Research
5
min read

The New Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

Published on
September 5, 2022
Author
William Wright
for GovConnex Research
Before GovConnex Research is published here, it's sent exclusively to GovConnex Platform subscribers.

What you need to know

Update: Liz Truss has been chosen as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

  • The Conservative Party will announce their new leader at 9:30pm AEST on 5th September 2022, who will become the UK Prime Minister replacing Boris Johnson.
  • This comes after a vote of the 150,000-200,000 Conservative Party members.
  • 47 year-old Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is the clear favourite to win the party vote — Truss would be the United Kingdom’s third female Prime Minister.
  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his resignation on July 7 following a string of scandals and subsequent ministerial resignations. 
  • Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak were chosen by the Conservative Party’s sitting parliamentarians as the final two candidates in the race.
  • Membership polling shows Sunak to be trailing Truss by an average of 30 points.
  • Truss’s campaign has been built around lowering taxes, whereas former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak has urged fiscal restraint.

Liz Truss

Age: 47

Current parliamentary roles: Foreign Secretary, Minister for Women and Equalities, Member for South West Norfolk.

Former parliamentary roles: Secretary of State for International Trade, President of the Board of Trade, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Secretary of State for Justice, Secretary of State for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs.

Before parliament: From 1996-2000 Truss worked as an accountant for Shell. She went on to become the economic director of telecommunications company Cable & Wireless. Truss then became Deputy Director of conservative think tank Reform.

Stance on Brexit: Truss was a staunch supporter of remaining in the European Union. However, during the recent leadership campaign she has changed her tune:

I was wrong and I am prepared to admit I was wrong. Some of the portents of doom didn't happen and instead we have actually unleashed new opportunities"

This is likely due to the strong support of Brexit amongst the Conservative party base.

Biography: Born in Oxford, Truss spent her childhood living in Scotland, Canada, and England. She graduated from the University of Oxford in 1996 with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. While at university, she was president of the Oxford University Liberal Democrats, advocating for the legalisation of cannabis and the abolition of the monarchy. She joined the Conservative Party soon after graduating. Truss is married to Hugh O’Leary, they have two children. Truss entered parliament in 2010.

Other facts:  Truss describes her parents as “left of Labor”, her father refused to campaign for her when she first ran for Parliament. Truss is a close personal friend of former Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom George Brandis, with Brandis taking Truss to the mid-winter ball in 2019.

Rishi Sunak

Age: 42

Current parliamentary roles: Member for Richmond (Yorks).

Former parliamentary roles: Chancellor of the Exchequer, Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

Before parliament: Sunak started his career at Goldman Sachs as an analyst between 2001 and 2004. He went on to work as a partner at the Children’s Investment Fund Management. He then helped found hedge fund Theleme Partners. Sunak entered parliament in 2015.

Stance on Brexit: Sunak campaigned to leave the European Union. He continues to support Brexit.

Biography: Sunak was born in Southampton to a GP father and pharmacist mother. His father was born and raised in Kenya, his mother Tanzania, both having migrated from India. Sunak was head boy of Winchester College and went on to study Philosophy, Politics and Economics at the University of Oxford. He then gained an MBA from Stanford University on a Fulbright scholarship. Sunak is married to Akshata Murty and they have two children.

Other facts:

Sunak’s father-in-law is Indian billionaire N. R. Narayana Murthy, the founder of Indian IT business Infosys. Sunak is the wealthiest member of the House of Commons and the 222nd wealthiest person in the United Kingdom.

Australia relations

  • The strong Australia-UK relationship will remain unchanged.
  • Sunak has been critical of the December 2021 Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement, stating it was “bad” for UK farmers, however he has vowed not to renege on the agreement.
  • Both are supportive of the AUKUS alliance.
  • Truss on Australia: “My first interaction with Australia, like many people my age, was watching Neighbours on television and, of course, the great romance between Kylie and Jason. But I think the UK and Australia are even closer than that.”
  • Truss’ strong relationship with Hon. George Brandis could lead to a strengthening of the relationship with Australia should she assume the leadership.

Likely policy changes

China

  • Sunak has taken a hawkish approach to China, promising to close all 30 of China’s Confucius Institutes in the United Kingdom.
  • Sunak has also pledged to form a “Nato-style international alliance” to counter China’s influence. This is likely to further increase cooperation with Australia in the AUKUS alliance and Five Eyes intelligence sharing partnership.
  • Truss has detailed a similarly hardline approach, vowing to clamp down on Chinese businesses such as TikTok.

Economy

  • Truss has pledged to scrap a planned rise in the corporation tax, slated for 2023.
  • Truss is generally supportive of a lower tax regime.
  • Truss has promised to suspend what is known as the “green levy”, a part of energy bills that pays for social and green projects.
  • Sunak has been reluctant to commit to tax cuts, claiming that tackling inflation is the priority.

Climate

  • Truss says she will stick to the goal of net zero by 2050.
  • Truss would review the UK ban on fracking.
  • Truss is supportive of nuclear energy and small modular nuclear reactors.
  • Sunak will support the goal of net zero by 2050
  • Sunak plans to introduce a legal target to make the UK energy self-sufficient by 2045.

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