Promising “bold” economic reform for the United Kingdom, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss won the seat of Conservative Party leader on Sept. 5 and subsequently became the new prime minister.
Ms. Truss beat fellow frontrunner Rishi Sunak, former Chancellor of the Exchequer, in an 81,326-60,399 vote by party members.
She replaces former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who agreed to step down on July 7 amid scandals centred around his defiance of pandemic restrictions, his appointment of a Conservative deputy chief whip accused of assault, and other concerns about his leadership.
The Queen, who died on Sept. 8, received Ms. Truss at Balmoral Castle in Scotland on Sept. 6 and formally asked her to form a new administration. Ms. Truss accepted and became the new prime minister.
Reem Ibrahim, events coordinator for the organisation Friends of the British Overseas Territories, hosted an Aug. 22 webinar that focused on what the candidates had promised for the OTs in the past.
She correctly predicted that Ms. Truss would win the election and highlighted her stated aim to strengthen partnerships with OTs in the years ahead.
Ms. Ibrahim also quoted Ms. Truss’s comments on the campaign trail.
“‘As foreign secretary, I believe we have a positive, proactive role to play in the world — promoting freedom, free enterprise, democracy and the rule of law,” Ms. Truss said. “I want to ensure the overseas territories are an integral part of Global Britain and benefit from a confident UK, with an active presence across the globe.”
Ms. Truss also recently turned her attention to the Virgin Islands when plans were being drawn to implement the Commission of Inquiry recommendations here.
In June, she announced that the newly formed National Unity Government should be given an opportunity to “demonstrate their commitment to reform” by carrying out the recommended measures.
However, she added, “If it becomes clear that this approach is not delivering the reform the people of the BVI want and deserve, we will take action. This may require the swift implementation of the final report recommendation [of imposing direct rule].”
During the FOTBOT online panel, Ms. Ibrahim said she believes Ms. Truss’ initial opposition to the imposition of direct rule in the VI is an important indicator for how she may handle relations with the OTs.
“But she did create new powers for herself to make sure imposing direct rule would be easier should that be required,” Ms. Ibrahim said of an Order in Council that allows the UK to quickly suspend parts of the territory’s Constitution if the government here doesn’t enact the reforms as agreed.
Ms. Truss has also been involved in discussions about the territory’s development, meeting with then-Premier Andrew Fahie at last November’s Joint Ministerial Council meeting.
Ms. Ibrahim noted that other candidates for PM had addressed OTs on and off the campaign trail, including MP Tom Tugendhat, who said they “have a special place in our constitution.”
She also quoted Mr. Tungendhat as saying, “As our place in the world changes, we need to think about the effect on them and whether the structure of our relationships still work.”
Former Levelling Up Minister Kemi Badenoch hasn’t spoken much about the OTs but campaigned for education reform that offers a wider picture of the British empire, Ms. Ibrahim said.
Meanwhile, Minister of State Penny Mordaunt, who worked on overseas aid as a junior minister, highlighted the importance of short-term funding to aid territories in the early stages of recovery from the 2017 storms. Ms. Mordaunt has previously visited the VI.
“She was very well versed in the issues that were facing the overseas territories,” Ms. Ibrahim said.
Mr. Sunak drew criticism in November 2020 when he announced that the UK’s foreign aid spending would be reduced from 0.7 percent to 0.5 percent of the national income despite what was promised in the Conservative election manifesto, equating to a $5.5 billion difference.
The cuts prompted Baroness Liz Sugg, then-minister for OTs and sustainable development at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, to resign, as she claimed it was “fundamentally wrong” to withhold foreign financial assistance.