Boris Johnson was a trainwreck with his insistence on a hard-line Brexit strategy that strained United Kingdom-Europe relations, the oscillating policies on how COVID-19 should be handled, the increased taxes, and the slew of scandals that plagued his short-lived administration.
To know more him, watch this video to the end:
Liz Truss, the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (UK) come Tuesday morning (6 Sep), may not be that different, however unfortunate that is.
Without further ado, here are nine facts about Liz Truss, from her history, political career, to her future agenda.
Who is Liz Truss?
Mary Elizabeth Truss—better known as Liz Truss—is the newest leader in the Conservative Party after Boris Johnson resigned.
She has worked for three former Prime Ministers thus far.
Truss was the environment secretary under David Cameron, the justice secretary under Theresa May, and was later appointed as the foreign secretary by Boris Johnson.
(Do take note of the positions she held under different Prime Ministers; they will play an important role in shaping her stances for a few key issues.)
She graduated from Oxford University in 1996 and joined the Conservative Party soon after, despite being President of the Oxford University Liberal Democrats and a member of the national executive committee of Liberal Democrat Youth and Students during her schooling years.
The 47-year-old politician is married to Hugh O’ Leary and has two daughters with him.
Becoming Prime Minister
It should be highlighted that Liz Truss won a leadership contest which made her the new Leader of the Conservative Party; she did not win the General Elections.
In both the British and Singaporean Parliament, the leader of the majority ruling party (with the most seats) becomes the de facto Prime Minister.
Here’s a video that simplifies how it works (the video talks about Malaysia system, which is the same as the UK system):
A leadership contest differs from General Elections in the sense that only members of the political party are allowed to vote for the former, whereas the entire UK population gets to vote on the latter.
For this particular leadership contest, 357 MPs were eligible to run as the newest Tory leader, and eight Conservatives MPs were ultimately nominated.
The number was whittled down to two through a series of secret votes, leaving only Liz Truss and former chancellor Rishi Sunak to compete for the leadership position.
On 6 September, it was announced that Truss won with 81,326 votes compared with 60,399 for Sunak.
Her position as Prime Minister will remain unchallenged, unless she is forced to resign like her predecessor, or until the next General Elections in 2025.
What Happens After?
On Tuesday morning, Boris Johnson will deliver a farewell speech at Downing Street—the standard residence of the Prime Minister—before flying to Scotland where he will hand in his resignation to Queen Elizabeth.
Afterwards, Truss will be flying over to accept the Queen’s invitation to take over as Prime Minister, to ensure continuity of government.
Upon returning to Downing Street, the new Prime Minister will give her address to the nation.
The Hot Potato That Is Brexit
Much like how Theresa May and Boris Johnson had to deal with Brexit negotiations after the 2016 referendum, Truss will have to reckon with the consequences that Brexit has caused.
Although Truss had voted to “remain” for the initial Referendum, she converted into a wholehearted supporter of Brexit when she was a member of Johnson’s cabinet.
The unfortunate part about her change in views is that she is unlikely to bring a more conciliatory approach to the growth of thorny relations between the European Union (EU) and the UK.
Having been through social studies classes in secondary school, every Singaporean knows about the tensions existing in Northern Ireland.
(It’s bad. Really bad. For a memory refresher, read about Bloody Sunday and the subsequent Good Friday Agreement.)
Hence, it’s no coincidence that Northern Ireland was one of the main topics for the Brexit negotiation. Its geographical location is doubly important when it was set to become the only territory with the land borders to the rest of Europe after the UK pulled out from the EU.
As such, the Northern Ireland Protocol was written into the Brexit withdrawal agreement.
The terms state that while Northern Ireland would not be part of the EU single market, it would still be subjected to EU freedom of goods rules and EU Custom Union rules, which means that there will be no custom checks or controls between Northern Ireland and the rest of the country.
