By DANICA KIRKA and JILL LAWLESS – Associated Press
LONDON (AP) — Liz Truss became British Prime Minister on Tuesday and immediately tackled the enormous tasks ahead of her: reining in soaring prices, stimulating the economy, alleviating social unrest and fixing a national healthcare system overwhelmed by long waiting lists and staff shortages.
Truss has quickly begun appointing senior members of her cabinet as she tackles an inbox dominated by the energy crisis triggered by Russian invasion of Ukrainewhich threatens to push energy bills at unaffordable levels, closing businesses and leaving the nation the poorest chills at home this winter.
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Truss – Britain’s third female prime minister – has appointed a high-profile team that is gender and ethnically diverse, but loyal to her and her free-market policies. Kwasi Kwarteng becomes the UK’s first black Treasury chief and Therese Coffey its first Deputy Prime Minister. Other appointments include James Cleverly as Foreign Secretary and Suella Braverman as Home Secretary, responsible for immigration and law and order.
Giving her first speech outside her new Downing Street home in a break between torrential downpours, Truss said she would cut taxes to boost economic growth, bolster the National Health Service and ‘deal concretely’ with the crisis energy, though it gave few details on how it would implement those policies. It is expected to unveil its energy plans on Thursday.
British media reported that Truss planned to cap energy bills. The cost to taxpayers of this step could reach 100 billion pounds ($116 billion).
“We shouldn’t be intimidated by the challenges we face,” Truss said. in his first speech as prime minister. “As strong as the storm is, I know the British people are stronger.”
Truss, 47, took office earlier today at Balmoral Castle in Scotland when he was formally asked by Queen Elizabeth II to form a new government in a ceremony dictated by centuries of tradition. Outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson formally stepped down during his own audience with the Queen shortly before, two months after announcing his intention to step down.
It was the first time in the Queen’s 70-year reign that the handover took place at Balmoral, rather than Buckingham Palace in London. The ceremony was moved to Scotland to provide certainty on the timing, as the 96-year-old Queen faced travel issues that forced palace officials to make decisions about her day-to-day trip.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy received a call from Truss on the first day. She also spoke with US President Joe Biden.
Zeemslyy wrote on Twitter: “I was the first among foreign leaders to have a conversation with newly elected British Prime Minister Liz Truss. I invited her to Ukraine. I thanked the British people for their leadership in supporting Ukraine militarily and economically.”
Biden, who worked closely with Johnson to deal with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, was quick to congratulate Truss.
“I look forward to deepening the special relationship between our countries and working closely together on global challenges, including continued support for Ukraine as it defends itself against Russian aggression,” he said. he stated on Twitter.
Truss’s office said she and Biden discussed the war in Ukraine and defense cooperation, as well as economic issues and maintaining the Anglo-Irish Good Friday Agreement. The leaders were due to meet in person soon – likely around this month’s UN General Assembly meeting in New York.
Truss became Prime Minister a day after the ruling Conservative Party chose her as leader in an election in which the party’s 172,000 paying members were the only voters. As party leader, Truss automatically became Prime Minister without the need for a general election, as the Conservatives still have a majority of lawmakers in the House of Commons.
But as the national leader selected by less than 0.5% of British adults, Truss is under pressure to show quick results.
Liberal Democrat opposition leader Ed Davey called for a snap election in October on Tuesday – something Truss and the Conservative Party are highly unlikely to do as the Tories are plummeting in the polls.
Johnson, 58, became prime minister three years ago after his predecessor, Theresa May, failed to get Britain out of the European Union. Johnson went on to win an 80-seat majority in parliament with a promise to “get Brexit done”.
But he was forced out of office by a series of scandals that culminated in the resignation of dozens of cabinet secretaries and lower-level officials in early July.
Still colorful, Johnson said he was “like one of those booster rockets that served its purpose.”
“I will now gently re-enter the atmosphere and dive invisibly into a remote and obscure corner of the Pacific,” he said.
Many people in Britain are still learning about their new leader, a former accountant who joined Parliament in 2010.
Unlike Johnson, who achieved media stardom long before becoming Prime Minister, Truss quietly rose through the Conservative ranks before being appointed Foreign Secretary, one of the highest Cabinet posts there are. barely a year.
Truss is under pressure to explain how it plans to help consumers pay household energy bills which are expected to average 3,500 pounds ($4,000) a year – triple the cost of a year ago – October 1 unless she intervenes.
Rising food and energy prices, driven by the invasion of ukraine and the aftershocks of COVID-19 and Brexit, propelled Inflation in the UK above 10% for the first time in four decades. The Bank of England predicts that it will reach 13.3% in October and that the UK will enter a prolonged recession by the end of the year.
Train drivers, port staff, garbage collectors, postal workers and lawyers have all staged strikes to demand pay rises keep pace with inflation, and millions more, from teachers to nurses, could leave in the next few months.
In theory, Truss has time to make her mark: she doesn’t have to call a national election until the end of 2024. But opinion polls already give the main opposition party, Labor, a lead constant, and the more the economy deteriorates, the greater the pressure will be. growing up.
As well as Britain’s domestic problems, Truss and his new cabinet will also face multiple foreign policy crises, including the war in Ukraine and the frosty post-Brexit relationship with the EU.
Truss, as foreign minister, was a strong supporter of Ukrainian resistance to Russia.
Truss also pledged to increase UK defense spending to 3% of gross domestic product from just over 2% – another costly pledge.
Rebecca Macdougal, 55, who works in law enforcement, told the Houses of Parliament that time will tell if Truss can turn the tide.
“She makes promises for it, because she says she’s going to deliver, deliver, deliver,” Macdougal noted. “But we will see in hopefully the next few weeks there will be announcements that will help the normal working person.”
AP writers Susie Blann, Sylvia Hui, Joanna Kozlowska and Kwiyeon Ha in London and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this story.
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