What's in store for Britain's 'most diverse' cabinet in history?

·4-min read
© Frank Augstein/AP

Britain's new Prime Minister, Liz Truss, has convened her senior ministers for an inaugural cabinet meeting on her first full day in office, branded the most diverse in British history.

Truss, who on Tuesday officially became the UK's third female prime minister following an audience with the late Queen Elizabeth II, met with her top team at a morning meeting on Wednesday.

The cabinet has been labeled the most diverse team in British history: James Cleverly as Foreign Secretary, Suella Braverman as Interior Minister and Kwasi Kwarteng as Chancellor of the Exchequer

They face a daunting task – most notably decades-high inflation and how to deal with the cost of energy that is set to rise by 80 percent next month and then again in January.

This is against the backdrop of the Bank of England noting that the UK could fall into recession later this year.

Brexit and the Northern Ireland Protocol

Truss must also navigate the thorny issue of post-Brexit trading arrangements in Northern Ireland, and in one of her first calls with a foreign leader late Tuesday, she agreed with US President Joe Biden "on the importance of protecting" peace in the province.

The man who has picked up the "poison chalice" of UK politics, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Chris Heaton-Harris, will face the daunting task of trying to unite the deeply divided province around the UK's unilateral reform of the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol, which essentially rips up the Brexit deal signed with Brussels.

As Northern Ireland Secretary, Heaton-Harris will not be viewed as a neutral arbitrator beteween the Unionist and Republican communities, with his hard-Brexit track record and former chairmanship of the vociferously Euro-sceptic European Research Group within the Conservative party.

Following a visit to Northern Ireland at the beginning of the year, Heaton-Harris underlined that the protocol "isn't working and we need to find a solution."

But apart from the hard-line Democratic Unionist Party, the new Northern Ireland Secretary will have to pay a high price with the other main parties to get them on board.

It has also been remarked that he was far from Truss' first choice for the job, as several others refused to take up the arduous position.

Hardliner in the home office

Truss has, however, faced accusations that her choice of cabinet put loyalty ahead of competence, a charge which has been rejected by deputy prime minister Thérèse Coffey.

Yet one cabinet choice that has raised some eyebrows has been the appointment of Suella Braverman as home secretary.

Described as "Priti Patel on steroids" – referring to her hard-line predecessor who resigned on Tuesday – Braverman has set her sights on sidelining the European convention on human rights that blocked UK plans to deport refugees to Rwanda.

The daughter of Kenyan and Mauritian parents who moved to the UK in the late 1960s, Braverman's selection heralds a more draconian approach when dealing with the issue of migration.

Any hopes of a reset in cross-channel relations appears unlikely, as the new home secretary will be tackling head-on the wave of migrants arriving on English soil from the French coast.

Watch your back in times of crisis

Having inherited a country in crisis, however, Truss' new ministers have signed off on a plan to freeze energy bills for the coming winter, or possibly longer – a measure that is predicted to cost tens of billions of pounds.

Tax cuts and diverting some health funding to social care are also under discussion.

The 47-year-old won an internal ballot of Tory members on Monday, securing 57 percent of the vote, after a gruelling contest against former finance minister Rishi Sunak that began in July.

She now faces a tough challenge reuniting the ruling Tories following a bitter leadership battle.

The Financial Times reported earlier this week that Conservative MPs are "almost ungovernable" and have "no appetite to cope with difficult decisions."

Which has many thinking that what happened to Boris Johnson, could very well happen to Liz Truss – and it might well be her predecessor who could mastermind a comeback, at her expense.