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7 September 2022

Keir Starmer prepares to take on Liz Truss

The Labour leader will do battle over policy differences, not personality.

By Rachel Wearmouth

The main political action today will be Liz Truss’s first Prime Minister’s Questions.

Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, told his MPs on Monday night that they should “never underestimate” Truss and that she is a “talented politician who has got to the top through hard work and determination”. That was a change in tone from how Starmer spoke about her predecessor Boris Johnson, who he called, among other things, a “pathetic spectacle of a man” and “ridiculous”.

Details of Truss’s plan to address the energy crisis are still being worked out, Thérèse Coffey, her Deputy Prime Minister, told reporters this morning. Reports suggest, however, that an expected energy price freeze that keeps bills at the present cap of £1,971 could amount to a £150bn bailout, to be paid for from general taxation. Starmer, who will aim to do battle over policy rather than personality, may want to make much of the difference with his similar plan, which would be paid for with a backdated windfall tax.

Truss spent last night finalising her cabinet, which came with few surprises. Jacob Rees-Mogg gets his first big department as he has been named Business Secretary, putting the right-winger in charge of workers’ rights at a time of widespread industrial action over pay.

Kemi Badenoch, who performed well in the leadership contest, is Trade Secretary. Although Truss used the role to build momentum for her own run at the top job, Badenoch could spend much of her time chasing a US-UK trade deal that is not a priority for Joe Biden’s administration.

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Truss’s press secretary said that her top team was a unity cabinet because it contained five leadership candidates, but supporters of Rishi Sunak, including Grant Shapps and Dominic Raab, were sacked and replaced with loyalists. The new Prime Minister will chair her first cabinet meeting this morning before heading to the Commons for PMQs.

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[See also: Does Liz Truss have anything to say?]

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