Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is seen as favourite to take over from Boris Johnson as UK Conservative party leader and prime minister

Truss to meet cabinet ministers and meet MPs on first full day in office

Liz Truss. — Jeff Caddick, AFP

Joe Jackson

New UK Prime Minister Liz Truss is calling her senior ministers to an inaugural cabinet meeting on Wednesday on her first full day before she faces a flurry of questions in Parliament.

Truss, who officially took over as leader on Tuesday at an audience with the head of state, Queen Elizabeth II in Scotland following the resignation of Boris Johnson, is set to meet her team at a morning meeting.

They include the most diverse senior team in UK history: Kwasi Kwarteng as Chancellor of the Exchequer, James Cleverley as Foreign Secretary and Swella Braverman as Home Secretary.

They face daunting challenges, most notably high inflation over the past decades and how to cope with electricity bills that will rise by 80 percent next month and even more in January.

Meanwhile, the Bank of England is forecasting a recession later this year.

But Truss was optimistic when she stepped onto Downing Street as prime minister for the first time, narrowly avoiding a heavy downpour.

“I am confident that together we can weather the storm,” she said.

According to reports, its new ministers may be asked to immediately sign a plan to freeze electricity bills for the coming winter, possibly longer, at a cost of tens of billions of pounds.

It is reported that tax cuts and the redirection of some health care funding to social assistance may also be on the agenda.

“I will cut taxes to reward hard work and encourage business growth and investment,” Truss promised, while also promising to “take action this week” on gas and electricity bills and broader energy policy.

– “Almost out of control” –

After the Cabinet, Truss will travel to the House of Commons to spar with opposition Labor Party leader Keir Starmer in the rival couple’s first Prime Minister’s Questions session.

The often rowdy weekly session, in which MPs interrogate the Prime Minister, will be a test of Truss’s political character and rhetorical skills, as well as her level of support for the Conservatives.

The 47-year-old won Monday’s internal Conservative vote with 57 percent of the vote after a grueling contest against former Treasury Secretary Rishi Sunak that began in July.

But at the initial stage of the competition it was supported by less than a third of the parliamentary party.

Now she faces the difficult task of reuniting the ruling Tories after a bitter struggle for leadership.

Conservative MPs are “almost unruly” and “unwilling to deal with difficult decisions,” according to a government insider quoted by the Financial Times on Monday.

“They did it for Boris and they can do it for Liz,” a source told the newspaper.

Truss is likely to face a barrage of hostile questions from Starmer and Labor as they look to capitalize on months of Tory turmoil.

Labor has opened a double-digit lead in the polls but may have to wait two years before the next general election.

On Monday, Truss pledged to lead the Conservatives to victory “in 2024” with elections due no later than January 2025.

– “Terrible Politics” –

Truss, who has framed herself in Tory ranks as a tax-cutting free trade champion ready to cut taxes immediately to boost growth, is facing warnings that the moves could exacerbate inflation.

In the UK, prices have already risen at their fastest pace in four decades this year, driven by soaring energy prices.

Under its discussed plans to resolve the situation, gas and electricity bills for both households and businesses will be capped at close to current levels for at least the coming winter.

The government will provide or guarantee private sector loans to energy suppliers to make up the difference they are paying through soaring global wholesale prices.

It remains unclear whether the government will pay for the plan with additional loans, or ask consumers to pay bills for the next two decades with electricity bill fees.

Paul Johnson of the respected Institute for Financial Studies (IFS) think tank said it was a “terrible policy” but probably a necessary one.

“Very expensive, off-target, increases risk of shortage,” he tweeted.

But he warned that the scale of the problem “means there may simply be no practical alternative.”

Other pressing issues for Truss include resolving post-Brexit tensions with the European Union, especially over trade deals in Northern Ireland, and Western support for Ukraine.

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