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WORLD | 20-10-2022 09:51

British Prime Minister Liz Truss resigns after just 44 days in office

British Prime Minister Liz Truss announces her resignation, just 44 days after taking office; Conservative leader admits she cannot lead party and says her replacement will be chosen by next week.

British Prime Minister Liz Truss announced Thursday her resignation as Conservative Party leader after just six weeks in power and said her successor would be elected by the end of next week.

"I recognise that given the situation I cannot deliver the mandate on which I was elected by the Conservative Party. I have therefore spoken to His Majesty the King to notify him that I am resigning as leader of the Conservative Party," Truss said.

“This morning I met the chairman of the 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady. We’ve agreed that there will be a leadership election to be completed within the next week. This will ensure that we remain on behalf to deliver our fiscal plans and maintain our country’s economic stability and national security. I will remain as prime minister until a successor has been chosen," said the PM.

A leadership election for MPs to select her successor will be "completed within the next week," she added.

Opposition Labour Party leader Keir Stamer called for an immediate general election.

More than a dozen Conservative MPs had publicly urged Truss to resign just six weeks into office, after her tax-cutting plans caused a market meltdown during an already severe cost-of-living crisis.

Many more are reported to have submitted letters calling for her to be removed.

Truss said she had entered office with “a vision for a low-tax, high-growth economy that would take advantage of the freedoms of Brexit.”

Events had appeared to be reaching a head after what right-wing tabloid The Sun called "a day of extraordinary mayhem" on Wednesday.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman left, apparently at Truss' demand after she sent an official document in a personal email. But the arch right-winger, who enjoys strong support among the Tory membership, used her resignation message to attack Truss in blistering terms.

 

'Clinging to power'

There then followed farcical scenes in Parliament as many Tory MPs rebelled against the government's demand that they drop the party's manifesto commitment to maintain a ban on fracking.

Accusations swirled of heavy-handed efforts to whip MPs into line, some of whom later briefed the media that it was the nail in the coffin of the Truss premiership.

The Times reported the prime minister was "clinging to power", and cited a Truss supporter in her cabinet as saying: "It's terminal."

Conservative lord Ed Vaizey said the "only way out of this mess is for Liz Truss to stand down and for somebody to be appointed as prime minister by Conservative MPs."

If she does leave, the party could avoid a lengthy leadership contest by consolidating around a unity candidate for her replacement.

But Truss on Wednesday said she was "not a quitter" – and no single successor has emerged with widespread backing for a coronation.

 

'Must leave'

The prime minister's woes began when her showpiece tax-slashing policy sparked market chaos that threatened the country's pension funds, forcing her into a series of humiliating U-turns.

Braverman's departure on Wednesday triggered the second reshuffle this month after Truss sacked close ally Kwasi Kwarteng over the budget debacle, replacing him with Jeremy Hunt, who swiftly reversed almost all the policy announcements.

The Daily Telegraph reported that Braverman left after a "heated face-to-face row" with Truss and Hunt "over their demands to soften her stance on immigration."

Truss appointed Grant Shapps to replace Braverman even though she had fired him as transport secretary when she took office. 

Both Shapps and Hunt had supported her rival for the leadership, Rishi Sunak, leaving her isolated in her own cabinet.

Braverman, seen as a hardliner on immigration, said she had resigned over a "technical infringement" of government rules.

But in her resignation letter, she flagged up "serious concerns" that Truss was breaking manifesto promises.

"Pretending we haven't made mistakes, carrying on as if everyone can't see we've made them, and hoping things will magically come right is not serious politics," Braverman wrote.

 

PM booed

Braverman's resignation message came hours after Truss sought to dispel doubts over her leadership with a combative appearance in parliament.

Truss faced harsh putdowns from opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer as she took part in her first Prime Minister's Questions since the budget U-turns.

Starmer asked the House of Commons: "What's the point of a prime minister whose promises don't even last a week?" as opposition MPs jeered and booed Truss and her own party's MPs remained silent.

Truss insisted that she would not stand down.

Later on Wednesday there were febrile scenes in parliament as the opposition proposed a debate on Truss's controversial decision to resume fracking -- drilling onshore for gas.

Labour MPs alleged that Conservatives were physically forced to vote against the proposals by the whips, who enforce party discipline, but dozens failed to vote along party lines.

Polls show Truss's personal and party ratings have plummeted, with YouGov saying Tuesday that she had become the most unpopular leader it has ever tracked.

“We need to effect a change, frankly, today in order to stop this shambles,” veteran Tory MP Crispin Blunt told the BBC on Thursday morning. Serial rebel backbencher Simon Hoare said Truss had 12 hours to turn things around.

The problem for the rebels is the lack of an obvious unifying candidate to replace Truss as leader. Former chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and House of Commons leader Penny Mordaunt are widely seen as the most likely candidates, having come second and third  to the premier in this summer’s leadership contest.

Here are the odds bookmakers were offering on Thursday morning:

Net PM Sky Bet PaddyPower
Rishi Sunak 7/4 17/10
Jeremy Hunt 4/1 4/1
Penny Mordaunt 4/1 7/2
Boris Johnson 8/1 9/1
Keir Starmer 8/1 7/1
Ben Wallace 10/1 10/1
Theresa May 16/1 20/1

 

– TIMES/AFP/BLOOMBERG

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