Truss on the brink of power as Britain’s Tories finish voting

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London (AFP) – After a grueling national tour, a dozen hustings and three televised debates, Liz Truss looks poised to take over as the UK’s next Prime Minister as Conservative Party members vote closes on Friday .

The outcome of the summer campaign pitting the Foreign Secretary against former Chancellor Rishi Sunak will be announced on Monday, before Prime Minister Boris Johnson formally tenders his resignation to Queen Elizabeth II the following day.

Postal and online voting by the roughly 200,000 Tory members began in early August, a month after Johnson announced his resignation, and ends at 5 p.m. (1600 GMT).

Truss has overwhelming support over Sunak in member polls.

But the winner faces an extremely short political honeymoon once they return to 10 Downing Street after meeting the Queen in the Scottish Highlands.

The UK is in the grip of its worst cost of living crisis in generations, with double-digit inflation as energy prices soar in the wake of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Millions of people say that with bills set to rise by 80% from October – and further from January – they will face a painful choice between eating and heating this winter, surveys show.

Truss promised tax cuts, but these would not benefit the poorest.

For weeks, the Tory frontrunner has ruled out direct donations and went one step further in the last election campaign on Wednesday by repeating former US President George Bush’s pledge to stop paying taxes – which he quickly broken.

But writing in Thursday’s edition of The Sun newspaper, Truss pledged to ‘provide immediate support to ensure people are not faced with unaffordable fuel bills’ this winter.

“I strongly believe that in these difficult times we must be radical,” she added, outlining her Thatcherite reform agenda to cement Johnson’s Brexit legacy.

Challenge

Tory MPs turned on their Brexit hero Johnson after months of scandal and preferred Sunak over Truss as the most eligible leader to take them through to the next general election due in January 2025.

But the party base has rallied behind Truss’s right-wing platform, despite being a former liberal Democrat who opposed leaving the European Union in Britain’s 2016 referendum.

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“She’s a better politician,” John Curtice, a professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde, told AFP after Truss stuck to a simple script during the long, hot campaign summer.

“Sunak demonstrated some of the qualities you might expect to see in a good minister. But Miss Truss demonstrated the qualities you need in a politician,” Curtice added.

However, whoever wins, recent polls of the wider electorate show the Tories face a growing challenge to maintain their grip on power for 12 years.

Labor benefited from the onslaught of Johnson’s ‘zombie government’ as the Tories took their time electing a new leader, embroiled in infighting despite the wider crisis.

The main opposition party now enjoys a double-digit lead over the Tories in opinion polls, as the economic landscape turns bleakest since Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979.

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