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UK: Expectations high as Truss takes over

By Ngozi Egenuka
07 September 2022   |   4:22 am
The world and Africa, especially Commonwealth nations, await what the future holds for Britain after new Prime Minister (PM), Liz Truss’s audience with head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, yesterday, following the resignation of Boris Johnson.

Queen Elizabeth (left) and British Prime Minister Liz Truss during an audience at Balmoral in Scotland… yesterday. PHOTO: YAHOO

• Truss meets Queen, assumes office as PM
• Buhari congratulates Truss

The world and Africa, especially Commonwealth nations, await what the future holds for Britain after new Prime Minister (PM), Liz Truss’s audience with head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, yesterday, following the resignation of Boris Johnson.

The former foreign secretary, 47, was seen in an official photograph shaking hands with the monarch to accept her offer to form a new government and become the 15th PM of her 70-year reign. The symbolic ceremony held at the sovereign’s remote Balmoral retreat in the Scottish Highlands, as the Queen, 96, was deemed ‘unfit’ to return to London due to ill health.

“The Queen received in audience the right honourable Elizabeth Truss MP today and requested her to form a new administration,” Buckingham Palace said in a statement.

“Ms Truss accepted Her Majesty’s offer and kissed hands upon her appointment as prime minister,” it added.

The Queen has suffered from mobility issues and it is understood the change was made to prevent the need for any last-minute rearrangements.

The last time the handover of power took place at Balmoral was in 1885, when Queen Victoria was on the throne.

Normally, the outgoing and incoming PMs meet the Queen in quick succession at Buckingham Palace in central London. It has only been held once outside London since 1952, when Winston Churchill met the new Queen at Heathrow Airport after the death of her father, King George VI.

Truss, after meeting with the Queen, went to No. 10, Downing Street to give her first official speech. She expressed her confidence that together, Britain can ride out of the storm, rebuild its economy and become the modern brilliant Britain.

She said she would ensure people can get doctor’s appointments and healthcare services they need, adding to it her plans to deal ‘hands-on’ with the energy crisis caused by the Russian/Ukraine war.

Truss, who had served in various Cabinet positions under Prime Ministers like David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson, was expected to start naming her cabinet members as she addressed the nation, but she did not.

The appointments are due to be finalised today (Wednesday) before she hosts her first cabinet meeting and faces questions in parliament later today.

PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, congratulated the new PM on her assumption of “this trusted position of leadership.”

This is according to a statement signed by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina.

The statement partly read: “On behalf of the citizens and government of Nigeria, President Buhari congratulates the new Prime Minister of Britain, Liz Truss, on her assumption of this trusted position of leadership.

“The President rejoices with the former Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs of the United Kingdom, whose antecedents in government, politics and diplomacy will further shape and strengthen relations with Nigeria and other nations.

“He affirms that the shared ties between Nigeria and Britain remain strong, positive and mutually beneficial, while working with Prime Minister Liz Truss to deepen that relationship in the interest of both countries.”

Buhari also appreciated the warmth and friendliness of the immediate past PM, Boris Johnson, wishing him the best in his future endeavours.

SPEAKING on expectations from the new PM, member, National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Omoba Tunde Ajibulu, said Truss would embark on a lower spending campaign as against Johnson who took the route of higher government spending.

He, however, noted that she is likely to adopt some of Johnson’s polices, like that of asylum.

“Truss is expected to take the Tories back to a lower tax, lower spending type of Thatcherism. She loves Thatcher and is very much her follower. Boris was taking the Tories down a more populist route of higher government spending to win over the traditionally Labour heartlands (called the Red Wall), but this was causing issues in the Tories, who felt like they were moving away from her base.

“PM Truss is likely to follow many of Boris’ other policies like the asylum initiative (i.e the Rwanda deportation), but she’ll probably pursue a more aggressive foreign policy,” he said.

On the possibility of more women vying for this position, Ajibulu said: “The Tories have no shortage of talented female Member of Parliament (MPs), so, no reason a woman wouldn’t follow Truss or be in line. A few MPs down the line, there may even be a black female PM in the not too distant future. Kemi Badenoch is quite influential and highly thought of.”

