Liz Truss’s momentous seven days

·3-min read
Liz Truss addresses the nation for the first time from the steps of No 10 (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)
Liz Truss addresses the nation for the first time from the steps of No 10 (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

Liz Truss will look back on a momentous week in which her life and the country she now leads were changed for ever.

It began with the 47-year-old on the brink of ascending to the highest office in the land and finished at a ceremony to proclaim a new monarch as the second Elizabethan Age came to an end.

She was, no doubt, well aware of the daunting challenges facing her as she waited on Monday in the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster for the result of the Tory leadership election to be announced.

But after a summer dominated by the darkening economic outlook, she can now expect to see the ties which bind the United Kingdom together questioned once more.

Downing Street announced on Saturday that the Prime Minister will attend a series of “services of reflection” with the King in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales over the coming week.

No 10 rejected suggestions it was a “tour” of the nations designed to shore up the Union in the face of nationalist sentiment – particularly in Scotland.

But with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon preparing a legal challenge to enable her to stage a second independence referendum, the issue will not go away.

Ms Truss was reportedly already aware the Queen was gravely ill when she went to the House of Commons on Thursday to set out her plans to cap soaring energy costs threatening to plunge millions into crisis.

The previous evening the monarch had cancelled a meeting of the Privy Council – which she had been due to conduct remotely from her Scottish retreat at Balmoral – on the advice of her doctors.

Shortly after midday – as Sir Keir Starmer was delivering his response to her opening statement in the energy debate – the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Nadhim Zahawi, appeared in the Commons chamber with a note for Ms Truss informing her the Palace was about to issue a statement on the Queen’s health.

A little after 7pm, the Prime Minister, dressed in black, emerged on the steps of Downing Street to confirm to a stunned nation that their Queen of 70 years had died.

It was the same spot where, just two days earlier, she had entered No 10 in triumph after being invited by the sovereign to form a Government during an audience at Balmoral.

By Friday, as the country was coming to terms with the fact that it had both a new head of state and a new head of Government, she was being ushered in to Buckingham Palace for her first audience with the King.

For a moment, thoughts of the cost-of-living crisis were put to one side as the nation mourned its loss. Ms Truss will be well aware, however, that any respite will be temporary.

She still has to explain how she will pay for the massive intervention in the energy market – predicted to cost tens, or even hundreds, of billions of pounds – while delivering her promised tax cuts.

She knows that even within her own party, many MPs are deeply sceptical about her plans while a range of pressing issues is piling up in her in-tray – not least the continuing war in Ukraine.

But whatever happens in the coming weeks and months ahead, these past seven days are ones she will never forget.