At 12:30 pm on 5 September 2022, the new British Prime Minister was announced to the public. Having been subjected to six weeks of political campaigning, citizens across the nation are gratefully putting the ‘rat race for Downing Street’ stress to bed.
Faced with Rishi Sunak on one hand and Liz Truss on the other, it’s not hard to understand why neither Tory candidate had been particularly popular among voters. Nevertheless, with BoJo entirely out and Truss stomping in to replace him, it’s time we consider the realities of what might have been and what to expect—or rather fear—from the new PM. But first, let’s look back on what the unsuccessful candidate stood for.
The former Chancellor of the Exchequer began his campaign by pitching himself to the public as a trusted and valued member of Parliament. His career in politics, having begun in 2015, has wielded an incredibly recognisable public brand—a skinny suit, relaxed smile and controversial economic policies.
Following an illustrious education at Winchester College, Oxford University and Stanford University, Sunak sought a life in politics, quickly rising through the Conservative ranks. His most significant characteristic, according to The Economist, is his dual-identity. Specifically, Sunak has gained traction within the British political sphere by profiting off of a ‘socially liberal’ ideology, while simultaneously pursuing an aggressive economic strategy.
Sunak navigates British politics as both an economic pragmatist who, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, claimed he would do “whatever it takes,” to save the country from financial collapse. That being said, the former Chancellor also maintains an ideological identity standpoint. In a 2019 interview with the BBC, Sunak emphasised how his identity as an ethnic minority mattered greatly to him. Having experienced racism within the UK himself, he recognises the importance of both cultural acceptance and upbringing.
On the other hand, Sunak has faced countless criticism during his bid for Prime Minister. And for good reason—the former Chancellor’s policies have been repeatedly condemned as irresponsible, insensitive and dangerous.
In one particular example, Sunak was captured on film speaking with Conservative party members in Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent. In the leaked footage released by The New Statesman, Sunak boasted to constituents of the affluent town: “We inherited a bunch of formulas from Labour that shoved all the funding into deprived urban areas and that needed to be undone. I started the work of undoing that.” Another tone-deaf Conservative politician—are we at all surprised?
Throughout the highly Tory leadership race, Sunak has often been referred to as “the underdog.” This nickname however, has unfortunately failed to deter the former Chancellor from maintaining a ‘tough stance’ on his economic policies—unequal would be a more applicable term.
Despite rejecting his opponents’ claims of having a “doomster” approach to the country’s economics, Sunak has shown a frequent lack of understanding for everyday struggles. The Guardian, reporting on the politician’s personal wealth, explained Sunak has a history of controversially using “non-domiciled” status in order to flout tax restrictions—predominantly through his wife who has been estimated to have avoided paying UK taxes of £20 million on overseas earnings.
Things could only get worse if Sunak went as far as to borrow a Sainsbury’s worker’s ordinary car for a publicity photoshoot—oh wait, he did. Oops.
While the leave Brexit politician failed to clinch the title of Prime Minister, we expect his desperate bid for top dog position is far from over. In fact, his most recent line of attack has targeted, what he calls, “lefty woke culture,” that seeks to “cancel our women.” As aptly put by Pink News, having said little about LGBTQIA+ rights in the past, Sunak attempted to please the Conservative right by promising to shield women from erasure and “use trans rights as a pawn to win support.”
‘Sadly’ for Sunak, this didn’t quite go to plan.
Now, for the main event—the official new Prime Minister of the UK. The ballot was read out by Conservative MP Sir Graham Brady, with Truss securing 81,326 votes and Sunak only 60,399.
During her acceptance speech, Truss thanked her family, her campaign team, her fellow party members and… “my friend Boris Johnson.” While for some, Truss may appear the lesser of two evils, this is not the case. Keep reading to uncover what’s in store for the country under a Truss government.
The self-proclaimed “disruptor-in-chief” has managed to wrangle her way into the most prestigious office in the country. Once President of the Oxford University Liberal Democrats, Truss is now universally known for her work within the Conservative party.
Having held roles as Environment secretary, Trade secretary and within the Treasury, Truss is well-versed in British politics and, as Prime Minister, has promised “radical measures” to tackle the ever-growing cost of living crisis.
According to The Guardian, Truss’ clear economic priority is to cut taxes, “She has promised to reverse the recent increase in national insurance and to cancel a scheduled rise in corporation tax, at a combined cost of about £30 [billion] a year.” However, experts have expressed scepticism about a tax cut-based response to the cost of living crisis, primarily concerned about how this approach may disproportionately benefit high earners and harm those reliant on pensions or benefits.
In addition, the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) has warned that Truss’ commitment to spend three per cent of national income on defence would cost an extra £157 billion, as reported by the BBC. The renowned think tank has warned of the impact this move could have on the public.
In a cruel twist of fate, Truss has followed in the footsteps of former opponent Sunak by promising more ‘Rwanda-style’ deals in the future.
Very early on in the campaign, Truss publicly stated that she had plans to explore similar partnerships with other countries. She has also pledged to increase the UK’s frontline border force by 20 per cent and double the border force’s maritime staffing levels, as reported by Bloomberg.
