Liz Truss has resigned as leader of the Conservative Party and announced a leadership contest to decide her successor as UK prime minister within a week. Speaking outside of 10 Downing Street on Thursday, Truss said she had informed King Charles III of her decision and explained that she felt she could not “deliver the mandate on which I was elected by the Conservative Party.” Truss’ term as prime minister was brief: the former foreign secretary succeeded Boris Johnson on September 6 after winning a leadership contest against former chancellor Rishi Sunak but in just a few weeks her position had become untenable as a majority of Conservative MPs – including those who had backed her during the summer – openly questioned her policies and the markets, the Bank of England, the main economic institutions and the weight of public opinion turned against her.
Although Truss performed a turnaround on her historic tax cuts, which at €60 billion threatened to open an unsustainable hole in the public coffers; despite sacking her ally Kwasi Kwarteng as chancellor after just 38 tumultuous days in favor of the more moderate Jeremy Hunt, and despite publicly asking for the forgiveness of the Conservative Party and the British public, the writing had been on the wall for Truss’ leadership. The sacking on Wednesday of Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who was a candidate to replace Johnson during the summer with the backing of the hard-line and Eurosceptic wing of the party, on a Ministerial Code technicality – she said she had inadvertently shared an official document with a colleague from her personal email - was seen as the final straw.
Truss had become an empty suit prime minister, with no clear mandate to lean on, unable to effectively communicate the work of the government and completely at odds with her parliamentary group. The farcical scenes in the Commons on Wednesday during a Labour motion to force a vote on a bill to ban fracking only served to make matters worse. Pushing, shoving and shouting ensued among Tory MPs who had apparently been forced to vote against their will on a key environmental issue in a show of support for a government that was fast unravelling.
“A shambles and a disgrace”
Veteran backbencher Charles Walker told the BBC that he would voluntarily be standing down ahead of the next general election and called the Conservative Party “a shambles and a disgrace,” while adding he had had enough of “talentless people putting their tick in the right box.”
“It is a pitiful reflection on the Conservative Parliamentary party at every level and it reflects really badly obviously on the government of the day,” said Sir Charles, a former chair of the Commons Procedure Committee. “I hope all those people that put Liz Truss in Number 10, I hope it was worth it, I hope it was worth it for the ministerial red box, I hope it was worth it to sit around the Cabinet table because the damage they have done to our party is extraordinary.”
According to Downing Street, Truss met earlier on Thursday with 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady, who is responsible for organizing primaries to elect a new leader within a week. Truss said she will remain as prime minister while this process is ongoing. Truss now holds the unfortunate distinction of being the shortest-serving prime minister in British history, succeeding George Canning, who held the post for 119 days in 1827 before he died.
Meanwhile the main opposition Labour Party, as well as the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party, have called for a general election to be held immediately.