Liz Truss, once a triumphalist, resigned in humiliation on Thursday, after 45 days in office, becoming not a modern Tory icon but the shortest prime minister in British history.
Truss was bowled over by what is widely seen as her incompetence, her inability to sell her vision – not just to lawmakers in her Conservative party and the small number of conservatives in the backcountry, but to the wider electorate and to currency and bond traders in London.
His ousting also reflects a lingering identity crisis among Tories – a fragmentation that has led to the agonizing experience of Brexit and leaves open the question of not just who will lead the country, but in which direction.
Britain is adrift on its place in the world and its relationship with Europe, on how to deal with soaring inflation and an anticipated recession, and on the way forward. track on issues ranging from immigration to climate change.
Truss has been quick to flip herself and her growth plan on the supply side, swiftly jettisoning key ministers and eviscerating her signature policy, with her tax cuts for high earners, investors and companies, financed in the short term by more borrowing and debt.
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The U-turn helped calm bond traders momentarily and boosted the British currency. But that was not enough to save her politically.
“Given the situation, I cannot deliver the term for which I was elected by the Conservative Party,” she said Thursday outside the Prime Minister’s residence in Downing Street. “So I spoke to His Majesty the King to notify him of my resignation.”
Tory power brokers are bitterly divided over who should lead their party next and become Britain’s third prime minister in eight weeks.
The Conservative Party plans to choose a new leader by October 28, after party lawmakers vote in Parliament and an online vote involving the party’s paying members – less than 0.3% of the UK population. Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 committee, the Conservative Party’s parliamentary caucus, has announced a sweeping change to the rules, truncating what is usually a two-month process.
Any Tory lawmaker can put their name forward, provided they have the support of at least 100 colleagues from their party in parliament – a pretty high bar.
Jeremy Hunt, the new Chancellor of the Exchequer who twice tried to become Prime Minister, quickly ruled himself out.
Former finance minister Rishi Sunak, Truss’ main rival in the last leadership race, warned that his economic policies would end in disaster – a “never land” as he called it.
There’s also Penny Mordaunt, the current leader of the House of Commons, who came third in the last contest and is popular with Conservative Party loyalists – although in a snap poll of the general public, most respondents couldn’t name her when shown a photo.
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Another option: the return of Boris Johnson. Rumors are swirling that he could mount a boost for the rare role of former and future Prime Minister.
His allies told British newspapers he believed it was in the “national interest” for him to stage a return.
Many voters might not want Johnson or his party to try again. The Conservatives have been in power for 12 years and millions of bad headlines. If there were a general election now, they would almost certainly be wiped out. The Labor Party, the opposition party, gained 30 points in the polls.
Labor leader Keir Starmer, who didn’t have to do much more than sit back and watch his rivals implode, called for general elections “now”.
“The Tories cannot respond to their latest shambles by once again snapping their fingers and shuffling people at the top without the consent of the British people,” Starmer said in a statement after Truss’ announcement. “They don’t have a mandate to subject the country to a new experience; Britain is not their personal fiefdom to rule as they wish.
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But because the Tories, led by Johnson, won the general election in 2019, they don’t have to stand another vote until 2024. A motion to call a snap election would require at least two-thirds of the vote in parliament . That would only be possible if the Conservatives supported the measure, which they would be loath to do as long as they are so low in the polls.
Truss herself should have been safe from another leadership challenge for at least a year. But conservatives are notorious for ruthlessly rejecting their leaders. David Cameron has come out for opposing Brexit. Theresa May is out for failing to get Brexit done. Johnson is out for a pile of scandals and for misleading members of his own party, who have declared him unfit to govern.
Truss was thrown under the bus for gross mismanagement of the economy, but also because it quickly became apparent that she was not helping her party win back voters’ trust. YouGov said she was the most unpopular prime minister the organization had ever tracked.
On Thursday, a day after telling parliament she was a ‘fighter, not a quitter’, Truss met the powerful chairman of the 1922 committee, who reportedly knew exactly how many Tory MPs had issued secret letters of no confidence. in his direction.
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At least 16 Tory lawmakers had formally called for his resignation, after a chaotic and confusing 24 hours, which saw allegations of intimidation in Parliament and the resignation of the Home Secretary and may have been the final straw for the left.
Among the disgruntled was the Tory lawmaker Gary Rueterwho tweeted: ‘Sadly it looks like we need to change leaders BUT even though the angel Gabriel now takes over, the parliamentary party urgently needs to rediscover discipline, mutual respect and teamwork if we are to (i) to govern the United Kingdom well and (ii) to avoid the massacre at the next election.
In a heated interview Wednesday night, lawmaker Charles Walker spoke candidly about his frustrations. “I am livid,” he said. “I really shouldn’t say this, but I hope all those people who put Liz Truss in number 10, I hope it was worth it… because the damage they did to our party is extraordinary.”
Truss can be held liable for six weeks of damages. The previous record holder for prime minister with the shortest term was George Canning, who lasted 119 days – from April 12, 1827 until his death on August 8, 1827.
In the end, Liz Truss didn’t survive a wilted lettuce
‘Our lettuce wins as Liz Truss quits,’ said the tabloid Daily Star, which last week, when things looked perilous for the leader, began live-streaming a photo of the Prime Minister next to a head of wilted lettuce with shelf life. only 10 days.
News of Truss’s resignation stole the show at the opening of a European Union summit in Brussels, as leaders entering the meetings were asked to weigh in on Britain’s political crisis. There were glimpses of schadenfreude and sly smiles from leaders who sat on the other side of the Brexit negotiations. But the leaders mostly kept it classy, with French President Emmanuel Macron saying he hoped Britain would “return to political stability very quickly”.
Emily Rauhala in Brussels contributed to this report.