As aptly described in The Guardian, Truss has presented herself as “the true heir to Johnson who will finish the job of overhauling immigration policy.” Thanks, but no thanks.
Who ever said breakfast TV wasn’t entertaining? Sunday mornings are often synonymous with half-awake coffee runs, bacon rolls and Netflix true crime documentaries. For Journalist Laura Kuenssberg, however, they’re filled to the brim with a carousel of Britain’s top—being the loose term—politicians who take turns sitting opposite her and receiving a grilling in a purposefully uncomfortable red chair.
This particular Sunday, aired on 4 September, featured an interview with none other than the soon-to-be Prime Minister. Kuenssberg’s conversation with the politician featured a number of moments that we could only describe as disturbing.
According to Truss, not only was the cost of living not a crisis, it was a situation that the UK was very well placed to deal with—yep, she actually said that. In fact, she went on to insist that her plan to cut taxes was inherently important as it was necessary to reward the most well-off in society. Say what?
Thankfully, Birmingham-based award winning comedian Joe Lycett was on side and posed to utilise her sarcastic talents. As the interview came to a close, Lycett was heard exclaming in the background, “She’s going to sort everything out! You smashed it, Liz!”
The comedian also reiterated his ‘support’ for Truss: “I think the haters will say we’ve had 12 years of the Tories, and that we’re sort of at the dregs of what they’ve got available, and that Liz Truss is sort of like the backwash of the available MPs. I wouldn’t say that, because I’m incredibly right-wing, but some people might say that.”
As of 5 September 2022, Truss officially moves into 10 Downing Street and becomes the country’s new Prime Minister. It won’t be until the next general election in 2025 that the public will be able to contest this. Wish us all luck.
One of the world’s youngest leaders has recently had to defend herself against an alleged drug scandal. Finland’s Prime Minister, Sanna Marin, was forced to take a drug test after private footage of her partying with friends was posted onto the internet on 17 August and quickly stirred up a political storm.
Marin, now deemed ‘Europe’s partying PM’, has been in power since 2019—becoming both the youngest leader in Finnish history and the youngest serving Prime Minister globally aged only 34. Having started her political career by joining the Social Democratic Youth, Marin quickly rose through the ranks and her appointment represented a strengthening of female leadership at the helm of Nordic politics.
At the time of her victory, The New York Times spoke to Anne Holli, a political science professor at the University of Helsinki, who emphasised that it was Marin’s age rather than her gender that had been the most notable takeaway. Finland’s political sphere has historically been incredibly gender neutral—in 1983, women held 30 per cent of the parliamentary seats. However, it was particularly surprising and unprecedented that not only was Finland’s newest leader under 35, but so were four of her female ministers too.
Perhaps Marin’s age is a contributing factor as to why she has received such harsh criticism surrounding the recent allegations. To provide some context, a video was recently leaked online—accidentally, it was alleged—that captured Marin and her friends alongside some Finnish media personalities, dancing and singing in a flat.
According to Sky News, the party took place some weeks ago in a private residence and the videos were only meant to be shared within the friend group. In one particular clip, the word “Iltalehti” is heard being yelled—this term is commonly used in Finland as slang for cocaine. From the moment the video appeared online, Marin profusely denied all drug allegations and insisted she was only drinking alcohol.
As one can expect, Marin’s political opponents immediately went on the attack and criticised the Finnish Prime Minister for acting ‘wildly’ and prioritising leisure activities over domestic concerns. In a news conference covered by the BBC, the politician defended herself against the baseless claims, stating: “I did nothing illegal. Even in my teenage years I have not used any kind of drugs.” She went on to add that she had taken a drug test as an extra measure to allay any concerns.
Marin officially tested negative for any drug use on 22 August, closing the door for any further unfounded accusations. Bloomberg reported that there were no signs of cocaine, opiates or amphetamines found in the politician’s system. The recent scandal has definitely opened up new discussions in regards to whether the Finnish Prime Minister’s age played a key role in the witch-hunt.
Often, young leaders in the spotlight, especially female politicians, receive disproportionate criticism and scrutiny. In 2018, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (AOC) became the youngest woman to be sworn into Congress at the age of 29. She was quickly subjected to a barrage of criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike, accusing her of being too immature and inexperienced to be placed in office.
In an interview with Vanity Fair, AOC stated that, on one occasion, she was referred to as “this girl… or whatever she is.” She also went on to stress how “there was a time where the volume of threats had gotten so high that I didn’t even know if I was going to live to my next term.” However, despite all of this, she knows—just like Finnish Prime Minister Marin—that her position represents a crucial symbol of empowerment and political success for young women.
In a report conducted by Dazed in 2020, four young British female politicians, one as young as 24, expressed serious concerns surrounding the intensity of abuse they’d received from the public since their appointments. This harassment had also intensified, having moved from online intimidation to real-world violence—manifesting into threatening voicemails and in-person confrontations.
Despite being at the receiving end of obscene discrimination, all four politicians remained resolute. “We’re not going away, and we’ll raise our voices louder than they do. We’ve got a year’s take of MPs more diverse than ever before—outspoken, proud, and here to represent. I think we’re going to change things.”