“There are decades where nothing happens and there are weeks where decades happen.”
None more so than last month when in the space of only a few days we saw the appointment of our fourth Prime Minister in the last six years quickly followed by the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
The Queen was a loyal and faithful public servant who took her responsibilities seriously, dedicating her life to serving the British people. An influential figure and a much-loved, reassuring presence for many generations, she will be greatly missed.
Her successor, King Charles III, will now need to show the same level of empathy and understanding as he faces up to the years ahead as Head of State not only for the United Kingdom but for many other countries around the world too. His surefootedness in the days immediately after her death, whilst at the same time grieving the loss of her not only as a monarch but, more importantly, as his mother was a positive start.
Now the official mourning period has ended, he has a clear time window in which to set out his stall as the new King. The next few months will be key. What happens in the coming days and weeks will decide how he is received by the public and how he will be judged for the remainder of his reign.
The same can be said, of course, about Liz Truss, our new Prime Minister. After what seemed to be a never-ending summer of debate within the Tory Party, she finally emerged as the victorious candidate.
Taking office at one of the most turbulent times in recent history, she had only two days inside 10 Downing Street before everything was turned upside down by the news coming from Balmoral. In that brief time, she had already set about appointing the least experienced, most extreme Cabinet she could think of. Jettisoning to the backbenches anyone who had not shown complete and utter devotion to her previously, it seems personal loyalty came before any sense of assembling the best talents for the new PM.
Her only major announcement before the suspension of Parliament was on energy prices with a proposal for an energy price guarantee so that the average domestic energy bill will be no more than £2,500 per year for two years from October 2022. Totally avoiding any questions relating to the overall cost of this policy, Truss also failed to outline that her plans would in fact see richer people receiving twice the amount of help than the poorest. Neither fair nor particularly effective.
I am pleased that the Prime Minister has finally accepted the principle of a price limit. However, under her Government’s plan prices will still rise considerably. The plan put forward by Labour, on the other hand, would ensure that there would not be a single penny more on bills.
There is also a crucial question about who pays for these measures. The Treasury estimates that energy companies could make £170 billion in unexpected windfall profits over the next two years. That is why I have supported a windfall tax since January and why I want to see the windfall tax expanded. Sadly, the Prime Minister has chosen to leave these vast profits on the table and instead let working people pick up the bill.
In addition to the cost of living crisis, the new Prime Minister will have to deal with other pressing matters including how to prevent the expected NHS crisis in England, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, finding a way through the Northern Ireland Protocol difficulties and dealing with our Net Zero by 2050 climate change commitments whilst securing our energy supply for the long term.
With polling suggesting that voters become less impressed with her, the more they see of her, she has a huge challenge to set convince the British public that she can really make a difference.
How will it all work out? Only time will tell.