New Prime Minister Liz Truss said the UK would ride out the economic storm as she promised a multibillion-pound package of help with energy bills, pledged to slash taxes and appointed allies to her new-look Cabinet.
In her first speech in the role, she acknowledged there were “severe global headwinds” caused by Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine but the UK should not be daunted by the challenges it faces.
She promised a package of reforms to “transform Britain” including measures to boost growth and put the NHS “on a firm footing”.
Tackling the soaring cost of energy for households and businesses is one of her immediate priorities, and she is expected to announce a plan to freeze bills this week.
Speaking in Downing Street, she said: “I’m confident that together we can ride out the storm, we can rebuild our economy and we can become the modern brilliant Britain that I know we can be.”
Ms Truss became Prime Minister in Balmoral after an audience with the Queen, who had earlier received Boris Johnson’s resignation.
While Mr Johnson had delivered his farewell speech in sunshine, Ms Truss had to dodge torrential showers in Westminster for her address from a podium outside No 10.
She vowed to create an “aspiration nation”, tackling the issues that have been holding Britain back for years by building “roads, homes and broadband faster”.
In an echo of Winston Churchill, she promised “action this day” to deliver her plans.
Ms Truss accepted an invitation to visit Ukraine from President Volodymyr Zelensky in what was her first call with a foreign leader, before she spoke with the US’s Joe Biden.
She will face her first session of Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday and is expected to announce her energy package on Thursday.
A Government source confirmed a report in The Times that the energy bill freeze will be around the £2,500 mark – more than £500 above the current price cap but £1,000 less than the limit due to be imposed in October – although an insider in the Truss camp said “nothing is finalised yet”.
The plan is based on the current £1,971 energy price cap plus the £400 universal handout announced under Mr Johnson’s government.
Help is also expected for business customers struggling with soaring bills which are not covered by the existing energy price cap in England, Scotland and Wales.
As well as dealing with the energy crisis, Ms Truss said her early priorities included “a bold plan to grow the economy through tax cuts and reform” and “get Britain working again”.
She also promised health reforms so “people can get doctor’s appointments and the NHS services they need”.
After the downpour which preceded her speech, Ms Truss said: “We shouldn’t be daunted by the challenges we face.
“As strong as the storm may be, I know that the British people are stronger.”
New Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng will play a leading role in delivering her economic reforms.
His appointment followed a cull of former ministers who were loyal to Ms Truss’s leadership rival Rishi Sunak, with ex-deputy prime minister Dominic Raab the highest profile casualty.
Other senior ministerial appointments included Therese Coffey as Ms Truss’s Deputy Prime Minister, while James Cleverly became Foreign Secretary and Suella Braverman becomes Home Secretary.
But Nadine Dorries turned down the offer to stay on as culture secretary, while former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said that he had also rejected a Cabinet post.
In her speech outside No 10, Ms Truss paid tribute to Mr Johnson, saying that “history will see him as a hugely consequential prime minister”.
In his own address before leaving Downing Street for the final time as prime minister, Mr Johnson called for the Tory party to unite behind his successor, but he could not conceal his bitterness at the way he was ousted.
Mr Johnson said “I will be offering this government nothing but my most fervent support”, calling for Tories to back the new leader at a “tough time for the economy”.
Watched by wife Carrie Johnson, he added that if the couple’s dog Dilyn and Larry the No 10 cat could “put behind them their occasional difficulties”, then “so can the Conservative Party”.
But in a sign of lingering resentment at the manner in which he was forced out, Mr Johnson said that “the baton will be handed over in what has unexpectedly turned out to be a relay race. They changed the rules halfway through but never mind that now”.
He said his career was now like a booster rocket “that has fulfilled its function and I will now be gently re-entering the atmosphere and splashing down invisibly in some remote and obscure corner of the Pacific”.
Mr Johnson declared “like Cincinnatus, I am returning to my plough” – before entering No 10, an ambitious Mr Johnson had frequently said he would become prime minister if he was “called from my plough” like the Roman statesman who heeded the call to serve his people.
Congratulations to Prime Minister Liz Truss.
I look forward to deepening the special relationship between our countries and working in close cooperation on global challenges, including continued support for Ukraine as it defends itself against Russian aggression.
— President Biden (@POTUS) September 6, 2022
US President Joe Biden offered his congratulations to the new Prime Minister, saying he looked forward to “deepening the special relationship between our countries and working in close cooperation on global challenges, including continued support for Ukraine as it defends itself against Russian aggression”.
But the transatlantic relationship could be strained if Ms Truss pushes ahead with the plan to override parts of Northern Ireland’s Brexit deal – Mr Biden is proud of his Irish roots and takes a keen interest in the issue.