Tory leadership race: the key issues facing the next PM

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Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss are now going head-to-head to become the next Conservative leader.

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The result of the vote will be announced on September 5th.

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But the fight will not end there.

Whoever emerges victorious will face a daunting array of challenges when they get to #10.

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Here are the six biggest issues the next prime minister needs to tackle right away.

Cost of Living Crisis

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UK inflation has officially hit a 40-year high, with the Office for National Statistics reporting that consumer price inflation (CPI) hit an annual rate of 9.4% in June – up from 9.1% in May.

Above all, the costs of food, energy and fuel have skyrocketed and are a heavy burden on households and families.

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Meanwhile, interest rates are also rising and economists have warned the UK could face a recession in the third quarter of the year.

YouGov and statistics Both reported that a majority of Brits (67% and 65% respectively) see the economy as the country’s biggest problem.

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This means the new prime minister is likely to face enormous pressure to support those who are struggling.

strikes

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The UK has been hit by a wave of strikes in recent months, putting additional pressure on the country’s already struggling economy.

But as real wages continue to fall, the strikes are unlikely to stop any time soon – and this will be a major challenge for the next prime minister in the autumn.

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Strikes by airline workers continue to wreak havoc in the travel industry, and rail workers have announced four days of strikes in July and August over wages and conditions.

Many healthcare workers are also expected to go on strike following the Government’s wage increase for NHS workers – which did not meet the wishes of unions.

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Ukraine

Boris Johnson was recognized for helping lead Europe’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with the country receiving more than £2.3 billion in military aid.

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His successor will be under pressure to follow in his footsteps.

In the short term, this likely means that Mr. Sunak or Ms. Truss will have to provide more arms and economic support to Kyiv.

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In the longer term, the new prime minister must decide whether to increase the UK’s defense spending – and figure out how to cope with declining to use Russia’s gas supplies.

Ms Truss and Mr Sunak recently appeared on the BBC’s live TV debate

In her bid for the leadership, Ms Truss has already said that as prime minister she would like to reach defense spending of 3% of GDP by the end of the decade – above the current NATO target of 2%.

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Mr Sunak has promised to prioritize funding for the armed forces and pledged to maintain current levels of defense spending.

political trust

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In June 2022, a YouGov opinion poll found that 74% of people thought the Prime Minister was “untrustworthy” – a sharp increase from 42% in April 2020.

The ex-Chancellor was fined after Sue Gray’s Partygate report, so he must prove to the public that he can be trusted going forward.

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Ms Truss was not fined during ‘Partygate’ but she was one of the few cabinet members not to resign from office in the wake of the Chris Pincher scandal – which some saw as an endorsement of the Prime Minister’s handling of the situation.

This decision could be the most difficult challenge for the Secretary of State to regain public confidence.

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NHS

He said: “Let’s be clear, the challenges facing the NHS are major – austerity and under-investment over the last decade have left over 105,000 vacancies at last count, as well as crumbling buildings and an ill-defended NHS estate Health needs of the 21st century.

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“We need the Government and the future Prime Minister to be honest with the public about the scale of the challenge facing the NHS… [which] must include a proper recognition of where the lack of investment left the NHS in the 2010s and the huge gap between demand levels and capacity.”

He added that the next government must provide short-term, targeted action, as well as a long-term vision and a clear roadmap for the future of the NHS.

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With strikes by healthcare workers potentially imminent and the cost of living crisis mounting, the next Prime Minister will be under pressure to outline what support the government will offer the NHS.

climate change

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In 2019, the government pledged to reach net-zero by 2050, making the UK one of the first countries to commit to the climate change emergency.

But the Committee on Climate Change has warned that the UK is currently on track to cut just 40% of the emissions needed to reach net zero.

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The importance of these targets has recently been brought back into the limelight by the UK’s record-breaking heatwave – with temperatures reaching 40°C – and a series of devastating wildfires that have ravaged Europe.

Although Mr Sunak and Ms Truss have both pledged to stick to the Conservative Party’s net-zero target, these latest developments mean they are likely to pledge more commitments – and take serious action to get the UK back by 2050 to get on track.

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