The death of the Queen has thrown Liz Truss’s plans to “hit the ground running” after becoming prime minister on Tuesday into disarray.
Entering office at a time of crisis both domestically and internationally, the new PM had planned to cram a hail of announcements, visits and speeches into her first few weeks in office, aware that she had far fewer than the usual “first 100 days” to make an impact.
In doubt are mooted visits to Kyiv, New York and Washington, speeches, visits and interviews to boost her profile and that of her newly-appointed ministers and an emergency budget to implement the tax cuts which formed the centrepiece of her campaign for the Tory leadership.
Downing Street has said that the closure of parliament for the 10-day period of national mourning should not affect the timetable for Ms Truss’s energy freeze, which will ensure average annual bills for domestic gas and electricity are no more than £2,500 over the next two years.
Some legislation is required to enact all elements of the plan for the planned date of 1 October. No 10 insists there will be no delay to implementation.
Talks are under way with Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle to ensure that the necessary legislation can be passed by MPs after the mourning period is over, without the need to recall parliament.
Meanwhile, other major moments in the political calendar are at risk. The TUC today postponed its annual congress, which had been due to commence in Brighton on Sunday.
No decision has yet been made on whether the Liberal Democrat conference in the same city can go ahead as planned from 17-20 September, potentially covering the date of Elizabeth II’s state funeral.
Further down the track, it is not known whether the Labour conference in Liverpool on 25-28 September or the Conservative conference in Birmingham on 2-5 October will be affected. Each are regarded as vital moments for Ms Truss and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer to set out the platforms for the year ahead leading into the 2024 general election.
News of the Queen’s serious illness came just moments after the new PM had launched the first of her planned interventions, as Ms Truss was forced to leave the Commons chamber shortly after unveiling her £100bn-plus energy price guarantee.
Under normal conditions this would have been certain to dominate TV broadcasts and newspaper front pages and be a topic of conversation for days.
Tory strategists will be concerned that the impact will be blunted of an effective £1,000 handout to every household in the country, which could normally be expected to deliver a significant boost to the new PM in the polls.
Ms Truss said during the leadership campaign that she wanted to make a trip to Kyiv one of her first international visits, in order to show continued UK support for Ukraine and its president Volodymyr Zelensky. This cannot now take place in the coming weeks.
And a planned trip to New York to speak at the UN general assembly, expected in the week of 19 September, may now have to be called off, depending on the date of the Queen’s funeral.
Downing Street was thought to be exploring the possibility of adding a trip to the White House for face-to-face talks with US President Joe Biden.
However, world leaders are expected to flood into London to pay their respects to the Queen. Mr Biden himself has said that he will “probably” attend.
Downing Street said no bilateral meetings with visiting heads of government have been arranged, though it is likely that Ms Truss will speak to some of them at No 10 or elsewhere.
But the circumstances of their trip will make the kind of intensive political talks which normally take place on the margins of UN summits inappropriate.
A series of calls from world leaders to offer their condolences have focused solely on paying respects to the Queen, and the PM is not using the opportunity to discuss political or diplomatic issues.
It is understood that chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s emergency budget was pencilled in for 19 September, which is now a likely date for the royal funeral.
With parliament due to go into recess for conference season on 23 September, that event may now be knocked back into October.
However, much of the urgency of the fiscal event has been removed by Thursday’s announcement of immediate action on the cost-of-living crisis.
Mr Kwarteng may welcome any additional time he gains to work out the costing for the energy package as well as the fine details of Ms Truss’s promised reversal of this year’s national insurance rise and scrapping of the planned corporation tax hike. It will also provide the Office for Budget Responsibility more time to prepare its forecasts of the economic impact of the new PM’s plans.
The period of national mourning and reflection may give Ms Truss time to breathe politically and an opportunity to appear as the leader of the country at a momentous time.
But it also denies her the opportunity to make an impact with voters during a period when many will be making up their minds on whether her arrival in the place of Boris Johnson is a good thing or not.