British Prime Minister Liz Truss announced her resignation on Thursday, quickly ending a six-week term in office that began with a drastic experiment in a tiered economy and descended into financial and political chaos, as most of those policies have been reversed.
As her tax-cutting agenda deteriorated, her Conservative MPs and her government rebelled in the hands of people who did not support her or her policies, Ms Truss, 47, concluded she could no longer govern. She is leaving her position as the shortest serving female Prime Minister in British history.
Britain’s new leader, said gloomy Mrs Truss, standing on the rainy sidewalk outside 10 Downing Street, where she was greeted just 44 days earlier.
Ms Truss said she would remain in office until the party chooses a successor by the end of next week. This leads to an unusually compact and unexpected scramble to replace her in a frustrated and deeply divided party. Among the possible candidates is Boris Johnson, the illustrious former prime minister she replaced after being forced to step down in a series of scandals.
Just a day after declaring in Parliament, “I am a fighter, not a merging,” Ms Truss withdrew after a hastily scheduled meeting on Thursday with party elders, including Graham Brady, chair of a group of Conservative lawmakers who play a role. An influential role in choosing the party leader.
It was the most shocking tremor in a week of seismic developments that included the overthrow of Mrs. Truss’s Treasury Secretary, Kwasi Quarting; the bitter passing of Home Secretary Suella Braverman; He likened a fight in Parliament on Wednesday night, as cabinet ministers tried to force unruly Conservative MPs to back the prime minister in a vote on whether to ban fracking.
The scene showed how Ms Truss – only the third female prime minister, after Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May – had lost control of her party and government.
By then, Its mandate has already been torn apart: Her proposals for comprehensive, unfunded tax cuts have rocked financial markets over fears they will cause a hole in Britain’s finances.
This plunged the pound, bringing it close to par with the dollar for a while, forcing the Bank of England to intervene in the bond markets to stave off the collapse of pension funds, and driving up mortgage interest rates.
The resulting chaos left the British frustrated and exhausted, with many convinced that the country was spiraling out of control.
“We are in an economic crisis, a political crisis, a food crisis – a crisis of everything,” said Christian Crito, a gas engineer on leave from work. “Whoever takes her place, I don’t think they’re going to make a difference.”
The opposition Labor Party called an immediate general election. But under British law, Conservatives are not required to contact one until January 2025.
If enough Conservative lawmakers join the opposition, they can force an election, but with the party’s support collapsing in the polls, it is in their interest to delay any meeting with voters. The British Political Conference also allows them to change party leaders – and thus the prime minister – using their own flexible rulebook.
Ms Truss was already shaken on Monday, when her newly appointed adviser, Jeremy Hunt, announced that the government would scrap the last remnants of its tax proposals. As Mr Hunt presented the details of the reformulated financial plan in Parliament, the silent Mrs. Truss sat behind her, a distant smile on her face.
For Britain, this is another chapter in the political turmoil that followed its vote to leave the European Union in 2016. The country will soon have its fifth prime minister in six years. Ms Truss is the third leader in a row to be deposed by the Conservative Party, also known as the Conservative Party, which now appears to have morphed into warring factions and has fallen as much as 33 percentage points behind the opposition Labor Party in opinion polls.
The political turmoil also comes just a month after Britain buried Queen Elizabeth II, who has ruled for seven decades and served as the country’s anchor. Among the Queen’s last official duties was to greet Mrs. Truss at Balmoral Castle after she won the party leadership contest. Ms Truss said on Thursday she had informed King Charles III of her decision to step down.
Governors have announced new leadership contest rules, including a minimum of 100 nominations from lawmakers, that will limit the number of candidates to a maximum of three.
From a shortlist of two, chosen by lawmakers, Tory members will then vote online to choose the victor, aiming to avoid the long and multi-stage campaign last summer that resulted from Ms Truss. In fact, the competition may not get that far: if one candidate crosses the 100-nomination threshold, or if the second-place candidate withdrew, there will be a decision on Monday.
“In recent leadership competitions, they have selected someone who is clearly unsuitable for the job,” said Tim Bell, a professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London. “It’s unlikely that anyone will be able to save them electorally, but there are people who can get to 10th place and do the work of prime minister intellectually, emotionally and practically.”
