Analysis: what did Liz Truss mean in first Prime Minister speech on NHS, energy bills and Russia?

From the energy bills crisis to the NHS, here are some of the key points Liz Truss mentioned in her first address as Prime Minister.

Liz Truss has made her first speech as Prime Minister. It was relatively brief, and quite different in style from her predecessor.

While Boris Johnson had a tendency for some ‘flair’ with classical allusions or references to pop culture, Ms Truss opted for more of a straight-talking, business-like approach.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the speech lacked some detail - with no clear plans for exactly how she plans to achieve what she promised during the Tory leadership race.

But the former Foreign Secretary did give a few clues for what we can expect to see from her in the coming days.

Here are the key takeaways from her first address as Prime Minister.

Liz Truss paid tribute to her predecessor Boris Johnson, who yesterday (6 September) gave his formal resignation to the Queen. Credit: Getty Images

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Boris Johnson

Ms Truss opened her speech with a “tribute” to the Uxbridge and South Ruislip MP, listing out some of the key talking points which the former Prime Minister’s administration liked to focus on.

She said: “Boris Johnson delivered Brexit, the Covid vaccine, and stood up to Russian aggression.”

The newly appointed leader, who had just been to Balmoral Castle to be officially asked to form a Government, also said history will see Mr Johnson as a “hugely consequential” Prime Minister. Interpret that how you like.

Liz Truss has held her first meeting with her newly-appointed Cabinet - where the energy crisis will have undoubtedly been a key topic of conversation. Credit: Getty Images

Energy bills crisis

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The most specific part of Ms Truss’ speech was when she promised to take action on the energy crisis “this week”.

This perhaps demonstrates an awareness of the fact that, amidst the Tory leadership race, many felt the cost of living crisis fell to the wayside. Critiques of a “zombie government” were frequently circulated.

The South West Norfolk MP promised to “take action… to deal with energy bills and to secure our future energy supply.”

What this “action” will be is not yet clear - as thus far in her leadership campaign she has only promised “tax cuts” and, despite severe backlash, not made any decisive plans for increased financial aid for the vulnerable.

Regardless, Ms Truss knows that this is where she will win or lose the support of the people - so she will definitely be carefully curating her next words on the topic.

Ms Truss said the UK would continue to stand up to Vladimir Putin. Credit: Getty Images

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Vladimir Putin

Another key feature in the Prime Minister’s first official address was Vladimir Putin, who she made her stance very clear on.

She spoke of “Russia’s appalling war in Ukraine”, adding that it is the cause of the energy crisis, and, as her predecessor had promised the new Prime Minister would do, Ms Truss told listeners that the UK will “stand up for freedom and democracy around the world.”

In her leadership campaign, she also outlined plans to spend tens of billions of pounds more on bolstering the country’s defensive capabilities, an expense she said is justified given the conflict in Ukraine.

The words in her address could indicate then that her plans have not changed.

The new Prime Minister claimed she would put the NHS on “firm footing”. Credit: Getty Images

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NHS

Ms Truss also made sure to mention the NHS, pledging to put the health service “on a firm footing.”

She promised to ensure people can get doctors’ appointments and the “services they need.”

While a new Prime Minister will almost always mention the NHS, it was perhaps a surprising move from Ms Truss given the backlash she has received for announcing plans to take away £13 billion of funding initially allocated to the NHS and direct it instead to social care.

On the topic, she previously said: “We have people in beds in the NHS who would be better off in social care. So put that money into social care.”

Is her assurance that she will “deliver” on the NHS a hint that this will be another issue she will U-turn on?

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Liz Truss previously had to scrap plans to cut public sector pay for workers outside of southeast England. Credit: Getty Images

Levelling up

Ms Truss also made several mentions of plans to further develop the UK.

She spoke of plans to “build” more roads, homes, broadband and hospitals, and promised to invest and provide jobs for “every town and city across our country.”

The Levelling Up agenda was one of the key points of the Conservative Party manifestos - but one they have also been criticised for not delivering on, especially after the revelation that public spending in the North is still lower than in the rest of the country.

Ms Truss was perhaps keen to re-focus the strategy, and clarify her position after she u-turned on a pledge to cut public sector pay for workers outside of southeast England just 12 hours after she announced the plan.

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At the time, she claimed the policy had been “misrepresented”.

Positivity

Another feature of the new Prime Minister’s speech was the somewhat positive outlook she attempted to spin on things.

She admitted the country was facing “severe global headwinds,” that there were “burdens” on families, and that tackling these challenges will not be “easy” - but she also assured those listening that “we can do it”.

She spoke of the UK’s “grit, courage and determination” and of its “huge reserves of talent and energy” - and portrayed confidence that “we can rideout the storm, rebuild our economy… and become the modern brilliant Britain that I know we can be.”

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It was one of many aspects in which she differed from her rival Rishi Sunak, who once labelled Ms Truss’ “promises of unfunded tax cuts” as “comforting fairytales.”

“I am determined to deliver” is how the new Prime Minister ended her speech. We can now only wait to see what happens next.