Liz Truss to become next PM after winning Tory leadership race

Truss has attacked Whitehall “waste and orthodoxy” during the campaign, pledging to scrap diversity roles and slash the civil service headcount
Liz Truss speaking at a campaign hustings. Photo: Imageplotter/Alamy

By Tevye Markson

05 Sep 2022

Liz Truss has won the Conservative leadership election and will become the next prime minister, after comfortably defeating Rishi Sunak.

Around 57% of Tory voters chose the foreign secretary to be the next leader of the party and country. 

Truss, who has repeatedly set her sights on civil service reform during the race, including an ill-fated proposal to reduce the pay of officials outside London, received 81,326 votes to Sunak's 60,399.

There were a total of 172,437 eligible ballots submitted – an 82.6% turnout. 654 votes were rejected.

The incoming PM promised to "deliver, deliver, deliver" in her victory speech .

The leadership election was triggered when Boris Johnson stood down as leader of the party on July 7 following a tidal wave of resignations by ministers.

Eight candidates entered the race on 12 July, with MPs whittling them down to two – Sunak and Truss – within eight days. The task of choosing the next leader was then handed over to Tory members who took the final vote between the beginning of August and 2 September.

During this period, the candidates attended a dozen hustings, with Truss quickly becoming the clear favourite in the polls.

Truss took a low-tax, small-state stance from the beginning, launching waves of attacks on “Whitehall orthodoxy” and making various promises to reduce the size and cost of the civil service throughout the race.

She began by committing to go ahead with Johnson’s plan to reduce the civil service headcount, saying she would pursue “a long-term plan to bring down the size of the state and the tax burden.”

Truss also pledged to “clamp down on arm’s-length bodies” and redirect hundreds of millions of pounds to frontline services, which she said would help to create a leaner and more efficient state.

Amid delays to voting over security fears, Truss turned her focus to civil service pay, saying she would launch a “war on Whitehall waste” by introducing regional civil service boards that would have slashed the wages of officials living outside London and the southeast.

After a huge backlash, Truss U-turned on the regional pay proposal within 24 hours. However, she did not drop her accompanying pledge to reduce civil servants’ annual leave and scrap diversity and inclusion roles in the civil service.

Truss also expressed her support for government efficiency minister Jacob Rees-Mogg’s anti-remote working crusade, having previously backed flexible working, and caused controversy when she said she wanted to “change woke civil service culture that strays into antisemitism”.

While Truss made her position on civil service reform clear, she was coyer on how ministers would be kept in check. She suggested she may not appoint a new independent adviser on ministers' interests because she understands the “difference between right and wrong”.

The foreign secretary, who has previously served in ministerial roles including trade secretary and minister for women and equalities, also sketched out her plans for various key policy areas during the campaign, including the energy crisis and social care.

She pledged to scrap the National Insurance rise and instead fund the NHS and social care through general taxation; pay Covid debt over a longer period to allow for greater tax cuts now; scrap all EU “red tape” by 2024; and pursue more Rwanda-style immigration schemes amiong.

Truss has offered little detail on how she will tackle the crisis of rising inflation and energy bills, other than suggesting her low tax policy would boost the economy, pledging to scrap green energy levies and rejecting proposals for further windfall taxes on energy companies.

She has, however, committed to acting on the crisis within a week of becoming prime minister, with reports this weekend that she could freeze energy bills despite rejecting the idea earlier in the campaign.

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