As prime minister, Liz Truss faces a raft of problems: energy price rises fuelled by the war in Ukraine, a struggling economy and the NHS under pressure.
“Rishi Sunak 60,399, Liz Truss 81,326. Therefore I give notice that Liz Truss is elected as the leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party.”Graham Brady, Chairman of the 1922 Committee
Liz Truss is a political survivor. She’s served in government continuously for almost a decade, under David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson.
And she’s done it by being a chameleon – going from being a student Liberal Democrat to a Conservative, and more recently from a Remainer to a born again Brexit supporter.
Now her ambition has culminated with her becoming prime minister.
But as she enters Number 10 Downing Street she’s faced with an eye-watering set of challenges.
“There’s this broader inflation problems, growth problems, geo-political issues. So I think the level of difficulty is incredibly high for whoever would have won this.”Bilal Hafeez, Founder & CEO, Macro Hive
All of this comes with political jeopardy. Get it wrong, and she could crash the economy and bring about the end of more than a decade of Conservative rule. So what will she do about it?
In her acceptance speech after being announced as the new Conservative Party leader, Liz Truss nodded to her priorities.
“I will deliver a bold plan to cut taxes and grow our economy.”Liz Truss
She sees herself as a disruptor who thinks the normal way the economy is managed is wrong. She believes that tax cuts will deliver growth and seems relatively unconcerned by inflation, which is the rate at which prices are rising – and they’re rising fast.
“To look at everything through the lens of redistribution, I believe it’s wrong. Because what I’m about is growing the economy. And growing the economy is what benefits everybody.”Liz Truss
That’s quite a break from Conservative thinking of recent years, which has always tried to present its economic policies as progressive. That they benefit the least well off more than the richest.
Liz Truss’s rejection of that suggests that Britain’s third female prime minister will be further to the right on economic policy than any since Margaret Thatcher.
“I will deliver on the energy crisis, dealing with people’s energy bills.”Liz Truss
Having said earlier in the leadership campaign that she wouldn’t give handouts, she’s now considering freezing energy prices this winter. A policy first proposed by the Labour Party.
There are various ways this could be done and paid for, but it’s going to be expensive.
Her plans to reverse the rise in national insurance and introduce no new taxes means she’ll likely have to borrow more, at least in the short term, to find the money needed.
“But also dealing with the long term issues we have on energy supply.”Liz Truss
It’s the UK’s exposure to rising world gas prices that’s causing energy bills to rise.
40 per cent of the UK’s electrical supply comes from gas and Liz Truss is expected to ramp up production in the North Sea.
But that doesn’t help bring the price down, because it’s set by global markets.
It does help energy security though, which can also be improved by putting more green energy into the mix.
Sources close to Liz Truss say she’s committed to renewables, but there’s been little sign of that during the campaign.
“And I will deliver on the National Health Service.”Liz Truss
The NHS is under extreme pressure. There’s a growing backlog for elective care, increasing waits in A&E departments, longer ambulance response times and longer waits for cancer treatment.
Some of that can be blamed on Covid, but not all.
During her campaign Liz Truss said the NHS’s budget will continue to go up in real terms, that’ she’s committed to extra funding, and will reduce layers of management and central control.
A more comprehensive plan is expected to be set out in the coming weeks.
Liz Truss has promised to deliver and she’ll be judged if she doesn’t.
And even if she does, it might not be enough to stop voters turning against her.
Here’s pollster and Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University, Sir John Curtice, talking to Times Radio…
“Fundamental, basic problem: at the moment we are heading for the biggest cut in living standards since 1945. You know, forget the financial crash, which, remember, Gordon Brown, although arguably he managed the financial consequences of the financial crash relatively well. He was never able to avoid the political consequences. It’s going to be very difficult for the new Conservative prime minister to avoid the political consequences of a decline in living standards, which nine times out of ten means people aren’t going to be willing to vote for you again.”Sir John Curtice, pollster and Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University
It’s a daunting prospect for any prime minister, but Liz Truss has something in her favour.
She’s ideological and she’s willing to take a punt on her tax-cutting, enterprise boosting agenda being the right one for the economic challenge facing the country.
If she’s wrong, we’ll all pay the price.
This episode was written and mixed by Lewis Vickers.