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Liz Truss, former Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom and now leader of the British Conservative Party, has met with Queen Elizabeth the Second in Balmoral in Scotland on Sep. 6, formally becoming the United Kingdom's latest prime minister.
Not Ready for Rishi
The victor of a months long internecine fight between factions of the British Conservative Party, also known as Tory Party; similar to how the current government of Malaysia came about via political manoeuvring between internal factions rather than electoral victory.
On Sep. 5 Truss beat former Chancellor of the Exchequer (Finance Minister) Rishi Sunak in what was described as "bruising campaign" by the Financial Times.
She received the support of just over 81,000 Tory party members to Sunak's 60,000, in a vote for party leader.
As the Tory Party holds a majority in the UK Parliament, she became prime minister after her predecessor Boris Johnson stepped down, and there was no need to call for a general election.
As a matter of formality, the incoming prime minister is invited to form a government by the British Monarch, in this case, Queen Elizabeth the Second.
Difficult times ahead
Johnson said he would quit after a ministerial mutiny that was kicked off by Sunak's resignation in July, resulting in many of Johnson's cabinet ministers resigning.
The mutiny came after years of controversy from the Johnson government, from breaking Covid-19 protocols put in place by his own government, to indiscretions of political appointees.
Truss comes into power at a potentially difficult time.
Inflation has reached a 40 year high of 10 per cent, and strike action from several sectors are intensifying and spreading.
Energy prices are soaring, threatening a deadly winter as some critics are saying that even those in work are being made to choose between paying for food and fuel.
According to The Guardian, she will also preside over the first British government to not have a white man in any of the four "great offices of state", the other three being the Exchequer, the Foreign Office, and the Home Office.
More challenges in store
Truss's Asia and Indo-Pacific policies follows the recent trend of British PMs having cool relations with China.
The UK's exit from the EU was, for a while, was achieved with the expectation of a closer economic relationship with China, however, recent years have seen a freeze fall over China-UK relations.
China has expressed displeasure over Britain offering British National Overseas passports to Hong Kong residents looking to flee the city after the crackdown on protests over political rights.
Truss has signalled she will continue with a relatively tough stance on China relations.
According to Nikkei, China is currently labeled a "systemic competitor" to the UK but that Truss said she will declare the global power a "threat".
This will not functionally alter the relationship, the designation does not come with any additional trade or diplomatic restrictions, but does cast a pall over relations nonetheless.
The UK under Truss may also attempt to increase pressure on China in other ways, with Spectator questioning if Truss will declare China's actions in Xinjiang towards the Uighur ethnic group a "genocide".
She has even said that NATO should play a role in Taiwan's defence, being quoted by Politico as saying "We must ensure that democracies like Taiwan are able to defend themselves."
This is unlikely to gain that much traction within NATO itself, with the same article indicating that NATO members do not agree with each other on how central the Asia and Indo-Pacific regions should be to NATO's role of ensuring European security.
She will likely continue in Johnson's footsteps by providing full throated support for Ukraine, with Politico saying that Truss has urged other Western allies to provide more equipment and training for the Ukrainian armed forces while they battle against Russia's ongoing invasion.
At the same time, the UK has tried to establish closer ties with other Indo-Pacific nations. Truss, as Foreign Secretary has visited several Asean states, such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.
The Diplomat quotes her as urging "turbo-charging" relations with those countries, but it remains to be seen if her government will dedicate enough resources to make the Asean-UK dialogue partnership useful in such a difficult and diverse region.
What is more likely to dominate her priorities once she actually takes up the role of PM is her domestic agenda.
Truss will have to spend her time combating an opposition Labour Party that is surging in the polls, on the back of her predecessor's scandals and the worsening economic situation at home.
In fact, according to Bloomberg, the leadership campaign appears to have severely damaged her prospects, with only 31 per cent of Conservative voters saying she looked like a prospective PM, and only 12 per cent of all those polled saying she would be a good leader.
Truss has already said that she has the 2024 general election in sights, where she hopes to win a mandate for herself.
During her campaign Truss had appealed to her party by promising significant tax cuts, and said she is planning to cap energy prices for the foreseeable future.
Her first test will come on Wednesday, Sep. 7, when she faces Leader of the Opposition Sir Keir Starmer in Prime Ministers' Questions.
Top image via Liz Truss/Facebook
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