LONDON — The United Kingdom’s Conservative Party announced Monday that it has selected Liz Truss as its new leader, putting her in line to be confirmed as the country’s prime minister.
Truss beat rival Rishi Sunak in a leadership election, in which only the 180,000 dues-paying members of the ruling party were allowed to vote. Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II is scheduled to formally name Truss as prime minister on Tuesday.
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In a speech following her victory, Truss said it was an “honor” to be elected and paid tribute to her “friend” Boris Johnson, the prime minister she will be succeeding. She will become the U.K.’s fourth prime minister since 2016 and the country’s third female premier ever.
Truss has served in Johnson’s cabinet as the foreign secretary under Sunak, the former chancellor of the exchequer whose resignation helped bring about Johnson’s downfall earlier this year.
Conservative leadership candidates Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak stand together as they attend a hustings event, part of the Conservative party leadership campaign, in London, Britain August 31, 2022.Hannah Mckay/Reuters
Members of the Conservative Party cast their votes after eight weeks of campaigning, with Truss — a supporter of Johnson who said she did not back his resignation — emerging as the overwhelming favorite.
The campaign was dominated by questions about what either candidate would do to tackle a looming economic crisis, with household energy bills set to skyrocket this winter and inflation — already reaching a four-decade high at 10.1% — expected to rise even further, according to the Bank of England. Truss and Sunak clashed most fiercely on the issue of tax, with Truss saying she would not raise taxes while Sunak has supported a windfall tax on energy companies’ profits to help ease the burden on households.
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Truss has promised action on the energy crisis within a week of taking office, though she has not spelled out her plans in any detail and refused to elaborate when questioned by BBC News on Sunday.
She will also have the task of uniting a divided Conservative Party. Johnson’s tenure in office was dogged by scandal, most notably with the issue of “Partygate,” or the illegal gatherings held at government residences while the U.K. was under a strict lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic. While Johnson’s supporters will remember him for securing a huge election victory, Brexit and support for Ukraine, Johnson’s detractors say his conduct and flexible relationship with the truth damaged the Conservative Party’s brand.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson looks on during a visit with members of the Thames Valley Police, at Milton Keynes Police Station in Milton Keynes, Britain, August 31, 2022.Andrew Boyers/Reuters
In an op-ed published by The Sunday Telegraph over the weekend, the leader of the opposition Labour Party, Sir Keir Starmer, said that the appointment of a fourth Conservative prime minister in recent years did not mark a “new dawn” for Britain.
“As summer turns to autumn, the shadows of crisis are lengthening, looming over the whole country,” Starmer wrote. “There is no sign that either Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss have grasped the scale of what is facing us, let alone possesses the answers to it.”
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In July, Johnson announced that he had agreed to resign as leader of the Conservative Party, which would result in his departure as prime minister once the party selected a successor through a leadership election. Truss will not be formally installed as the new prime minister until after Johnson officially submits his resignation to the queen and his successor is then invited to form a government. The ceremony is scheduled to take place Tuesday at the queen’s Balmoral estate in Scotland, where the monarch is vacationing, rather than at Buckingham Palace.
“It is clearly now the will of the parliamentary Conservative Party that there should be a new leader of that party and therefore a new prime minister,” Johnson said in a July 7 statement delivered outside his office at no. 10 Downing Street in London.
“I want you to know how sad I am to be giving up the best job in the world,” he added. “But them’s the breaks.”