As the United Kingdom’s new Prime Minister Liz Truss names her cabinet, she has an opportunity to halt the systematic destruction of freedoms that have been hard won over decades in the UK, and to redefine how the office of Prime Minister is viewed at home and abroad.
Under former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the British government implemented a raft of measures eroding freedoms and undermining democratic principles. From limiting the right to protest to introducing identification cards at the ballot box, which disproportionately impacts women and ethnic minorities, Boris Johnson’s government made Britain a less open, fair, and democratic society.
First, Prime Minister Truss should abandon the harmful Bill of Rights: a legislative wrecking ball likely to further erode government protections. With almost one in seven police forces under government review following allegations of rights abuses, and the country facing a devastating cost of living crisis, which threatens to hit those on low incomes hardest, now is not the time to repeal human rights protections and remove avenues for Parliament and people to hold government institutions to account. Similarly, the new government should be strengthening workers’ rights, not, as has been claimed, planning a “bonfire” of key employment protections.
And instead of pursuing its cruel and unlawful plan to expel asylum seekers to Rwanda, a proposal criticized by international bodies like the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Prime Minister Truss should position the UK to play a leading role in responding to global crises. The decision to reject international norms and institutions with this scheme is not only callous, but undermines international cohesion at a time of immense global upheaval. International standards are under attack now more than ever, and the UK must protect them, not act to undermine them.
But her most pressing challenge will be addressing the looming cost of living crisis. Low income households could face their income being completely wiped out, unless the Prime Minister curbs soaring fuel bills. Meanwhile, nearly 70 percent of charity food bank providers say they can’t meet growing demand. People have a right to food and warmth this winter. The government should prioritize ensuring a decent living standard for all.
The UK finds itself at a crossroads. Prime Minister Truss must decide which direction to take: either to move towards a freer, fairer, and more compassionate society, or to continue down the slippery slope to autocracy.