Two days before her death on September 8, 2022, Queen Elizabeth II had ratified the appointed Ms Mary Elizabeth Truss as the 56th British Prime Minister. Earlier the same day, former Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, had officially tendered his resignation to the Queen at her Balmoral Castle in Scotland after a three-year tenure. Johnson had announced he would resign some two months ago. This engendered an internal election process by about 172,000 registered voting members of the Conservative Party also known as the Tories. The process produced Truss as the new party leader and hence the new Prime Minister.
The Conservative Party has held power for 12 years. The maximum term for every parliament is five years. The current Parliament first met on December 17, 2019. It is due for dissolution on December 17, 2024. General election will take place 25 days later. This means that there will not be a new general election until January 2025 except the King decides to dissolve the parliament at the request of the Prime Minister before the due date. This is most unlikely. The British constitutional system doesn’t require national elections to determine prime ministers. Members of Parliament (MPs) are usually elected for their districts. Prime Minister emerges from the party that holds the most seats in the legislature.
Though the task before Truss is challenging, she has shown that she is prepared for the job; that leadership is not something one just jumps into. Unlike most of our leaders who are ill-prepared and who take months to constitute their cabinet, Truss hit the ground running from day one by appointing the most diverse cabinet in British history.
Interestingly, none of the cabinet members occupying the four most senior government positions known as the ‘the great offices of state’ is a White man. This is unprecedented. The new Chancellor of the Exchequer or finance minister, for instance, is Kwasi Kwarteng, a Black Briton. He is the first Black Briton to hold the position. The other major positions include Deputy Prime Minister and Health Secretary, Ms Therese Coffey; Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly and Home Secretary, Suella Braverman. Nigerian-born Ms Kemi Badenoch is International Trade Secretary and President of the Board of Trade.
Truss has come at a time the economy of the United Kingdom is undergoing some crisis. Surge in food and energy prices, propelled largely by Russia’s war with Ukraine, COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit, have shot inflation rate to 10.1 per cent, the first in 40 years. This rate is projected to rise further to over 13 per cent in October. Analysts have predicted a prolonged recession by the end of the year. This threatens businesses and leaves poor people vulnerable to cold as they may not afford the cost of energy to keep warm during winter. Labour unrest is also prevalent as train drivers, postal and port workers, garbage collectors and lawyers have gone on strikes to demand pay increases. The health care system is also bedevilled by staff shortages. Truss has to also battle the huge public debt which the Johnson’s government incurred during the coronavirus pandemic.
As regards the cost-of-living crisis, the new Prime Minister plans to cap the energy bills for typical household at £2,500 annually until 2024. The price cap is the highest amount suppliers are allowed to charge households for every unit of energy they consume. Government will compensate energy firms for the difference. This huge support scheme is estimated to cost over £100billiob (about $116billion) to the UK government. “We can ride out the storm,” Truss enthused, adding: “Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.” She pledged to cut taxes and slash regulations to fuel economic growth. This is unlike what usually obtains in our own country where government often imposes more taxes on the citizens during economic crisis.
On the foreign front, Truss has the Russian/Ukrainian war and the frosty post Brexit relations with the European Union to deal with. She has pledged to match or exceed £2.3billion support given to Ukraine since February 2022, adding that the UK would continue to be right behind Ukraine every step of the way. She has already embarked on her first foreign trip as Prime Minister with a visit to the United States on Tuesday, September 20, 2022.
Liz Truss was born on July 26, 1975 at Oxford, England. She studied philosophy, politics and economics at Merton College, Oxford, and rose through the ranks before becoming a member of parliament on the platform of the Conservative Party. She has been a member of the British Parliament for 12 years. She has also held a number of senior positions under three Prime Ministers before her current role. Her most recent appointment was as Foreign Secretary.
She is the third woman to become the Prime Minister of Britain after Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May. She is an ex-Liberal Democrat, ex-anti-Brexit and ex-anti-monarchist. We congratulate her on her new position and enjoin her to join other well-meaning world leaders to seek solutions to the variegated crises troubling the world today.