There is no doubt that Liz Truss faces what has been described as the ‘in-tray from hell’, with the cost-of-living crisis, rising energy bills and the strain on the NHS, to name a few issues. Will she be up to the task? How long can the Conservatives last in power? Impact’s Hannah Walton-Hughes discusses.
On Monday 5th September 2022, Elizabeth Truss was voted in, by members of the Conservative and Unionist Party, as the 56th Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. This was made official the following day, as she accepted the late Queen Elizabeth II’s invitation to form a new government in her name, shortly after Boris Johnson officially offered his resignation.
Certainly, for the latter part of the Conservative Leadership campaign, it was widely expected that Liz Truss, then foreign secretary, would be elected as head of the Conservative Party and as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. This was confirmed last Monday, with Truss gaining 81,326 votes, as opposed to her rival Rishi Sunak, who received 60,399. And I, for one, was pleased with this result.
Can our new PM be trusted (pun intended) to provide comfort and security for people up and down the country?
The fact that we are facing a devastating cost of living crisis cannot be contested; energy bills are up, prices are rising all round, and many people are facing a winter where they will potentially have to choose between heating their homes and eating. Consequently, the main question on people’s mind is: can our new PM be trusted (pun intended) to provide comfort and security for people up and down the country?
In terms of the energy and cost of living crisis, Liz Truss laid out a more detailed plan on Thursday. The government’s Energy Price Guarantee details that the amount suppliers can charge for each unit of energy is reduced, meaning that, for the typical household, an annual bill will not exceed £2,500 from October, having originally been predicted to rise to £3,549. This will remain in place for two years, so will continue past the next General Election. Overall, there will also be a general discount of £400 off household bills this winter.
Furthermore, excess ‘green levies’ will be removed from bills, and cost-of-living payments have already been given to those on benefits or tax credits (starting at £326). However, these payments will only be in place for this winter, which leads us to wonder what will happen in the longer term.
Yes, all this money has been borrowed by the government, and the national debt will have to be paid back in the long term, but it should provide some relief. Truss herself has admitted that her tax cuts will hugely benefit those on high incomes, but we must remember that she is balancing helping people, with trying to grow the economy long-term, and increased corporation tax, plus the windfall taxes called for by Labour, will potentially put countries and companies off investing in the U.K in the future. In a post-Brexit world, I believe that Truss will make Britain’s mark on the map even stronger over the next 18 months.
Tidal energy, Prime Minister?
One decision by Truss that I firmly disagree with though, is her decision to lift restrictions on shale gas extraction/fracking. Surely, there are far more environmentally sound and less disruptive ways of producing more energy? We are an island after all. Tidal energy, Prime Minister?
No solution is perfect, and I do think that some will not view this plan as enough, but there is always a balance to be struck.
In terms of the NHS and social care, Truss has several interesting ideas. She claims that her new Health Secretary, Thérèse Coffey, is already working to eliminate issues such as the excessive ambulance waiting times. In Truss’ interview on Sky News, she said that she would put £13 billion funding into social care, so that the people in hospitals who are currently only there because there is no space for them elsewhere, can be accepted into care homes. Truss also wants to give more power to hospital workers on the front line, and reduce the layers of management, in order to improve efficiency of care delivery to patients. I have seen, through my own family members’ experience with the NHS that, very often, patients are kept in hospital for far longer than is necessary, simply because there is no space anywhere else. These policies could revolutionise how health care is given.
Whilst not as much has been firmly announced regarding education, our new PM has admitted that students have had a “raw deal”, and that universities should offer refunds to students when they have missed contact hours due to strikes, and have not got what they paid for. She also wants to offer automatic Oxbridge interviews to school leavers who attain the top grades; controversially, this could lead to the academic year being pushed back from September to January. More broadly, Truss has pledged to replace failing Academies with new free Academy schools, claiming that she has seen “first hand how children were failed and let down by low expectations.” These plans could both increase productivity of students before the next election, but may also cause disruption, particularly in relation to the change in academic dates.
For too long the British people have had to put up with the continuous waffle and empty promises from politicians and indeed leaders.
Our Prime Minister describes herself as a ‘straight talker’, who does not make promises she cannot follow through on. And so far, on the whole, I believe she has demonstrated this, both in her campaign and during her first week as PM, even responding with a simple “Yes.” at Prime Minister’s Questions this week. For too long, the British people have had to put up with the continuous waffle and empty promises from politicians and indeed leaders. It is a breath of fresh air to come away from a political speech/debate understanding not only what Truss wants to do but also how she intends to carry it out.
So many MPs have demonstrated that they are conservative merely by their social class; Truss is conservative by her values, which is something to be admired. Only time will tell how well she does, but, in my opinion, she has got off on the right foot (no pun intended). If she starts as she means to carry on, I believe that the Conservative and Unionist Party have a strong chance of defeating Keir Starmer and the Labour Party in the 2024 General Election.
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