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Liz Truss will succeed Boris Johnson as the U.K.'s next prime minister


It's official - the U.K. has a new prime minister. A limited circle of just about 170,000 Conservative Party members chose Foreign Minister Liz Truss for the role. Queen Elizabeth is expected to formally appoint Truss prime minister tomorrow afternoon. Reporter Willem Marx has more from London.

WILLEM MARX, BYLINE: It was the moment an excited Conservative Party and an exhausted country had been waiting months for.


GRAHAM BRADY: Liz Truss, 81,000 - therefore, I give notice that Liz Truss is elected as the leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party.


BRADY: Liz, come up and...

MARX: For the fourth time in six years, the Conservatives had a new leader, meaning Britain would have a new prime minister - those 81,000 votes all it took from grassroots members of a party Liz Truss joined as a student. It hardly represented a national mandate, but Truss told the crowd at the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre in Westminster what she hoped would happen.


LIZ TRUSS: I will deliver a bold plan to cut taxes and grow our economy.

MARX: Truss draws inspiration from a predecessor, Margaret Thatcher, and will be only the third woman to take power in 10 Downing Street. She'll do so with the cost of living in modern Britain under threat from rampant inflation and extraordinarily high energy costs.


TRUSS: 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.

MARX: Truss has promised to provide detailed proposals later this week, but after a summer of government inaction, she first sought to thank her immediate predecessor, the man she'll replace in Downing Street - her friend, as she called him - Boris Johnson.


TRUSS: Boris, you got Brexit done. You rolled out the vaccine. And you stood up to Vladimir Putin. You are admired from Kyiv to Carlisle.

MARX: Applause for Johnson came, but slowly.


BRONWEN MADDOX: I think the world's expectations of stability from Britain changed with Brexit. And to some extent, Britain is working through the consequences of that, and that's what some of these changes in prime ministers have represented.

MARX: Bronwen Maddox is chief executive of the Chatham House think tank that focuses on foreign affairs. She says Truss, the country's foreign minister for the past year, may struggle to maintain her hawkish international position on issues like Russia's invasion of Ukraine, even though the conflict may be partially responsible for recent financial pressures at home.

MADDOX: I think promises about defense spending are going to be extremely hard to meet. Liz Truss has said that she would raise spending to 2 1/2% of GDP and then soon after to 3%. And there are good defense and strategic arguments for that, summarized in the word Ukraine, but not limited to that. But I think there are going to be so many other calls on the public finances.

MARX: Truss will need to restore relations with Europe damaged by Brexit, but may also choose to recalibrate the U.K.-U.S. relationship, Maddox says, over divisive issues like Northern Ireland and the Afghan withdrawal. Her political supporters in parliament say she is the right person to meet these challenges. That includes long-time minister and a former Conservative Party chairman, James Cleverly, who told Sky News he'd worked closely with Truss in previous governments.


JAMES CLEVERLY: She's incredibly hardworking, incredibly focused, and what we've seen through this campaign is she is willing to put in the hard yards to get the results that we need, and I think those are perfect attributes for the person stepping in as our next prime minister.

MARX: Few politicians would choose to take on such a difficult role at such a perilous moment - a poisoned chalice, as some commentators have called it. But for Liz Truss, after months of campaigning, she no longer has a choice. For NPR News, I'm Willem Marx in London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Willem Marx
[Copyright 2024 NPR]