LONDON: British politics returns to centre stage on Tuesday (Sep 20) after the funeral of Queen Elizabeth, with Prime Minister Liz Truss signalling her priorities by flying to her first major summit and rushing out measures to try to avert an economic slump.
Since the queen’s death on Sep 8, politics – or at least the discussion of its ins and outs – has been on pause for a period of national mourning, out of respect for a monarch who reigned for 70 years.
The timing of the political pause was frustrating for some in government, coming after a two-month leadership campaign and when Britain risks falling into a lengthy recession and faces an energy crisis that threatens the finances of millions.
But it has, according to sources, allowed some of Truss’s ministers time to get established in their new departments and fine tune their policies. It just makes for a busy week ahead.
New policies will be crammed in during the few days at the end of the week in parliament, which government hopes will sit for an additional day on Friday before breaking up for the annual season of party conferences.
They will include a support package to help businesses cope with rising energy prices, a statement on possibly cutting waiting times for treatment at Britain’s state-run National Health Service and much promised tax cuts to try to spur growth.
She will also meet US President Joe Biden at the UN General Assembly on Wednesday after meeting several leaders who had travelled to take part in the queen’s funeral, which saw a congregation of 2,000 pay their final respects.
“I think we will see a focused, punchy start, showing momentum and direction of travel free of distractions and side dramas,” said a veteran member of the governing Conservative Party. “The policies were there already, but they were bedded into the departments (during the mourning period).”
On her second full day in office Truss made a big announcement about measures to ease the pain of sky-high energy prices – but this was eclipsed by the news hours later that the queen had died.
The new prime minister had to change gear immediately, concentrating on striking the right tone in speeches and tributes to the queen, while keeping some distance to allow the royal family to take the lead. For some in her governing Conservative Party, the pause softened any criticism of her first, expensive moves.
And while her spokespeople were diligent in declining to make announcements during the national mourning period, her government pressed on with its work, with one source saying her ministers were in the finance ministry even on Sunday.
Other institutions also pared back their public-facing work, with Britain’s financial industry cancelling events and postponing meetings during mourning, which culminated in a public holiday on Monday – something that could reduce economic output by 0.2 percentage points this month.