Liz Truss has signalled that she wants to hold off of a general election until 2024, as she appeared to rule out a snap poll in her Tory leadership victory speech.
The foreign secretary will become the country’s third female prime minister on Tuesday after securing a 57 per cent to 43 per cent win over rival Rishi Sunak.
Despite calls from Labour and the Liberal Democrats for an early election, Ms Truss indicated that she would not be going to the country anytime soon.
Pledging to “deliver for the country” on the energy bills and the NHS, she told Tory members inside the QEII centre: “I know that we will deliver, we will deliver and we will deliver.”
The new Tory leader added: “And we will deliver a great victory for the Conservative Party in 2024.”
Ms Truss said little about Mr Sunak in her speech, and did not offer him a handshake after the result was announced – instead heaping praise on outgoing PM Boris Johnson.
“Boris, you got Brexit done, you crushed Jeremy Corbyn, you rolled out the vaccine, and you stood up to Vladimir Putin. You are admired from Kyiv to Carlisle,” she said to loud cheers.
Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey responded by calling for a snap election. “We need a general election, to get the Conservatives out of power and deliver the real change the country needs.”
Mr Davey said Ms Truss also called for her to freeze the energy price cap before huge rises to come in October. He said she must “avoid a social catastrophe for families and pensioners this winter”.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer – who has said he would welcome an immediate election – congratulated Ms Truss, but said she was “not on the side of working people”.
Calling for a price cap freeze, he said: “There can be no justification for not freezing energy prices. There’s a political consensus that needs to happen. She needs to ask the question how she’s going to pay for that.”
Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon also called on Ms Truss to freeze energy bills. “Our political differences are deep, but I will seek to build a good working relationship with her as I did with last three PMs,” said the SNP leader.
Ms Truss is reportedly considering freezing energy bills in some form. The package of help she is mulling is said to be “at least” around the £69bn cost of the Covid furlough scheme.
Senior figures in line for cabinet jobs have been in discussions about the possibility of helping energy companies meet the cost of buying wholesale energy over the price cap, or help arrange loans to cover the sums, according to The Times.
Jacob Rees-Mogg – tipped to be the new business secretary – said he is “delighted” that Ms Truss had won. “It’s very good news for the Conservative Party and for the country. I think she will be an excellent prime minister.”
Asked about the prospect of an election being held in 2024, Truss backer and ex-Tory minister Brandon Lewis said: “We’ll have to wait from the prime minister to decide”.
Mr Sunak said it was “right” that “we now unite behind the new PM”. Meanwhile Mr Johnson called “for all Conservatives to get behind her 100 per cent”.
There has been speculation that Mr Sunak and other disgruntled Tories could lead opposition to her government from the backbenches – or even attempt to bring her down with a no confidence vote within months.
Some 12 Tory MPs backing a comeback by Mr Johnson plan to submit no-confidence letters in Ms Truss in the hope of a new leadership vote by Christmas, according to The Mirror.
But Tory MP Jake Berry, the leader of the Northern Research Group (NRG) who is tipped for a role as chairman, said it would be “suicidal” for MPs to move against Ms Truss.
Welsh secretary Sir Robert Buckland has urged the Tories to ditch “self-indulgence and ideological disputes or personality arguments” and unite behind their new leader.
The cabinet minister, who switched to back Ms Truss mid-way through the campaign, told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme that she “will have to show a high degree of pragmatism and a sense of reality” about the scale of the energy crisis.
Asked if he had switched to keep a job in the cabinet, he said: “It’s about the issues, actually.”