According to media polls, Liz Truss was odds-on favorite to become the new British prime minister ever since the Conservative Party whittled the candidates down to just her and Rishi Sunak on July 20. In the end, her winning margin was tighter than expected at 57 percent to 43 percent.
It was Sunak’s shock resignation as finance minister that precipitated Boris Johnson’s departure, whereas Truss as foreign secretary was one of the few ministers not to jump ship, and loyalty counts for a lot in Conservative circles.
In terms of policy, will Truss continue in the center-left mold of her predecessors—Johnson, Theresa May, and David Cameron—or will she try to take her party some way back to its traditional conservative roots?
In her first speech given outside a rainy 10 Downing Street, she addressed three main issues: the economy and cutting taxes to boost growth, the energy crisis—which she blamed solely on Vladimir Putin—and the state religion, or National Health Service as it’s better known, saying, “We will put our health service on a firm footing.”
She was short on details, but her takeaway headline was “Together We Can Ride Out the Storm.”
Is Truss a New Margaret Thatcher?
Some have been touting Truss as a new “Iron Lady,” but the political and social landscape has changed irrevocably since Margaret Thatcher’s time in office.
Western society is increasingly moving away from rule by democratically elected institutions, with power being ceded to global entities such as the United Nations or World Health Organization and, whether you like them or not, the fact is you don’t get to vote on anything they do.
Truss would have to push back against those new titans to come anywhere close to her predecessor’s record.
Lady Thatcher saw the U.S.–UK relationship as pivotal in standing up to the Soviet Union. But she was also willing to reach out to its leader Mikhail Gorbachev—even though his forces had invaded Afghanistan—saying, “We can do business together.” That strategy, combined with Ronald Reagan’s like-minded leadership, saw the Cold War end peacefully.
Truss as UK foreign secretary, in contrast, managed to restart that nuclear standoff, and reaching out to Putin won’t be high on her priorities as prime minister. She took a very hard line against Russia through sanctions and arms to Ukraine after it was invaded.
Britain is currently the second-largest supplier of military aid to Ukraine’s armed forces after the United States and is also training 10,000 of its new recruits on British soil every three months, or 40,000 per year. To put that in perspective, in 2021, the UK’s entire armed forces recruited 15,140 people.
That policy will continue during her premiership, and the question remains about how far she would be willing to go in opposing Putin over Ukraine. The prime minister claims, “We need to stop Putin because he will not stop at Ukraine.” While there is as yet no evidence of that, just how would she attempt to stop him, save all-out war?
Already, the costs of the conflict are starting to hit home with increased gas prices. Incredibly, Western leaders have been caught off guard by Russia retaliating against their sanctions by switching off gas supplies to their nations through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline—although the official reason Russia has given is maintenance issues.
Another economic fact that bypassed their notice is that reducing gas supplies sees gas prices go up, so by exporting less, Russia makes the same amount of money, and only the Europeans suffer.
Britain doesn’t get its gas from Russia, but the shortage has driven up the gas wholesale price, which is having an impact.
How Green Is Truss?
The immediate problem Truss faces as she enters 10 Downing Street is a cost-of-living crisis over those spiraling energy prices, though Russia is by no means the only reason for that.
Johnson was so convinced by climate change alarmism that achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 took precedence over harsh economic realities, and renewables were unrealistically favored over the UK’s abundant natural resources of gas, oil, and coal.
Low-carbon, high-cost nuclear power was also favored by Johnson, but even if new plants still under construction and years late, like Hinkley Point C, ever do get to deliver electricity, these aren’t short-term solutions, though that’s another story.
Truss favors freezing energy bills and the government giving loans to the energy producers. Sky News has reported she is planning a “shock and awe” announcement to help families that could face average energy bills rising to 3,500 pounds ($4,000) and more by October.
This stop-gap measure to head off a looming disaster will not be cheap. Scottish Power has estimated that freezing bills for two years could cost about $100 billion, though it isn’t yet clear if taxpayers or consumers will have to pick up that bill—and the long-term problem of energy production will still remain.
The new prime minister has said she will temporarily ditch Bojo’s green policies and revive Britain’s neglected oil and gas fields in the North Sea, as well as resume fracking in areas where the local population give their consent. That will face stiff opposition from the green lobby, however, which these days includes senior members of the royal family.
Is the Prime Minster Adaptable?
Although Truss originally voted to remain in the European Union, she claims to have since been converted to Brexit’s possibilities. That points to having an ability to learn through experience, rather than being tied to a dogmatic position.
Indeed, she first started out in politics in the left-leaning Liberal Democrat Party before switching sides to the Conservatives, although that did coincide with the Tories turning leftward to become electable after spending more than 10 years in opposition during the Tony Blair socialist revolution.
It should be remembered that in the 1975 UK referendum on remaining in the European Economic Community, as the EU was then called, Thatcher was a strong advocate for staying in, but soon after becoming prime minister, she transitioned to become its harshest critic.
Now that Truss is in power in the still-emerging post-Brexit Britain, will she dare to challenge other issues that previous Conservative administrations had considered to be sacred cows?
Of course, even if she doesn’t, circumstances might force her hand.
Is Truss Someone America Can Do Business With?
President Joe Biden sent her his congratulations and looks forward to “continued support for Ukraine as it defends itself against Russian aggression.” He won’t be disappointed on that, though she could remind him of the U.S.–UK trade deal as a quid pro quo, which his predecessor, Donald Trump, once promised.
As Britain’s international trade minister, Truss was charged with finding new markets for post-Brexit UK. So far, a digital trade deal with Singapore is the only one to have come into force, while others involving New Zealand and Australia are still in ratification. But she failed to sign the most important new deal of all with the United States.
Faced with retaliatory sanctions from the EU, she and her then-boss Johnson dithered until it was too late. Now Biden seems to have put the UK to the back of the line for trade talks, just as his Democrat predecessor, Barack Obama, once threatened.
That dismal progress is summed up on a UK government website that states: “US: Negotiations started in May 2020. An agreement is not expected soon.”
If the Republicans do as well as expected in the midterms, Biden may come under pressure to look again at that deal, which would go a long way to restrengthening the once-special relationship.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.