Boris Johnson exits; Liz Truss to take office as U.K. prime minister

With his trademark mix of bombast and bluster, Johnson likened himself both to a booster rocket whose mission has been fulfiled and a Roman leader, Cincinattus, who famously left power and retired to a small farm — only to later return as dictator.

The classical reference will have done little to discourage media speculation that the ousted leader may already be plotting a comeback, or those supporters who have expressed regret at his departure and scant enthusiasm for his successor.

“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,’ he added. “Like Cincinnatus, I am returning to my plow.”

The country’s 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.

The uncertainty has rattled money markets, driving the pound as low as $1.15, its weakest performance against the dollar since the 1980s.

Truss, 47, takes office a day after the Conservative Party’s 172,000 members elected her to lead their party.

A low-tax, small-government conservative, she 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.

After winning the race to succeed Johnson, Truss promised to “deliver” on the economy, the energy crisis and the country’s overstretched health care system, though she offered few specifics on her policies.

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 ($4,000) for the average household — triple the cost of a year ago.

The price spike, driven by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, aftershocks of Covid-19 and Brexit, has propelled U.K. inflation above 10% for the first time in four decades.

The first task for Truss will be to appoint a Cabinet to tackle the government’s mountain of challenges.

She will also face multiple foreign policy crises, including the war in Ukraine and frosty post-Brexit relations with the European Union.

As foreign secretary Truss was a firm supporter of Ukraine’s resistance to Russian invasion, and as prime minister she will continue the U.K.’s civilian and military support for Kyiv. She has said her first phone call with a world leader will be to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

She’s likely to have much cooler conversations with E.U. leaders, who have been annoyed by Truss’s uncompromising stance as foreign secretary in talks over trade rules for Northern Ireland, an unresolved Brexit issue that has soured relations between London and Brussels.

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