Head, Security and Strategic Studies Division, Nigeria Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Joshua Bolarinwa, said Truss, seeing herself as a Margaret Thatcher, means Britain is up for a very strong leadership, adding that for a long time, there hasn’t been any strong UK PM, which was compounded by Brexit and COVID-19 pandemic.

“For example, David Cameron, Theresa May and Johnson all resigned, which has shown that they have not been very strong leaders and have not done what the British people wanted,” he said.

According to him, Britain is in for a strong leadership. She would be expected to defend her Cabinet and the legacies of the Tory Party, so they can restore confidence in the British people and seriousness in their leadership.

He noted that the expectations for her leadership is huge as the world looks forward to how she would stabilise the United Kingdom, handle Brexit, provide more jobs for Britons who lost their jobs as a consequence of Brexit and end the health crisis, which the NHIS has been struggling to manage.

Bolarinwa stated that Truss would make efforts to stabilise America and Britain relations, particularly as they are out of European Union, so, they can sell their agricultural products and have more investments in America.

“The first international visit of President Joe Biden was to the UK, as against what has been obtainable in a number of tenures, where they usually visit Asia first.

“Despite Brexit, she will try to maintain relations with some European countries like Germany and France. She would also maintain relations with South Korea and Japan and try to maintain their standards at the multilateral levels, especially at the United Nations and Commonwealth of Nations,” he said.

He added that she would also attempt to maintain strong relationship with Africa, as the biggest relationship Britain and France has had is in Africa.

“They need to establish strong relationship with Africa all over again. For example, Nigeria does not see Britain as a strong ally because in most cases, they where not available when Nigeria needed help, backtracking to the civil war, COVID-19 and others.”

Chief Executive Officer, Centre for Law and Business (CLB), Dapo Oyewumi, said with Truss’s win, Africa is expecting policies that would be favourable and positive for the ideals, yearnings and challenges of the continent.

“Africa is hoping for an Afro-centric government that would look at the issues and challenges it has been facing like economic, political and immigration issues,” he said.

Lawyer and foreign affairs commentator, Henry Ugwu, said a critical area where her leadership will be tested is on managing the relationship between Britain and the EU.

Truss, who was initially opposed to Brexit, eventually became one of its most conspicuous and avid supporters after the referendum in 2016. There has been a strained relationship between Britain and the EU, and all eyes will be on Truss to see how she navigates the tricky waters following the current status.  

“After the expansion of the Russian-Ukraine war in February 2022, Britain has been one of the countries that meted stiff sanctions on Russia, further deepening the tensed relationship between Russia and Britain. Following Truss’ antecedents, it is difficult to see UK relaxing its sanctions on Russia, but all eyes are on the new PM to see how she navigates the country through its sensitive roles in the war,” he added.

According to him, many Africans, including Nigerians, are concerned about what the new government portends for immigration and illegal migration, especially, because during campaign, she had committed herself to developing stringent strategies to combat illegal migration into Britain and her posture on these issues ordinarily presupposes that migrants, especially from African countries with an extremely high emigration rate like Nigeria, will see more rigid immigration control measures.

“Eyes will also be on the Prime Minister to see her policy approach to the migrant situation with the French authorities due to the increasing number of asylum-seekers and economic migrants trying to reach Britain across the English Channel.

“Truss has also been nicknamed the Iron Lady in various quarters in allusion to the first female Prime Minister who was known for her uncompromising leadership style, and in anticipation that she will present the same type of firm leadership that Thatcher embodied.

“However, the plethora of delicate political, economic, and social issues that confront Britain, both domestically and at the international scene, would need more than just firm leadership and toughness to successfully stir through,” Ugwu stated. 

In a farewell speech, outside No. 10, after Boris Johnson had tendered his resignation to the monarch, he called himself “a booster rocket” that had “fulfilled its function.”

Dominic Raab, deputy prime minister and justice secretary under Boris Johnson, has confirmed he is returning to the backbenches and will not take up a post in Prime Minister Liz Truss’s cabinet.