With major overhaul in leadership, England faces changes and turmoil
By Patrick Gainor, Guest Writer
Liz Truss has become the new Prime Minister of Great Britain, winning 57% of the Conservative Party vote to replace Boris Johnson in his role.
The United Kingdom underwent dramatic changes last week. On Tuesday, Sept. 6, Thatcherist Liz Truss was appointed prime minister replacing a resigning Boris Johnson. Two days later, Queen Elizabeth II died at the age of 96, ending her 70-year reign as Queen of England. Her son Charles now takes her place as King Charles III at age 73.
Both the new king and prime minister addressed the public in the wake of the Queen’s death. Truss spoke to Parliament just hours after her death, saying the Queen was “one of the great leaders the world has ever known” and that the U.K. was a great country “because of her.”
King Charles addressed the country last Friday.
“Her Majesty The Queen–my beloved mother–was an inspiration and example to me and to all my family, and we owe her the most heartfelt debt any family can owe to their mother for her love, affection, guidance, understanding and example, he said.
Truss, formally a Liberal Democrat before a party switch in 1996, is considered by many to share a striking resemblance in policy to former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, whose policy helped shape the Conservative Party. Truss seems eager to assume a similar mantle, continuing the political philosophy of low-tax, high-growth economic liberalism — deemed “Thatcherism,” and is also set to continue several populist philosophies implemented by her predecessor Boris Johnson.
Truss made history in the construction of her cabinet, with none of the four “great offices of state” being held by a White male for the first time ever as The Prime Minister appointed three individuals from minority groups. Kwasi Kwarteng as Chancellor, James Cleverly as Foreign Secretary and Suella Braverman as Home Secretary. Truss’ press secretary said the changes would unify the Tory party. However, despite all members of Johnson’s cabinet that backed her rival Rishi Sunak have been purged from their positions, causing criticism from Tory politicians.
This dramatic transition of power comes in a time of economic crisis. In August, the inflation rate for GBP rose above 10% for the first time since 1982, and energy bills were projected to breach £3,500 a year. In response, Truss put into place a nationwide pause on energy bill rates set to last for the next two years on Thursday, a sweeping effort to temporaryily ease the rising cost of living. If this plan goes through, it will be the biggest government intervention of the economy in decades and is projected to cost the British Treasury approximately £10 billion.
Even so, this price cap might not be enough to stave off nationwide energy protests. The Don’t Pay U.K. movement has been gaining traction throughout the U.K. in response to inflation, where almost 200,000 people have pledged to not pay their energy bills on Oct. 1. Lewis Ford, the organizer of this movement, spoke to national news after the announcement of the rate freeze: “We are calling for 2021 levels… A lot of people are going to be completely unable to afford this.”
The price cap for energy bills in Oct. 2021 was £1,277 a year.
“I will deal hands on with the energy crisis forged by Putin’s war. I will take action this week to deal with energy bills and to secure our future energy supply, by delivering on the economy, on energy and on the NHS…” Truss said.
Truss announced a package of long-term measures to combat the economic crisis, including the acceleration of nuclear power plant projects and increased licensing of oil drilling. Truss also announced her intent to lift the ban on fracking, which was set in 2019 to preserve the integrity of the countryside and limit the risk of earthquakes. This package has drawn widespread political backlash, most notably from Truss’s chancellor Kwarteng.
Queen Elizabeth’s funeral will be held on Sept. 19 at Westminster Abbey. The coronation of King Charles III has yet to be announced but will likely not happen for several months. When it does, the national anthem will be changed to “God Save The King” for the first time since 1952.
“Our country was built by people who get things done. We have huge reserves of talent, of energy and determination. I am confident that together, we can ride out the storm. We can rebuild our country and become the modern, brilliant Britain that all you know we can be,” Truss said.