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Conservatives to reveal UK's new prime minister -- Truss or Sunak

Conservatives to reveal UK's new prime minister -- Truss or Sunak

05 September 2022

London (AFP) -

The next British prime minister will be announced Monday with Liz Truss the favourite to succeed Boris Johnson and take charge as the nation battles a spiralling cost-of-living crisis.

The result will be unveiled at 12:30 pm (1130 GMT), after foreign minister Truss and her rival, former finance minister Rishi Sunak, spent the summer rallying support among Conservative Party members who cast the final vote.

If she wins, Truss will become the UK's third female prime minister following Theresa May and Margaret Thatcher.

The 47-year-old has consistently led 42-year-old Sunak in polling among the estimated 200,000 Tory members eligible to vote.

The leadership contest began in July after Johnson announced his departure following a slew of scandals and resignations from his government.

Postal and online voting closed Friday after eight weeks of campaigning that Truss described to the BBC as 'the longest job interview in history'.

Truss told the Daily Mail that as prime minister she would 'do everything in my power to make sure everyone, no matter where they are from, has the opportunity to go as far as their talent and hard work takes them'.

However, she faces a tough task in winning over general public opinion.

A YouGov poll in late August found 52 percent thought Truss would make a 'poor' or 'terrible' prime minister.

Forty-three percent said they did not trust her 'at all' to deal with the burning issue of the rise in the cost of living.

- 'Worst in-tray' -

Whoever emerges as winner faces 'the worst in-tray for a new prime minister since Thatcher', The Sunday Times wrote.

The UK is gripped by its worst cost-of-living crisis in generations, with inflation soaring into double digits and energy prices shooting up on the back of Russia's war in Ukraine.

Millions say that with bills set to rise by 80 percent from October -- and even higher from January -- they face a painful choice between eating and heating this winter, according to surveys.

'If I'm elected prime minister, I will act immediately on bills and on energy supply,' Truss told the BBC on Sunday, while declining to go into details.

British newspapers, including the Times and Daily Telegraph, reported Monday that she was considering freezing energy bills for consumers, with the government reimbursing suppliers.

Truss has campaigned on a promise to slash taxes and prioritise economic growth, with Britain tipped to enter recession later this year.

She said Sunday she would 'within a month present a full plan for how we are going to reduce taxes' and 'get the British economy going'.

Sunak has vowed further government support to help people pay their energy bills and said curbing inflation would be his priority, attacking Truss's tax-slashing plans as reckless.

'We shouldn't rule anything out. I mean, we're facing a genuine emergency. I think anyone pretending that that isn't the situation isn't being straight with the country,' he told the BBC on Sunday.

Polls show public support for an early general election and the Conservatives face a growing challenge to retain their 12-year grip on power.

Truss became foreign minister a year ago after holding a series of ministerial posts in departments including education, international trade and justice.

She began her political journey as a teenage member of the centrist Liberal Democrats before switching to the right-wing Conservatives.

In 2016, she campaigned for the UK to remain in the European Union but quickly switched allegiance when Britons backed Brexit.

Her dress sense and love of photo opportunities -- posing in a tank in Estonia and wearing a fur hat in Moscow -- have earned her comparisons to Tory icon Thatcher.

Her sometimes stiff style has become visibly more relaxed and allies have sought to soften her image, revealing her love of karaoke and socialising.

- Highland ceremony -

The announcement Monday by Conservative Party officials of who will take over the leadership sets in motion a chain of events.

On Tuesday, Johnson will deliver a farewell speech at Downing Street.

He will then formally tender his resignation to Queen Elizabeth II, and she will appoint his successor in a so-called kissing of hands ceremony.

For the first time in her reign, the 96-year-old monarch will appoint the prime minister at her Scottish retreat, Balmoral, rather than at Buckingham Palace in London.

This comes as the queen has suffered mobility problems and been forced to cancel a number of public engagements.

The next prime minister will be the 15th since the queen took the throne.