HomeWorldFrom policy to spectacle: UK Prime Minister Liz Truss's first week is...

From policy to spectacle: UK Prime Minister Liz Truss’s first week is making the rounds

last Tuesday, Prime Minister Liz Truss walking down to Downing Street And confused about helping people pay their rising gas bills. Two days later, she left her new home to pay tribute to a respected queen, Elizabeth II, and told the nation that Britain’s new king would now be known as Charles III.

Has any British leader had as head-spinning as the first week on the job at Truss?

Consecrated by the queen in the final act of her 70-year reign, Truss took over a government facing an economic emergency. But all those problems have been eclipsed by the death of the queen, an epoch-making event that has stalled parliament, shifted the spotlight from a crisis of survival to a monarch’s legacy, and gave Truss, 47, an unexpected The new job handed over as the chief mourner of the government.

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Britain’s King Charles III during his first audience with Prime Minister Liz Truss at Buckingham Palace after the death of Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday, September 9, 2022 in London, Britain. (Reuters)

It is a delicate job that can elevate truss stature internationally but also take it up at home. The crosscurrents were evident on Monday, when Downing Street retracted a news report that she would be joining King Charles on a four-nation mourning tour of the United Kingdom.

The report had raised eyebrows among some opposition lawmakers, who saw his plans as arrogant. A Truss spokesman immediately clarified: the prime minister, he told The Guardian, would accompany Charles to memorial services for the Queen in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, but would not “accompany” the king on the tour.

Alastair Campbell, director of communications for Tony Blair, said: “I don’t know what made anyone think it was a good decision for any of them to go with Charles to the UK’s country capitals.” minister, and advised him on his response to the death of Princess Diana in 1997.

“It’s not like he’s a novice at these kinds of trips,” Campbell said of the 73-year-old King. “She would have been advised to put her feet under the table at No. 10 and focus on the enormous challenges that lie ahead when the bereavement is over.”

Among those challenges: double digits inflationa rising recession, labor unrest and deteriorating public finances. On Monday, new data showed UK growth held steady in the three months through July. Hours before news of Queen’s death, Truss announced Comprehensive plan to stabilize energy rates for millions of families for two years at a potential cost of over $100 billion in its first year.

It was a shocking policy response right out of the gate underscoring the depth of the crisis. But Queen’s round-the-clock coverage means the plan is barely mentioned. Parliament has been suspended until after the Queen’s state funeral on 19 September. MPs are scheduled to go on recess for their parties’ conventions on September 22, leaving politics on hold for even longer.

Fears about how the government plans to finance the aid package with heavily increased borrowings instead of imposing windfall taxes on oil and gas companies are wearing on the bond market and the pound, which recently hit the dollar. The competition has dropped to its lowest level. Since 1985.

Britain’s Speaker of the House of Commons Lindsay Hoyle, Prime Minister Liz Truss, Labor Party leader Keir Starmer and Scottish National Party (SNP) leader in the House of Commons Ian Blackford sit in Westminster Hall following the death of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth. In London, UK, September 12, 2022. (Reuters)

“It is a problem that there has been no proper public scrutiny or political debate around a spending package of 5 to 6% of GDP,” said Jonathan Ports, professor of economics and public policy at King’s College London.

“Theoretically, it can be cured after the funeral,” he said. “But I’m a little concerned that the government will get used to the lack of scrutiny of their proposals and try to follow the same vein.”

The lack of scrutiny may provide a temporary respite, but it could be fatal in the long term: Jill Rutter, a former Treasury official, recalled that the government published details of a new voting tax in January 1986, hours before Challenger Space. did. The shuttle exploded in the United States. It was completely lost in the news of that disaster, and when Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher later imposed the tax, it proved so unpopular that it triggered its downfall.

There is no doubt that Truss’s role in the 10 days of national mourning will make him a rare sight for a new leader. She has become an iconic daily fixture on television, shaking hands with the King in an audience at Buckingham Palace, walking out of Westminster Hall after her address to Parliament on Monday and about the start of a new Carolian era in Downing Street. I speaks.

He will have a major introduction to the global stage when dozens, or even hundreds, of leaders gather in London for the funeral, placing him at the center of one of the largest such gatherings since the funeral of John F. will be kept.

Like Truss, Blair was brand new to the job when Princess Diana was killed in a car accident in Paris. Her description as “the people’s princess” became one of the most memorable phrases of her decade in office. He also took credit for scraping a reticent queen into a more public display of grief over Diana’s death.

But this time the royal family does not see the need for public relations advice. Prince William, Prince Harry and their husband appeared on a carefully managed promenade outside Windsor Castle on Saturday. The day before, Charles walked out of his old Rolls-Royce at Buckingham Palace to shake hands with well-wishers.

“You could argue that it helps her to be visible at these events,” Campbell said, “but in all honesty, the public focuses a lot on the royals and not the politicians.”

For Truss, experts agree, the success of his economic policy will matter far more in the long run than his performance in the next week.

“It is almost impossible to predict the effect of the Queen’s passing and the long period of mourning on the political fate of the truce, mainly because we have so little to compare it with,” said Timothy Bell, Professor of Politics at Queen Mary University. of London.

was the last leader in this position Winston Churchill, who was in office when Elizabeth’s father, George VI, died in 1952 and took on the role of the young Queen’s mentor at her weekly meetings. But as Bell put it, “he was already firmly established in the public mind as an iconic national hero.”

Based on the limited voting data available from that period, he said, the transition from George to Elizabeth did not increase the government’s approval rating.

“Those who believe there may be some sort of rally around the flag effect for trusses and tories may need to re-think,” Bell said.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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