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As new PM, Liz Truss is urged to act quickly to relieve hardship

05 September 2022

Alamy

Liz Truss celebrates with her husband, Hugh O’Leary, being elected Conservative leader, in the Queen Elizabeth Centre, Westminster, on Monday

Liz Truss celebrates with her husband, Hugh O’Leary, being elected Conservative leader, in the Queen Elizabeth Centre, Westminster, on Monday

THE next Prime Minister, Liz Truss, must act quickly to address the cost-of-living crisis, church leaders and charities have said.

Ms Truss was elected Leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party on Monday lunchtime, succeeding Boris Johnson, who announced his resignation on 7 July (News, 15 July). Ms Truss will become Prime Minister on Tuesday in an audience with the Queen at Balmoral.

Ms Truss received 57 per cent of valid votes cast by Conservative Party members: 81,326. Her remaining rival for the leadership, the former Chancellor Rishi Sunak, received 60,399 votes.

Speaking to party members in the Queen Elizabeth Centre, Westminster, after the vote was announced, Ms Truss described the leadership contest, which took place over the summer, as “one of the longest job interviews in history”. She paid tribute to Mr Johnson: “Boris, you got Brexit done, you crushed Jeremy Corbyn, you rolled out the vaccine, and you stood up to Vladimir Putin. You are admired from Kyiv to Carlisle.”

She continued: “During this leadership campaign, I campaigned as a Conservative and I will govern as a Conservative. And, my friends, we need to show that we will deliver over the next two years. I will deliver a bold plan to cut taxes and grow our economy. I will deliver on the energy crisis, dealing with people’s energy bills, but also dealing with the long-term issues we have on energy supply. And I will deliver on the National Health Service.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury wrote on Twitter shortly after the announcement: “I am praying for Liz Truss as she takes on the great responsibilities of leadership at a time of such significant challenges. May God guide her, and all who serve in our political life, towards His hope for our nation, and particular care for those who are vulnerable.”

The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham Usher, in whose diocese Ms Truss’s constituency of South West Norfolk falls, wrote on Twitter: “As Norfolk MP Liz Truss prepares for huge responsibility, I hope and pray that she will be a Prime Minister who leads with much ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.’ Individual lives and nations flourish more with these values.”

The Chief Executive of the Children’s Society, Mark Russell, said: “It’s absolutely vital that the new Prime Minister acts quickly to address the cost-of-living crisis hitting families across the country and leaving parents facing impossible choices between eating and heating. That means introducing long-term, sustainable support; no parent should have to reach crisis to receive help.

“But Liz Truss also needs to comes up with an urgent plan to tackle the crisis in our children’s well-being, which was already at a deeply worrying 10-year low even before lockdowns and now soaring living costs.”

The director of Church Action on Poverty, Niall Cooper, said: “Clearly, the first priority has to be tackling the horrific cost of living emergency, to prevent millions more people being swept into poverty by systems and organisations out of their control. Beyond that, though, the new Prime Minister should find a new way to do politics that truly includes people and communities who have been marginalised and drowned out for far too long.”

The Executive Director of Debt Justice, Heidi Chow, said after the announcement that the Government had been “shrugging its shoulders in the face of astronomical energy bills as fear of financial catastrophe and hardship has gripped the nation. Prime Minister Liz Truss can delay no more.

“The Government needs to expand the windfall tax on energy producers to freeze energy prices and pay off the £2 billion of energy debt that UK households have already taken on to give everyone a fighting chance of keeping the lights on this winter.”

The Chief Executive of Christian Aid, Patrick Watt, said: “The burning question is whether Liz Truss will now seize the opportunity to reset the Government’s approach and rise to the unprecedented domestic and global challenges we face. She must.

“The new Prime Minister must tackle the climate crisis, a major factor in Pakistan’s floods, by supporting a just transition to net zero and urgently help the millions of people on the brink of famine in East Africa with a swift reversal of cuts to international aid.”

The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, said that Ms Truss should be assured of his “prayerful support”, but that her election had come “at a time when many crises have to be faced, at home and across the world”. Prominent among these, he said, was “the crisis in the cost of living”.

He continued: “I, and my fellow bishops, recognise the complexity of the causes, both short and long-term, that bring about the crisis now affecting so many. . .

“The principle of serving the common good means that the needs of the poorest in society must be given urgent attention. The time for giving priority to factional interests has passed.

“Today our focus should be on the elderly, families who have the care of children, and all those least able to absorb the huge increases in the cost of living that we face. This means giving immediate attention to issues such as the level of welfare benefits and the impact of the two-child cap on universal credit payments, among other possible actions. Businesses too, especially small businesses, are facing acute challenges and will need help to survive. Their support for employment and family income is crucial.”

In an open letter, the Moderator and the Principal Clerk of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Rt Revd Dr Ian Greenshields and the Revd Fiona Smith, pleaded with Ms Truss “to do what you can do to restore civility and respect in our political discourse — allowing for deep disagreement, but in a way which treats everyone with dignity and respect”.

They were praying, the letter said, “that wisdom, compassion, justice and mercy might touch the hearts of those in government and that God will be with them”.

The Leader of the Opposition, Sir Keir Starmer, told Sky News after the announcement that Ms Truss was “out of touch” and “not on the side of working people”.

He continued: “She needs to deal with the cost-of-living crisis, she needs to deal with the fact the NHS is on its knees, and she needs to deal with the collapse of law and order. And there can be no justification for not freezing energy prices.”

Ms Truss’s uncle, Canon Richard Truss, is a former Vicar of St John’s, Waterloo, in London, and is now a retired priest with permission to officiate in the diocese of Southwark. Canon Truss is reported to have officiated at his niece’s wedding to Hugh O’Leary, in 2000.

Ms Truss told the Evening Standard last month: “I share the values of the Christian faith and the Church of England, but I’m not a regular practising religious person.”

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