The Daily Telegraph
Brisk, businesslike PM sets out mission
For 17 minutes yesterday, the Queen held executive power as the transition between prime ministers took place in Balmoral. At 12.21, she relinquished it to Liz Truss, the 15th premier of her reign, after Boris Johnson had travelled separately to Scotland to hand in his resignation less than three years after winning the biggest Conservative majority since 1987.
The manner of his departure, surrounded by staff, friends and family, evinced a continued belief that he has been unjustly treated. Mr Johnson said he was “handing over the baton in what has unexpectedly turned out to be a relay race”, adding that “they changed the rules halfway through, but never mind that now”.
But he clearly does mind it, and his reference to Cincinnatus, the Roman general recalled from his farm to defend and secure the Republic, set off a flurry of speculation that this classicist did not make such an allusion by accident.
Despite his characteristically colourful description of himself as a spent rocket booster returning to Earth to splash down in a remote corner of the Pacific, it is highly unlikely we have heard the last of Boris Johnson, though we are yet to discover in what guise he will reinvent himself.
This left the stage for Ms Truss to become the third new Conservative prime minister in just six years to make an acceptance speech on the threshold of No10 before taking up the reins of office. Such declamations are conventions of fairly recent standing, instituted by Harold Wilson in 1964. Prior to that, incoming premiers contented themselves with an avuncular wave, before disappearing behind the famous front door.
Despite two months on the stump campaigning for the Tory leadership, Ms Truss still felt an imperative to address the nation as she prepared to start work in some of the most difficult circumstances faced by an incoming premier since 1945.
Unlike Mr Johnson, whose departure speech comprised a long list of claimed achievements, the new Prime Minister took up her office acknowledging the depth of the crisis facing the country. She effectively declared the need for a fundamental policy reset in a number of key areas, reprising several of her policies from the campaign. She set out as priorities a tax-cutting “budget for growth”, a plan to tackle energy prices to be announced on Thursday, and a head-on assault on NHS shortcomings.
It is indicative of the mess the health service is in that Ms Truss felt obliged to promise that people would be able to see a GP and access the services they need as though this should not be axiomatic. She implicitly questioned her predecessor’s vaunted successes by promising to “get the United Kingdom working, building and growing” and “make sure that we are building hospitals, schools, roads and broadband”. These were precisely the areas that Mr Johnson felt were well under way.
Her manner was brisk and business-like, a harbinger of the way she proposes her Government should operate. A clear-out of Downing Street staff was already in progress last night, with many transferring to a beefed-up Economic and Domestic Secretariat based in the Cabinet Office. The dynamic of how No10 now functions against the power of the Treasury will be one of the defining aspects of her administration.
Ms Truss’s first parliamentary duty will be to attend Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons later today after chairing a meeting of the new Cabinet. This is greatly revamped from the team inherited from Mr Johnson, with some significant departures, including Priti Patel, Dominic Raab, Grant Shapps and Nadine Dorries, who return to the backbenches.
The most remarkable aspect of the Cabinet is its composition, with not one white man occupying any of the major offices of state. Kwasi Kwarteng, a long standing ally of Ms Truss, is Chancellor of the Exchequer, facing a possible sterling crisis in the coming weeks, with Suella Braverman at the Home Office and James Cleverley as Foreign Secretary. Another old friend, Thérèse Coffey, is appointed Deputy Prime Minister. The Conservatives have elected their third woman leader to lead the most ethnically diverse senior ministerial team in history, belying hoary old Labour caricatures of Tory bigotry and insularity.