However, what annoyed the Tories—people who subscribe to the British version of traditionalism and conservatism—was that the protocol created a customs border in the Irish Sea, whereby goods could flow freely from Northern Ireland into Britain, but goods from Britain to Northern Ireland and elsewhere could not.
Hence, the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill was introduced in June 2022, seeking to create red lands and green lanes for goods imported from Britain into Northern Ireland.
The green lane would be reserved for trusted traders transporting goods to Northern Ireland only. They will not be subjected to checks and custom controls.
The red land would be for products going to the EU, which includes the Republic of Ireland. These will have to undergo full checks and customs control.
If the bill passed in the parliament, however, it will disapply and override the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Needless to say, the EU is not pleased with the development, especially since the protocol was established for the sake of avoiding a ‘hard border’.
To make matters worse, Truss may invoke Article 16, which is an emergency provision that allows Britain to take unilateral action on Northern Ireland, and this may push the bill through.
The EU has since launched legal proceedings against Britain for the breaches of international law, as it perceives the Brexit withdrawal agreement and all its stated clauses as a binding treaty.
However, the United Kingdom is not in the position for another Brexit battle, nor the EU wish for another fight.
The “Cost-of-Living” Crisis
Truth to be told, Truss really could not have come into power at a worse time, since the UK is plagued with a list of problems.
On the top of her agenda would be the “cost-of-living” crisis that is being primarily driven by the shortage of energy.
The simple and regurgitated argument for this: energy is essential for everything, from powering tractors and other equipment in agricultural farms to lights, electricity, and factories. If energy prices increase, the costs will also increase, and it eventually compounds on the consumers in the form of rising prices for products and in utility bills.
With Russia cutting off Britain’s access to natural gas by switch off Europe’s flow of gas via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline—citing maintenance work as the reason—alongside the increasing demand for energy as the global economy recovers while the supply of energy drops due to the Ukrainian crisis, the UK has been pushed into a desperate situation where they are grappling for more energy.
(And we haven’t even touched on global inflation yet.)
Since the UK shut down its last gas storage facility in 2017, the country has had no cushion against the shocks of the rising prices and sudden shortage.
What is Liz Truss’s proposed solution then?
She intends to issue up to 130 drilling licences for oil and gas firms to ramp out domestic supply.
This is completely contrary to Britain’s goal of zero carbon emission by 2050.
It ignores the better alternative of pushing out more green technology like solar panels and wind turbines, which have become significantly cheaper with the years.
While turning back the time to undo the damage wrought on our planet is impossible, mitigating the damages is plausible.
Increasing Britain’s energy dependence on burning fossil fuels will come at the expense of a sustainable future.
Sadly, the rhetoric the new British Prime Minister is pushing for echoes Cameron, who had demanded they cut the “green crap” upon taking office.
Dealing With Post-Pandemic Conditions
Another solution that Liz Truss has proposed is tax cuts.
Tax cuts that come at a risk of inflationary effects and higher interest rates.
Sure, it will put more money back into the hands of the consumers and hopefully stimulate the economy more, but at what cost?
The National Health Service (NHS) is mainly funded by general taxation and National Insurance contributions, and all English residents are automatically entitled to free public healthcare.
The UK is also facing an ageing population, which means that they need more healthcare workers and more funding, and the demand will only increase with time.
It is no secret to the Britons that NHS performance has been deteriorating for the past decade, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened and further exposed its flaws.
The waiting lists for hospitals are at an all-time high and nearly one in eight people are currently waiting to receive treatment. Emergency services are also slowing down because of delays in 999 call responses and long waits at the A&E.
The NHS needs more funding.
The nurses of England just went on strike earlier this June, protesting that they were underpaid in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis.
Yet, Truss intends to make up for the reduction in the taxation that governments receive by axing national insurance, suspending corporation taxes, and removing green levies from energy bills.
With a single fiscal policy, Britain’s healthcare system will be further destabilised and more underfunded, and any progress made in encouraging the adoption of green technology will slow down to a crawl.