However, the turmoil of recent days has revealed just how divided the Conservative Party, after a grueling 12 years in power, and how difficult it will be for Ms Truss’ successor to unite.
Rishi Sunak, the former chancellor who ran against Ms Truss last summer and warned her proposals would lead to chaos, should be in first place, having led the Treasury and performed well under pressure in a leadership campaign. But he lost that competition in large part because many party members blamed him for bringing down Mr Johnson, who resigned from his government.
“The obvious candidate is Rishi Sunak,” said Professor Bell. The question is can they forgive him. The situation is now so extreme that people may be willing to forgive his supposed sins.”
However, this is by no means clear, as Mr Sunak is also unreliable on the right of the party and among hard-line Brexiteers in Parliament. His leadership would be hard to bear for some who opposed him, including Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg, who once refused to deny reports that he called Mr Sunak’s policies, which included tax increases, “socialism”.
Supporters of Mr Johnson, who is reported to be considering running for his old job, argue that because of his landslide election victory in 2019, he has a mandate to lead without another general election. Under the hashtag #bringbackboris, one of his supporters, James Dodridge, wrote on Twitter: “Hope you enjoyed your boss on vacation. Time to come back. Few issues in the office that need addressing.”
But bringing him back would be very risky, given the circumstances of his forced resignation in July and the fact that he remains a polarizing figure among voters. Mr Johnson is also being investigated by a parliamentary committee over whether he misled the House of Commons about Downing Street parties that violated pandemic rules.
Even if Johnson was acquitted, it would remind Britons of the chain-of-scandal scandals that led lawmakers to oust him. The committee could recommend Mr Johnson’s expulsion or suspension from Parliament – a penalty that could mean his voters get a vote on whether to kick him out of Parliament altogether.
Ms Braverman revealed the party’s ideological divisions in a violent letter written after her expulsion, alleging she had violated security regulations by sending a government document to her personal email. Ms. Truss has been accused of reneging on her promises and being soft on immigration.
The snapshot of Ms Braverman’s parting illustrated resistance from people on the right to what they see as the growing influence of Mr Hunt, a moderate who voted against Brexit and was a supporter and ally of Mr Sunak. Mr Hunt, who ran twice for party leader, said he would not be a candidate this time.
If conservatives allow Downing Street to fall into the hands of another untested, non-mainstream candidate, such as Ms Braverman or perhaps Kimmy Badenoch, who is currently serving as international trade secretary, there could be renewed instability in financial markets.
Penny Mordaunt, the leader of the House of Commons who finished third in the competition last summer, appears to be well placed to move past the split. It’s a good conversationalist, but it hasn’t been tested at the highest level of government.
Another option might be a candidate with a bit of ideology, like Ben Wallace, the Secretary of Defense, or Grant Shapps, the new Home Secretary. But Mr. Wallace decided not to run earlier this year, saying he didn’t want the job enough. Mr. Shapps concluded that he did not have the support to win.
Whoever is chosen will inherit a host of forbidden problems, from 10.1 percent inflation and rising energy prices to labor unrest and the specter of a deep recession. The new leader will have to make cuts in government spending that various coalitions of conservative lawmakers are likely to resist.
On Monday, Mr Hunt said the government would end its massive state intervention to curb energy prices in April, and replace it with a yet-to-be-determined programme, which he said would boost energy efficiency. This may turn out to be unpopular, adding to the uncertainty for households facing rising gas and electricity prices.
While the government has abandoned Ms Truss’s tax cuts – in one of the most striking political setbacks in recent British history – the havoc her program unleashed on the markets has left lasting damage. Economists said higher interest rates have made borrowing more expensive for the government, which will lead to pressure for deeper spending cuts.
Despite internal controversies in the Conservative Party, Prof Bell said he believed he was inherently uncontrollable, as long as he was making the right decision. As recent history has shown, the stakes of the party are very high.
He said: “The Conservative Party is an incredibly leadership-dominated party, which means if you get the wrong leader, you’re in serious trouble.”
Ewan Ward And the Isabella Kwai Contribute to the preparation of reports.
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