About a week is left before the next Prime Minister of the U.K. to succeed Boris Johnson is elected. The debates between the candidates are even spilling over to other countries.
Why are Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak being called the same candidate? What is going on in British politics, and what questions have been raised about the race's favorite, dubbed the "new Margaret Thatcher," in the last month?
Tax cuts amid a serious crisis
The thing is, both Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak promise to reduce taxes, although the country is bracing for a surge in gas and electricity bills, while inflation is predicted to hit 18% by early 2023.
In particular, Truss promises to lower state levies on incomes and corporate profit by £30 billion ($35 billion). To compensate for the new budget hole, she relies on the so-called "unintended austerity", which implies that rising prices will push up receipts from taxes on incomes and sales. However, if these expectations don't pan out, the economy is at risk of collapse.
Rishi Sunak, who also plans to cut taxes, was asked to set out how he would help Britons cope with a forecast 82% rise in energy prices in October 2022. He proposed a £15 billion ($17.5 billion) targeted support package to help households.
Truss and Sunak are the same candidate
The Financial Times also criticizes both leaders of the race for the office in its column titled Some Bleak Truths for Britain.
The author, Janan Ganesh, says that the next prime minister of the U.K. will remain in this office for almost 2.5 years, until January 24, 2025. Therefore, they have to convey to the Brits what they are planning to do when elected.
"You can’t be America and Europe. That is, you can’t have low taxes and good public services," Ganesh explains.
The author believes that Truss and Sunak have little difference.
"The secret of this contest is that Truss and Sunak are the same candidate: market-loving, awkward in the way doctrinaire people are, impatient with their country’s sloth," Ganesh emphasizes.
He asserts that, although temperament equips both politicians to say harsh things, and so does circumstance, neither can expect to be in office for long.
A scandal with Emmanuel Macron
During the debates on August 25, Liz Truss gave an inappropriate answer when asked if Macron was a friend or foe of the U.K. ( has already written about it).
Truss answered as follows:
"The jury’s out. But if I become prime minister, I would judge him on deeds, not words."
These words insulted the President of France and triggered a number of critical responses from the opposition and former Tory ministers, while the outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson tried to defend his colleague, wrote the Financial Times.
In particular, Macron said that the UK was a good friend and ally to France regardless of the "little mistakes" its leaders might make on the campaign trail.
He added that Britain and France were heading for "serious problems" amid global threats if they were not capable of saying whether they were friends or enemies of each other.
Boris Johnson tried to defend Truss by saying he and Macron had "always had" good relations and that the president of France was "un très bon buddy de notre pays" (a very good buddy of our country).
Meanwhile, inside the Conservative Party, Truss’s behavior met criticism. In particular, former minister David Gauke accused Truss of playing internal politics and neglecting serious matters in foreign politics in a time when the West shouldn’t be divided.
Alistair Burt, another former Tory minister, called her remarks a "desperately serious error".
Peter Ricketts, a former UK ambassador to France, said that Truss should not be playing the "tired old game of insulting the French for cheap applause in the Conservative party".
He believes that Truss has to rebuild trust with Paris by showing that London treats the French president with respect.
Problems in relations with the U.S.
Another issue that triggered criticism of Liz Truss was her future relations with the U.S., the FT wrote in another article.
When the foreign secretary met her US counterpart Antony Blinken for the first time in September 2021, the conversation was far from diplomatic.
At that meeting, Truss questioned the special relationship between Britain and the U.S., citing other examples of London’s unique relations with Canada, Japan, and Mexico.
"Her attitude was ‘what have you done for me lately?’," witnesses of the meeting commented.
U.S. officials and analysts describe Truss’s conversation style as blunt, binary, and assertive, saying that she was quick to take maximalist positions without thinking of the consequences.
"Truss is going to be a lot more assertive in standing up to the Biden administration than Boris Johnson," said Nile Gardiner, of the Heritage Foundation in Washington.
War in Ukraine and concerns of the U.S.
On the war in Ukraine, the U.S. and U.K. have presented a united front and coordinated closely to declassify intelligence before and after Vladimir Putin’s invasion, the newspaper writes.
But beneath the veneer of solidarity, Truss has at times irked her American counterparts, for instance, by calling for the countries to work together on a Marshall Plan for Ukraine, although Britain has given billions less in economic and lethal aid to Kyiv than Washington has.
In the U.S., they describe Truss’s approach to diplomacy as "very black and white", where her rhetoric has frequently outstripped British commitments and American policy.
Truss and her team have at times been frustrated by Washington’s unwillingness to take a harder line on Russia.
Heather Conley, president of the German Marshall Fund of the U.S., said that Truss appeared less concerned than the U.S. about provoking a potential escalation from Putin. However, some U.S. officials think that the tensions would not fundamentally alter Anglo-American ties. Sources close to Truss also suggest that her foreign policy wouldn’t be radically different to Johnson's course.
She will further focus on Ukraine and take a hawkish approach to countering the influence of China. At the same time, her stance on Brexit and Northern Ireland can complicate relations between the U.S., where Democrats are now in power,and the U.K.
Will Truss be a good ally for Ukraine?
Given all of the above, the U.K. during Truss’s tenure will have some tensions in its relations with France, whose president expressly proposed to save Putin's face.
For Kyiv, it’s rather good rather than bad since Boris Johnson’s harsh statements and the uncompromising stance of Ukrainian diplomats helped Ukraine obtain lethal weapons and impose a pack of serious sanctions on Moscow.
In addition, such an ally encourages more companies to exit the Russian market, which will further deteriorate the economy and comfort of the terrorist state.
Speaking about relations with the U.S., it’s obvious that Boris Johnson’s populist assertions have won more popularity in Kyiv than cautious statements by American diplomats and politicians who feared escalation but could at the same time influence the attitudes of senators and representatives in the U.S. concerning the packages of aid for Ukraine.
The main concern should be that Truss’s policies as the Prime Minister can possibly cause a serious economic crisis in the U.K., which would lead to preterm elections.