Yet, Truss said this: “I will deliver on the energy crisis, dealing with people’s energy bills, but also dealing with the long-term issues we have on energy supply. And I will deliver on the National Health Service.”
Sorry, but beg your pardon??
The Cheese Speech Meme
On a lighter note, Truss’s earliest claim to internet fame over the course of her political career definitely goes to her cheese speech.
During the 2014 Conservative Party conference, Truss was talking about the state of British exports before digressing to cheese.
The politician said, “At the moment we import two thirds of our apples. We import nine tenths of all our pears. We import two thirds of our cheese.”
After a long pause, she added, “That is a disgrace.”
Let it be known that the internet has a long memory; a joke that was created in 2014 was dredged up during the 2022 leadership contest, even going viral on Twitter.
Affair From The Mark Field
Despite Truss’s recent success in claiming the leadership position in the Conservative Party, her career hadn’t always been smooth sailing.
When she tried to contest in the 1998 Greenwich Borough Council elections for Vanbrugh Ward and for Blackheath Westcombe in 2002, she did not succeed.
In 2006, Truss found herself under scrutiny when reports of her affairs with then-Tory MP Mark Field came to light. She was already married to O’Leary then.
Apparently, Field had been assigned to Truss as her political mentor to help her in her career. The pair met in 2000, when Truss was 25 years old.
The affair lasted for 18 months, before it ended in June 2005.
This scandal came back to bite Truss in October 2019, while she was trying for the South West Norfolk seat.
Truss originally had an overwhelming lead, possessing 50% of the votes against the five other candidates in the first round.
However, members of the constituency Conservative Association objected to Truss as she had failed to declare that she had a previous affair with MP Mark Field.
There was even a proposed motion to terminate her candidature, though it was defeated by 132 votes to 37 at a general meeting later.
Stance on Ukrainian Crisis
If you didn’t hear about Truss from the cheese speech memes, or because she is becoming the third female British Prime Minister after Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May, then you probably heard of her during the Ukrainian Crisis.
Along with Johnson, she is a vocal supporter of Ukraine, completely approving of the defensive and humanitarian aid that the UK is providing.
She was also the person who encouraged people to volunteer in Ukraine, saying that she would “back them going over there”.
Therefore, Truss is unlikely to change Britain’s current stance.
This is to the relief of Kyiv President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and to the annoyance of the Kremlin government.
After Truss was declared the new Tory leader, Vladimir Putin’s chief spokesperson Dmitry Peskov immediately expressed concerns that UK-Russia relations might deteriorate.
Peskov said that he doesn’t believe that things can take a turn for the worse, but this is also because he can’t “imagine anything worse”.
Russia loathes Truss, that’s just a fact.
Back in February, she had been mocked and denigrated when she went to Moscow for talks with the Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov.
When Truss’s victory was announced, one Russian host on state television uttered, “Stupidity has triumphed: Liz Truss has become the new Prime Minister… If Boris Johnson achieved Brexit, she wants to achieve something entirely different—the end of the world.”
The Ukrainian officials, on the other hand, are ecstatic about this news.
President Zelenskyy even went as far as saying that Ukraine “knows her well”, and believes that the two countries can accomplish a lot more together to protect Ukraine and stop Russia’s destructive efforts.
Ukrainian deputy Rustem Umerov tweeted, “In Liz, we Truss. Mrs Truss is a solid supporter of Ukraine. Hope for a fruitful ongoing partnership between the UK and Ukraine.”
In Liz, we Truss.
My sincere greetings to UK’s new Prime Minister @trussliz 🇬🇧
Mrs. Truss is a solid supporter of Ukraine. Hope for a fruitful ongoing partnership between 🇬🇧 and 🇺🇦.
— Rustem Umerov (@rustem_umerov) September 5, 2022
Point, but bad pun.
Reportedly, Truss’s first call had been to the Ukrainian President.
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