- What are the challenges of the new prime minister? What are the British economic situation and challenges?
- What are the foreign and domestic political issues of the new government?
In her victory speech, Truss echoed Blair’s commitment to “govern as New Labour”, saying she had run as a true Conservative and would govern like one too. Now, Liz truss faces many challenges ahead.
Truss has fought her Tory leadership campaign by relentlessly focusing on calls for tax cuts and has been sceptical of what she called “handouts”.
Liz truss faces many challenges ahead. Its direct government help for people facing rising energy prices so fast that millions of households will not be able to pay them. The UK could see an economic, social and humanitarian emergency in which unaffordable energy bills create mass business closures, widespread destitution, and thousands of extra deaths over the winter.
Inflation is now hovering just above the 10 percent mark and forecast by the Bank of England to hit a jaw-dropping 13 percent next month.
Intimately linked to inflation is the inexorable rise in energy bills, which, if left unchecked, will bankrupt businesses and plunge millions of families into destitution. The planned energy price cap increase in October and the prospect of further frightening increases over the winter represent Truss’s most significant and immediate problem.
From the worst cost-of-living crisis in a generation to public services simply not working, Truss will have to plug significant holes with a sluggish economy and a promise to introduce no new taxes. Inflation rose above 10% in July for the first time in 40 years. It was driven by the rising cost of energy and food. Average household energy bills have risen 54% this year and are forecast to go even higher.
Compounding Truss’ woes is the fact that the UK is on track for a recession by the end of the year, according to the Bank of England. GDP dropped by 0.1% in the second quarter of this year, and analysts believe the third quarter will put the country into a technical recession.
And on Monday, in a signal of the serious challenges ahead, the British pound dropped 0.3% to its lowest level against the US dollar since 1985 before recovering slightly.
Rail strikes are continuing into September,
Thanks to a deadlock in talks between industry chiefs and union leaders, postal workers are striking later this week. There’s the prospect of industrial action from civil servants, doctors, nurses and teachers on the not-very-distant horizon.
Drought water pollution and climate change
Hosepipe bans have been introduced across swathes of England and Wales following a scorching hot summer — with people’s plans to enjoy the sunny weather scuppered by water companies pumping sewage into rivers and beaches.
This summer’s hot weather was just the beginning unless bold action is taken on climate change. Truss has pledged to stick with the UK’s commitment to achieving net zero by 2050, but getting there will become more difficult thanks to her promise to scrap green levies from energy bills and reintroduce fracking in areas where this is supported. The new prime minister might find herself having to justify those plans at COP27, which kicks off in November in Egypt.
Most prime ministers taking over in early September could prepare for an expected crisis in the NHS. Truss already has one, with ambulance responses routinely delayed for hours amid a shortage of beds and a massive backlog of procedures and operations due to the knock-on effects of the Covid pandemic.
The impact of a COVID resurgence
The annual winter pressures on the health service mean things are only about to get worse, without even accounting for the impact of a COVID resurgence.
Many things in the UK seem to be failing at the moment. The ambulance delays, in particular, are a factor of the continued poor state of adult social care, with many beds occupied by older, frail patients with nowhere to go. Boris Johnson promised to transform social care with money from an increase in national insurance. Truss has pledged to reverse that. Among the many health-based tough decisions she faces is how to pay for everything.
Waiting times to receive health care are at their longest in recent history. This is partly because the pandemic puts the National Health Service under more strain. Still, the British Medical Association says it is also because of staff shortages and insufficient funding. There are similar staffing and funding problems in social care, schools, universities and local government.
Another issue and challenge are refugees; despite promises that the Rwanda deportation scheme would act as a deterrent, the number of people crossing the Channel has remained stubbornly high — and this is a hot-button issue for the Tory right wing.
The Ukraine war
The war resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has dragged on far longer than Western governments predicted. The UK has given billions of pounds worth of support to Ukrainian forces, and there is no sign of a resolution anytime soon.
In foreign affairs, Joe Biden’s administration in the US is suspicious of Truss because of her stance on the Northern Ireland protocol, and relations with France’s Emmanuel Macron have gotten off to a poor start. There is stay still tension with China. In the home, Scottish nationalists desperate for a second independence referendum are cautiously optimistic that Truss will go down like a bucket of cold sick north of the border and push more Scots toward separation.
All these challenges happen in the situation that the spectacle of the Tory leadership contest has helped gift Labour a 9-point polling lead.
According to POLITICO’s Poll of Polls aggregator. With polls suggesting Sunak was the more popular candidate among swing voters, Truss will face pressure to demonstrate how she can win.
If she fails to impress them in the next few weeks, Truss could find support for her plans lacking in parliament — and if the past five years have taught us anything, it’s that this can be the kiss of death for a sitting prime minister. Privately, some say she could even be forced out of office before the next election, meaning the Conservative Party has had five leaders since taking office in 2010.
The official line from Team Truss is that no election will happen until the current term ends, bringing an election in December 2024 or even January 2025. But she could face difficulties pushing through legislation, especially in the Lords, based on Johnson’s 2019 mandate, one based on a notably different policy platform.