The policy focus of a Truss prime ministership will, inevitably, be largely a work in progress, given she is taking office amid a hugely turbulent economic period. But during a long leadership campaign the new PM has set out a series of proposals and plans for government:
Taxation and cost of living
Truss’s clear economic priority is to cut taxes, a move she insists will reboot a stalled economy and help people with soaring energy bills. 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 £30bn a year. Truss’s team has also mooted the idea of slashing VAT by 5% or cutting income tax to help household budgets.
While Truss has said her plans would be paid for by fiscal headroom and delaying the repayment of Covid-related debts, critics have argued she will need to borrow considerable sums, at potentially expensive rates, at some cost to the economy. One option could be to expand a windfall tax on energy firms, but Truss has said she dislikes this.
There is also considerable skepticism about a tax cut-based response to the energy costs crisis, which would disproportionately benefit high earners and do nothing for those relying on pensions or benefits. Truss has not ruled out more direct help over energy bills, but has refused to say explicitly what this might be, and talked about her distance for “handouts”. It is a position that is about to be tested against economic reality.
Climate and green energy
While Truss has stressed her commitment to the UK’s existing net zero target, and her team insists she will focus on renewable energy, some on the greener side of the Conservative party are becoming worried about her priorities.
One of Truss’s few direct policies on the cost of living would be to suspend green levies on energy bills, which are used to invest in renewable schemes. She opposes onshore wind, and described seeing solar farms on farmland as “one of the most depressing sights” of modern Britain.
In contrast, she supports fracking for shale gas and reportedly wants to see a push for new drilling in the North Sea, and has backed a major expansion of nuclear power. She has not talked about efforts to reduce energy consumption, such as subsidizing insulation for homes.
Health and social care
Truss has received relatively little scrutiny over her plans for the NHS and care, especially given the crisis in the health service, and the widespread expectation things will get much worse into the winter.
While she remains committed to existing plans to support the NHS, there is the issue that Truss has promised to reverse the national insurance rise aimed at providing cash firstly to help clear the Covid-exacerbated backlog of NHS procedures, and in the longer term to pay for better social care.
Much of the problems with delayed ambulances are because hospital beds are filled with people unable to access social care. Truss will need a coherent plan, and soon.
This is another area on which Truss said relatively little during the leadership campaign but could increase in significance as she faces the country, and her own MPs, as prime minister.
Leveling up was Boris Johnson’s self-stated defining purpose, and while Truss has said she remains committed to this agenda, it is unclear whether she would back this with significant spending. Truss has said she will level up “in a Conservative way”, seen as a focus more on deregulation and tax cuts.
One of the reasons Johnson was popular with many “red wall” Tory MPs was that they could point to specific, Whitehall-funded infrastructure projects, whether a new local bypass or a revamped high street. If Truss was to take this away, it could create disquiet.
Immigration and home affairs
During the campaign, Truss has promised to double down on the policy of deporting asylum seekers and other immigrants to Rwanda, and to seek other countries who will take them. It remains to be seen how feasible this is, or if it would have any impact on the numbers of people crossing the Channel by unofficial means, even if some did depart.
Truss is likely to link any failure to remove people to the continued jurisdiction of the European court of human rights. While removing the UK entirely from its oversight would be complex and tricky, she is likely to push ahead with plans for a so-called UK bill of rights, with fewer protections for asylum seekers and others.
Truss is more of a keen amateur culture warrior than a die-hard aficionado, keeping the Tory faithful happy at hustings events with passing swipes at “woke” culture and trans rights. However, if as tipped she appoints Suella Braverman as home secretary and Kemi Badenoch to education, the temperature could rise considerably.
Culture war issues tend to be more focused on seeking debate and political dividing lines than actual policies, but particularly in education it could lead to changes in approach, for example on trans rights and free speech.
Foreign policy and Brexit
Wider foreign policy is likely to be more of the same, given Truss led on this under Johnson, so expect more vehement support for Ukraine, plus occasional gaffes such as her recent refusal to say whether the French president, Emmanuel Macron, a neighbor and close ally, is a “friend or foe”.
Truss has made much of her toughness over the Northern Ireland protocol, and her camp has hinted she could trigger article 16the emergency procedure clause in the post-Brexit deal with the EU, within days of entering No 10. But with so many other crises to face, and the leadership contest over, Truss might decide a potential trade war is not what she needs as well.