Liz Truss as PM: How the left has responded


From Keir Starmer to Sharon Graham – this is how the left responded to Liz Truss becoming PM

Liz Truss in military wear sat on a tank

Liz Truss will today become the UK’s Prime Minister following Boris Johnson formally tendering his resignation to the queen. Since the announcement of her victory in the Tory leadership contest, various figures on the left have given their take on what’s to come. Here’s how they responded.

How political leaders responded

The Labour leader Keir Starmer gave his initial reaction immediately following the results. He said, “We’ve heard far from the latest Prime Minister about cuts to corporation tax over the summer than we have about the cost of living crisis – the single most important thing that’s bearing down on so many millions of households. And that shows not only that she’s out of touch, but she’s not on the side of working people.”

Leader of the SNP in the House of Commons Ian Blackford also criticised Truss and the Tories for a lack of action on the cost of living crisis. He said, “It is utterly unforgivable that the Westminster government wasted the entire summer sitting on its hands, refusing to lift a finger to help families and businesses with the Tory-made cost of living crisis. Liz Truss must now get on with it – there is no more time to waste. The UK government must cancel the rise in energy bills immediately, scrap VAT on fuel bills, and deliver a major package of support to put cash in people’s pockets.

Blackford continued by suggesting Truss will be a worse PM than Boris Johnson. He said, “All the signs suggest Liz Truss is shaping up to be even worse than Boris Johnson – with the Tories lurching further to the right, and continuing to impose damaging policies like the extreme Brexit that has raised the cost of living.”

In a joint statement, the leader of Plaid Cymru Adam Price, and the party’s leader in Westminster Liz Saville Roberts were savage about Truss’ economic policies. The pair said, “The new Prime Minister’s refusal to commit to concrete action on energy bills for weeks has made permanent damage to the UK government’s credibility ahead of a catastrophic crisis. Her cruel fantasy economics will secure her fate as the UK’s last Prime Minister.”

Co-leader of the Green Party of England and Wales Carla Denyer described Liz Truss becoming PM as a “disaster for the UK and the climate”. She said, “Liz Truss being selected to become Prime Minister, by such a small and unrepresentative group of people, is a disaster for the UK and the climate. Truss’ reported plans to encourage the oil and gas industry to extract more fossil fuels from the North Sea will do nothing to help households as they struggle with eye-watering energy bills this winter, but will fuel the climate crisis. Burning more fossil fuels will simply speed up climate breakdown, giving us more extreme heat, floods, storms and food shortages in the UK and across the world. This reckless plan, along with promises to cut the so-called green levy, demonstrates that Truss is making an ideological choice to curry favour with friends and Tory Party donors in the oil and gas industry.”

Civil society response

Outside of frontline politics, campaign groups and civil society responded to Truss’ ascension with similar criticism of the Tories’ record on the cost of living crisis.

Heidi Chow, Executive Director of Debt Justice said, “The government has been shrugging its shoulders in the face of astronomical energy bills as fear of financial catastrophe and hardship has gripped the nation. Prime Minister Liz Truss can delay no more. The government needs to expand the windfall tax on energy producers to freeze energy prices and pay off the £2bn of energy debt that UK households have already taken on to give everyone a fighting chance of keeping the lights on this winter.”

Similarly, Simon Francis – co-ordinator of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition said, “If the new Prime Minister is serious about dealing with energy bills and the long term issues of energy supply, the Government must back plans for lower energy bills now and in the future. That means more emergency money for people this winter, funding to help everyone cut their bills with better insulation, and a rapid move away from expensive gas and onto cheaper, renewable energy.”

Environmental groups have also pushed for Truss to take meaningful action on the cost of living crisis. Pat Venditti – Greenpeace UK’s interim executive director – linked the astonishing energy bill rises people are facing to the country’s dependence on fossil fuels. Venditti said, “Liz Truss’s number-one priority must be to stop our broken, gas-dependent energy market pushing millions of UK people into a winter of cold and hunger. She should start by properly taxing the astronomic profits of fossil fuel companies and use that money to help freeze energy bills, increase support for the poorest households, and kick off a nationwide insulation programme to fix our energy-wasting homes as fast as possible.”

Venditti continued, “Our fossil fuel dependence is what’s propelling the twin hurricanes of the climate and energy bills crises. Liz Truss should go for the win-win policies that can tackle both at once while creating skilled jobs and breaking our dependence on gas imports. This means getting rid of the absurd barriers blocking cheap onshore wind and solar, turbocharging investment in offshore wind and rolling out a massive home insulation programme. These tried-and-tested solutions are faster, cheaper and generally more popular than nuclear, fracking and new fossil fuels from the North Sea.”

Similar comments were made by Dave Timms, head of political affairs at Friends of the Earth. Timms said, “As our new prime minister, Liz Truss will have to get in step with the majority of people who are dreading a devastating winter of soaring fuel and food bills, amid a spiralling cost of living crisis. This means putting people and the planet first by strengthening the windfall tax on the excess profits of oil and gas giants to fund a package of emergency support and energy efficiency measures.”

Trade unions pledge “fierce, prolonged resistance”

General Secretary of the public sector union UNSION Christina McAnea said following Truss’ victory, “​The government has got to get back to governing immediately. Liz Truss must do what should’ve happened months ago and deliver help to the millions ​unable to cope with ​their crushing bills. Many famil​y finances may never recover ​without an urgent assistance plan. Tackling the cost-of-living​ ​crisis must be ​the Prime Minister’s number one priority, not wasting precious time attacking unions for trying to help working people through the pain.”

McAnea went further – demanding not only immediate support for energy bills, but also above inflation pay rises for workers. She said, “​Hard on the heels of ​an energy lifeline ​must be an above-inflation wage rise for the public services currently haemorrhaging staff to better-paying parts of the economy. If there’s no-one left to run the hospitals, schools, town halls, police stations and care homes communities rely on, we’ll all be done for.”

On Truss’ proposals for even stricter anti-trade union laws, Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham said they amounted to “a direct assault on the democratic rights of the British people”. Pledging resistance to Truss’ anti-union agenda, Graham said, “Liz Truss will not solve the cost-of-living crisis by attacking trade unions and making it even easier for bad bosses to do as they please. At a time when we face a national pay cut, the prime minister should be taking on the corporate profiteers that are pushing up prices, not workers fighting to stand still. Attempts to place effective industrial action outside of the law are a direct assault on the democratic rights of the British people and will be met with fierce, prolonged resistance.”

Kevin Courtney, General Secretary of the National Education Union called for Truss’ new education secretary to deal with low pay for teachers and education workers. He said, “Teacher pay, support staff pay and school funding are all live issues, with the government’s current pay deal falling far short of what is required. Whoever ends up with the education brief must look again at the case for a fully-funded pay rise which at least matches inflation. The current 5% deal for teachers and 8% for support staff adds up to a further pay cut, on top of more than a decade of real-terms cuts to pay. Teacher recruitment and retention has been in a parlous state for some time, and this must be arrested urgently if we are to protect education services into the future.”

Chris Jarvis is head of strategy and development at Left Foot Forward

Image credit: Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street – Creative Commons

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