British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has arrived at Queen Elizabeth’s estate in Scotland to formally offer his resignation to pave the way for Liz Truss to succeed him amid an acute cost-of-living crisis facing the country.
Johnson will finally leave office following a carefully choreographed audience with the monarch at Balmoral that is taking place two months after he announced his intention to step down.
Truss, who was named leader of the ruling Conservative Party on Monday, will be appointed prime minister during her own meeting with the Queen a short time later.
Speaking outside his Downing Street office early Tuesday before heading to Scotland, Johnson said his policies had given Britain the economic strength to help people weather the energy crisis. He signed off with his typically colourful language.
“I am like one of those booster rockets that has fulfilled its function,” Johnson said. “I will now be gently re-entering the atmosphere and splashing down invisibly in some remote and obscure corner of the Pacific.”
‘Like Cincinnatus, I am returning to my plow’
Johnson, 58, became prime minister three years ago after his predecessor, Theresa May, failed to deliver Britain’s departure from the European Union. Johnson later won an 80-seat majority in Parliament with the promise to “get Brexit done.”
But he was forced out of office by a series of scandals that culminated in the resignation of dozens of cabinet secretaries and lower-level officials in early July. He alluded to that downfall in his leaving remarks, saying he was handing over the baton to Truss in “what has unexpectedly become a relay race.”
While many observers expect Johnson to attempt a political comeback, he offered Truss his backing and compared himself to Cincinnatus, the Roman dictator who relinquished power and returned to his farm to live in peace.
“Like Cincinnatus, I am returning to my plow,” he said. “And I will be offering this government nothing but the most fervent support.”
Johnson will formally step down when he meets Elizabeth at Balmoral, her summer retreat in Aberdeenshire.
This is the first time in the Queen’s 70-year reign that the handover of power is taking place at Balmoral, rather than at Buckingham Palace in London. The ceremony was moved to Scotland to provide certainty about the schedule because the 96-year-old Queen has experienced problems getting around that have forced palace officials to make decisions about her travel on a day-to-day basis.
Truss will make 1st speech this afternoon
Truss, 47, takes office a day after the Conservative Party’s 172,000 members elected her to lead.
On Tuesday afternoon, she is expected to make her first speech as leader of a nation of 67 million people who are anxious about soaring energy bills and a looming winter of recession and labour unrest. Those problems have festered for the past two months, because Johnson had no authority to make major policy decisions after announcing his plan to step down.
CBC News will carry a live stream of the speech from Downing Street starting at 11 a.m. ET in this file.
Speaking to Conservative Party members on Monday, Truss promised to “deliver” on the economy, the energy crisis and the overstretched health-care system, though she offered few specifics on her policies. On Sunday, Truss promised to unveil her plans for tackling the cost-of-living crisis within a week.
Bronwen Maddox, director of the international affairs think-tank Chatham House, said Truss will have to say “an awful lot more” to reach the wider electorate.
“Everything, every road, comes back to cost of living at this point,” Maddox said. “And if she delivers, to use her word on that, then you might see the mood getting much more positive.”
Many people in Britain are still learning about the person who will soon be their leader.
Unlike Johnson, who made himself a media celebrity long before he became prime minister, Truss rose quietly through the Conservative ranks before she was named foreign secretary, one of the top cabinet posts, just a year ago.
Soaring cost of living a key issue
Truss is under pressure to spell out how she plans to help people and businesses struggling to pay energy bills that are due to rise next month to 3,500 pounds ($5,300 Cdn) for the average household — triple the cost of a year ago.
During the leadership campaign, she promised help for people struggling to pay their bills, but declined to say what form the support would take.
The price spike, driven by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the aftershocks of COVID-19 and Brexit, has propelled U.K. inflation above 10 per cent for the first time in four decades. The Bank of England forecasts it will hit 13.3 per cent in October, and that the U.K. will tip into recession by the end of the year.
Train drivers, port staff, garbage collectors, postal workers and lawyers have all staged strikes to demand that pay increases keep pace with inflation, and millions more, from teachers to nurses, could walk out in the next few months.
Truss, a low-tax, small-government conservative, says her priority is cutting taxes and slashing regulations to fuel economic growth. Critics say that will further fuel inflation while failing to address the cost-of-living crisis. The uncertainty has rattled money markets, driving the pound as low as $1.15, its weakest performance against the dollar since the 1980s.
In theory, Truss has time to make her mark: She doesn’t have to call a national election until 2024. But opinion polls already give the main opposition Labour Party a steady lead, and the worse the economy gets, the more pressure will grow.
Truss and her new cabinet also face multiple foreign policy crises, including the war in Ukraine and frosty post-Brexit relations with the European Union.
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