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Liz Truss Takes the Reins

With Boris Johnson out, what does Britain’s new leader stand for?

By , a reporter at Foreign Policy.
Then-British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss speaks during the Conservative leadership hustings.
Then-British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss speaks during the Conservative leadership hustings.
Then-British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss speaks during the Conservative leadership hustings in Birmingham, England, on Aug. 23. Anthony Devlin/Getty Images

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at Britain’s new prime minister, Liz Truss, Chile’s rejection of a new constitution, and the United Nations’ warning of famine in Somalia.

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Liz Truss Becomes British Prime Minister

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at Britain’s new prime minister, Liz Truss, Chiles rejection of a new constitution, and the United Nations’ warning of famine in Somalia.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


Liz Truss Becomes British Prime Minister

Liz Truss will begin her term as British prime minister today, replacing a controversial predecessor, Boris Johnson, whose stormy three-year tenure at No. 10 Downing St. produced numerous scandals and left the economy in a precarious state.

Truss will be taking the reins during a turbulent period as spiraling energy prices and record inflation throttle Britons and strikes become more frequent. “I campaigned as a conservative, and I will govern as a conservative,” she declared on Monday. “I will deliver a bold plan to cut taxes and grow our economy.”

But Truss hasn’t always been a conservative, with a political record full of ideological U-turns. A former centrist Liberal Democrat while at university, she once called for the end of the British monarchy and ardently opposed Brexit. She has since transformed into a Brexit cheerleader—a drastic shift that helped her secure support in the Conservative Party and ultimately defeat her rival, Rishi Sunak. 

“It would be easy to make one of two mistakes about Truss: either she doesn’t believe in anything or she believes everything she’s saying at any one time,” Ben Judah, a journalist and senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, writes in Foreign Policy. “She’s a more complicated mix of chameleon politics over a solid framework of belief—especially on geopolitics.”

From the war in Ukraine to China, Truss adopted hawkish stances while serving as foreign secretary. Judah describes her as a hard-liner who is always seeking a “Thatcher-Reagan solution.” Truss “has a taste for even greater action on the world stage after being foreign secretary during a European war,” he writes. 

But she will have her hands full with Britain’s mounting domestic troubles, which range from a deepening energy crisis and skyrocketing inflationenergy bills are set to spike by 80 percent this fall—to growing backlogs for medical treatment. Gallup has found that almost two-thirds of the British public lack confidence in the government while Truss herself is even less popular, according to YouGov.

While campaigning, Truss pledged to slash taxes, diverging sharply from Sunak, who said the government should first curb inflation. Her promises proved to be more popular among the roughly 141,000 dues-paying Conservative Party members who cast ballots for the country’s next leader, but it’s unlikely that the other 99.7 percent of registered U.K. voters will see her policies the same way.

As Truss begins her term, she may be guided by her long-standing view of politics as “philosophy in action,” as FP’s Amy Mackinnon wrote in a profile of the leader last year. People close to Truss characterize her as “a conviction politician,” Mackinnon reported, or someone whose global outlook influences their policy choices. 

That could come to define Britain’s future.

“I think people have always underestimated her,” Garvan Walshe, a former security policy advisor to the Conservative Party, told Mackinnon. “People make fun of her voice, people make fun of her enthusiasm, but what they don’t realize is that she is a very smart politician who has been making her way up the ranks of the party for the last 15 or 20 years.”


What We’re Following Today

Chile rejects new constitution. Chileans have voted against a proposed constitution that would have enshrined universal health care, legal abortion, and animal and nature rights, among others. Voters rejected the proposed constitution by an overwhelming 62 to 38 percent margin. Chile’s current constitution was created during the rule of late Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

Even though Chileans had demonstrated they wanted change, “the draft constitution published in July of this year is change to the extreme,” Lucas Perelló and Will Freeman write in Foreign Policy. “Structural change is a tough sales pitch given Chile’s current dire economic straits.”

Somalia’s looming famine. The United Nations has warned that certain regions in Somalia will face famine between October and December as the impacts of drought, consecutive failed rainy seasons, conflict, and growing economic pressures converge in a humanitarian disaster. The impacted areas are home to more than 850,000 people.

“Famine is at the door,” U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths told reporters in Mogadishu. “We are in the last moment of the eleventh hour to save lives.”


Keep an Eye On

Stranded migrants. An estimated 60 Lebanese and Syrian migrants are stranded in a leaking fishing boat in the Mediterranean Sea, and they have been in need of water and food for three days, The Associated Press reported. Two children have died, the migrants told family and aid groups via satellite phone, while pleading for help from nearby coast guards.

Israel’s policy reversal. Israel has walked back its original plans to mandate that foreign visitors to the West Bank report their romantic engagements, weddings, and living plans with Palestinian residents, after its original announcement was widely criticized and sparked concerns about discrimination. 


Monday’s Most Read 

Why Trumpism Will Endure by Michael Hirsh

How U.S. Grand Strategy Is Changed by Ukraine by Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Angela Stent, Stephen M. Walt, C. Raja Mohan, Robin Niblett, Liana Fix, and Edward Alden

International Relations Theory Suggests Great-Power War Is Coming by Matthew Kroenig


Odds and Ends 

Ukrainian firefighters were able to save a kitten from a building struck by a rocket in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Ukraine’s emergency services shared on Facebook. “We found a beauty,” one firefighter said in a video while another cleaned the cat with water, The Associated Press reported. 

“Heroes of our time,” the emergency services said. “They protect, work, save, treat. … And we wish the cat a speedy recovery.”

Christina Lu is a reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @christinafei

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