Liz Truss, 47, has been named leader of the governing Conservative Party and Britain’s next prime minister, taking power at a time when the country faces a cost of living crisis, industrial unrest and a recession. She becomes the UK’s third female prime minister, after Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May.
After weeks of a divisive party leadership contest that pitted foreign secretary Truss against Rishi Sunak, the former finance minister, Monday’s announcement now triggers the beginning of a handover from Boris Johnson, who was forced to announce his resignation back in July after months of scandal.
Announced by Tory MP Sir Graham Brady shortly after 12.30pm UK time on Monday, Truss received 81,326 votes, compared to 60,399 for Sunak. The 57.4% share of the vote secured by Truss is the narrowest margin for any previous leadership contest.
In her acceptance speech, Truss said that she was ‘honoured to be elected as leader’ following ‘one of the longest job interviews in history’.
She also paid tribute to her predecessor Johnson, thanking him for ‘standing up to Vladimir Putin, getting Brexit done, rolling out the Covid vaccine’ and also ‘crushing Jeremy Corbyn’, previous Labour Party leader.
‘You are admired from Kyiv to Carlisle,’ she said, which was met with a delayed and somewhat muted applause from the audience.
On Tuesday, Truss will travel to Scotland to meet The Queen, who will ask the new leader to form a government.
Long the front runner in the race to replace Johnson, Truss becomes the Conservative Party’s fourth prime minister since a 2015 election. Over that period the country has been buffeted from crisis to crisis, and now faces what is forecast to be a long recession triggered by sky-rocketing inflation, which hit 10.1% in July.
Truss has promised to act quickly to tackle Britain’s cost of living crisis, saying that within a week she will come up with a plan to tackle rising energy bills and securing future fuel supplies.
Speaking in a TV interview on Sunday, she declined to give details of the measures she says will reassure millions of people who fear they will be unable to pay their fuel bills as winter approaches.
She has signalled during her leadership campaign that she would challenge convention by scrapping tax increases and cutting other levies that some economists say would fuel inflation.
Truss faces a long, costly and difficult to-do list, which opposition MPs say is the result of 12 years of poor Conservative government. Several have called for an early election – something Truss has said she will not allow.
The new prime minister has said she will appoint a strong cabinet, dispensing with what one source close to her called a ‘presidential style’ of governing.
Britain has lagged other major European countries in its offer of support for consumer energy bills, which opposition MPs blame on a ‘zombie’ government unable to act while the Conservatives ran their leadership contest.
In May, the government set out a £15 billion support package to help households with energy bills as part of its £37 billion cost-of-living support scheme.
Thank you to the amazing #LizForLeader supporters who joined the @Conservatives hustings in London, backing my vision for our country and the economy.— Liz for Leader (@trussliz) September 1, 2022
With your support, we will unleash opportunity right across our United Kingdom. 🇬🇧 pic.twitter.com/16olr7vcVs