Liz Truss Prepares To Relaunch Her Government As Politics Returns With A Vengeance

Not many people get a second chance to make a first impression.

But the death of the Queen, just two days after she became prime minister, means Liz Truss has the opportunity to effectively relaunch her government this week, just a fortnight after taking on the job.

Within hours of unveiling her “energy price guarantee”, which the government claims will save the average household £1,000 a year by capping the typical bill at £2,500 until 2024, Truss’s plans for her first days in office were thrown into disarray when Buckingham Palace confirmed Queen Elizabeth II had died.

Just two days after being invited by the late monarch to form a government, Truss had to lead the country in mourning, meaning the normal business of government was put on hold until after the period of national mourning.

The unexpected ceasefire in political hostilities will come to an end with a vengeance following the Queen’s funeral on Monday.

HuffPost UK looks at the PM’s bulging in-tray.

World Leaders Assemble!

Truss’s first foray on the international stage comes on Tuesday, when she is due to fly to New York for the United Nations General Assembly.

As the new kid on the block, the PM will be eager to make an impression on the world stage as leaders discuss major issues like climate change and the war in Ukraine.

Truss is also expected to hold talks with Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, to discuss Brexit and the ongoing dispute over the Northern Ireland protocol.

Tricky business

When the government announced its plans to help struggling households cope with soaring energy costs, businesses were assured that an “equivalent” level of support would be available to them.

As yet, companies have been given no details on what that will entail and when it will be available – although Number 10 have warned that may not be next month, when the household scheme comes into effect.

This uncertainty has prompted an angry reaction from business groups.

“Any delay in the delivery of energy support could be a final, fatal blow for hundreds of hospitality businesses teetering on the brink of ruin,” said Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of UK Hospitality. “Many simply won’t survive if they have to wait until November for help.”

The government could bring forward more details on the business support package in a statement to MPs on Thursday.

Emergency measures

Next week’s main event, however, will be the emergency mini-budget on Friday.

This “fiscal event” – in the Treasury jargon – is a huge deal and will set out the economic strategy Truss and her chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, will pursue between now and the general election in 2024.

It will contain radical plans to reverse the rise in national insurance contributions introduced by Truss’s leadership rival, Rishi Sunak, when he was in charge at the Treasury, as well as scrap the planned rise in corporation tax.

Truss believes this will put more money in the pockets of people and businesses, encourage greater spending and investment, and, as a consequence, lead to more economic growth.

Her critics – not least Sunak himself – have warned that slashing taxes now will send inflation even higher, hurting voters who are already worried about how they will pay to heat their homes this winter.

One thing we know the mini-budget won’t contain is a new windfall tax on energy firms’ enormous profits, with Truss making clear her opposition to such a move in her one and only PMQs clash with Labour leader Keir Starmer.

Kwarteng may also announce that he is ending the cap on bankers’ bonuses, another huge political gamble in the middle of a cost of living crisis.

“When millions are struggling to feed their families and keep the lights on, the government’s priority appears to be boosting the telephone number salaries of their friends in the city,” said Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham.

It is no exaggeration to say that the survival of Truss’s government will rest on the outcome of Kwarteng’s 30-minute statement to MPs.

Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng want to challenge Treasury “orthodoxy”

Leon Neal via Getty Images

Conference calls

Twenty-four hours after the chancellor’s big day, Labour MPs, activists and trade union members will descend on Liverpool for the party’s annual conference.

If the mini-budget could be make-or-break for the Truss administration, the Labour gathering is almost as critical for Keir Starmer’s hopes of replacing her in Number 10.

Despite his party’s healthy opinion poll leads, the opposition leader knows that the new PM will dominate the political news agenda for at least the next few weeks, and most likely enjoy an increase in support as a result.

With just two years until the next election, Starmer will seek to use his conference speech to set out his political vision to a still-sceptical public.

The week after Labour’s jamboree, the Tories will be in Birmingham for their own conference – Truss’s first as her party’s leader.

Her recent leadership victory will guarantee her a warm reception from those present, but her many internal critics – fewer than half of Conservative MPs publicly backed her, remember – will be plotting in the margins.

Given the huge challenges facing the country, Truss’s political honeymoon is likely to be shorter than any of her predecessors and, like Starmer, her conference speech will need to convince the waverers that she has what it takes to make good on her promise to lead the Tories to victory in 2024.

Keir Starmer and Liz Truss both have to convince their doubters during conference season.
Keir Starmer and Liz Truss both have to convince their doubters during conference season.

Any other business?

As well as the above, Truss also plans to fly to Kyiv in the coming weeks to pledge the UK’s ongoing support to Ukraine in its war with Russia.

Ditching the government’s anti-obesity strategy is also on her agenda, as is lifting the moratorium on fracking, while she must also ensure the NHS can cope this winter, when flu and Covid cases will once again be on the rise.

All the while, Truss’s government must get on top of inflation, tackle the wider cost of living crisis and repair the pandemic-ravaged economy.

It’s unsurprising, therefore, that MPs are being recalled to parliament a week earlier than planned from the conference season recess. Instead of staying away from the Commons until October 17, they’ll be back on October 11.

They won’t be short of things to do.

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