she wanted to focus on ‘getting Britain back to work’, despite unemployment near an all-time low of 3.8% and businesses struggling to find workers after Brexit.
Johnson’s remarks in Downing Street earlier today highlighted the stylistic differences between the two leaders.
Her evocation of Cincinnatus, in particular, made people talk about her.
Clearly, Johnson, an amateur classic, was signaling virtue – a big moment.
But was the main message about political restraint? Or the duty to serve when called?
The Roman statesman of the 5th century BC. is said to have been commissioned to defend Rome against invasion, accepting extraordinary powers but giving them all up after the battle was over. According to some accounts, he then agreed to return to Rome and serve as dictator a second time.
A BBC analyst said the subtext of Johnson’s speech was “Why the hell did you get rid of me?” Many believe Johnson will attempt a comeback.
Oxford classic Mary Beard tweeted: ‘If you’re curious about Boris Johnson’s reference to Cincinnatus in his farewell speech – he…saved the state from an invasion, then – work done – returned to his farm (“to his plow”).”
She added: “He was also an enemy of the people.”
Annabelle Timsit in London and Rachel Pannett in Sydney contributed to this report.