Liz Truss has made sweeping changes to Britain’s government, appointing close allies to top ministerial positions, sacking supporters of her defeated rival Rishi Sunak and clearing out some of Boris Johnson’s key lieutenants. Within hours of arriving in Downing Street, Ms Truss changed the entire top tier of cabinet, making Kwasi Kwarteng, a long-standing friend and ideological soul mate, chancellor of exchequer.
Conservative MP and staunch Brexiteer Chris Heaton-Harris has been appointed as Northern Secretary, former attorney general Suella Braverman, a right-winger who has called for Britain to leave the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) becomes home secretary and James Cleverly succeeds Ms Truss as foreign secretary. Therese Coffey, the new prime minister’s closest political ally, becomes health secretary and deputy prime minister.
Speaking outside 10 Downing Street, Ms Truss promised to deal with the energy crisis that is threatening to push millions in Britain into poverty, to boost economic growth and to tackle problems in the National Health Service (NHS).
“I know that we have what it takes to tackle those challenges. Of course, it won’t be easy. But we can do it. We will transform Britain into an aspiration nation, with high-paying jobs, safe streets and where everyone everywhere has the opportunities they deserve. I will take action this day, and action every day, to make it happen,” she said.
“By delivering on the economy, on energy, and on the NHS, we will put our nation on the path to long-term success. We shouldn’t be daunted by the challenges we face. As strong as the storm may be, I know that the British people are stronger.”
Ms Truss was speaking after she flew back from Balmoral Castle in Scotland where Queen Elizabeth appointed her prime minister. Her first call with a foreign leader on Tuesday night was with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
“She reiterated to the Ukrainian leader that he had her full backing, and Ukraine could depend on the UK’s assistance for the long term,” a Downing Street spokeswoman said.
“The leaders deplored Putin’s attempts to weaponise energy, and the Prime Minister said it was vital Russia’s blackmail did not deter the West from ensuring Putin fails. She also underscored the importance of ensuring the UK and our allies continue to build energy independence.”
Ms Truss is expected to announce on Thursday a package of measures to protect people and businesses from the impact of soaring energy prices. It would see the government subsidising the wholesale cost of gas to energy suppliers, enabling them to keep consumer prices at their current level for up to 18 months throughout this winter and next.
Ms Truss also plans to reverse an increase in National Insurance introduced by Boris Johnson and to cancel a planned hike in corporate tax rates. These measures, which will cost tens of billions of pounds, will also be funded by borrowing.
Mr Johnson left Downing Street on Tuesday morning with a swipe at the MPs who toppled him and a hint that his political career may not be over. Speaking outside No 10 where staff and supporters were gathered, he suggested that he was leaving office because of an irregular rule change by Conservative MPs.
“In only a couple of hours I will be in Balmoral to see Her Majesty the Queen and the torch will finally be passed to a new Conservative leader, the baton will be handed over in what has unexpectedly turned out to be a relay race, they changed the rules halfway through but never mind that now,” he said.
Ms Truss’s second call was with US president Joe Biden during which they discussed Britain’s dispute with the EU over the Northern Ireland protocol.
“The Prime Minister and President discussed a range of domestic issues and agreed on the importance of protecting the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement,” the spokesman said.