Nightmare on Downing Street

Liz Truss has resigned after 44 days in power that plunged the UK into chaos

Her resignation kicks off a new leadership election, the second in less than four months
Liz Truss has resigned after 44 days in power that plunged the UK into chaos
Photo: Leon Neal (Getty Images)
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Liz Truss has resigned less than six weeks since taking office, making her the shortest-serving UK prime minister in history.

“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,” she said in a statement today (Oct. 20).

An election will take place in a week’s time to find her successor.

The confidence in Truss has been waning on the back of haste policy-making and subsequent U-turns. At least 15 Tory MPs called on her to resign in the past 24 hours.

After a chaotic handling of a vote on fracking in parliament last night, it became clear Truss had very little time left to save her job. “Can the ship be turned around? Yes. But I think there is about 12 hours to do it. I think today, tomorrow are crunch days,” Conservative MP Simon Hoare said this morning.

By the afternoon, Truss was out.

A six-week timeline of turmoil under Truss

Sept. 5: Foreign secretary Truss beats former chancellor Rishi Sunak by over 20,000 votes to become the Conservative party leader after a two-month vote. She promises to “deliver on the energy crisis, dealing with people’s energy bills but also dealing with the long-term issues we have on energy supply.”

Sept. 6: Truss enters Downing Street as the third female prime minister of the UK. She appoints Kwasi Kwarteng the new chancellor of the exchequer.

Sept. 8: Truss announcing the energy price guarantee, capping energy unit prices by freezing bills for an average household at £2,500 annually for two years.

(The same day, Queen Elizabeth, British longest-serving monarch, dies at the age of 96. Government operations are put on hold for 10 business days.)

Sept. 23: Kwarteng announces a “mini-budget” intended to boost the economy and cushion the blow from energy crisis. Instead, the plan for £45 billion ($50 billion) of unfunded tax cuts and massive increases in government borrowing hammers the sterling and the bond market. Kwarteng’s credibility is questioned.

Sept. 26: The Bank of England says it will not hesitate to change interest rates, but holds off on it.

Sept. 28: The central bank pledges £65 billion ($73 billion) to buy long-term UK bonds over the next 13 days to ease pressure on pension funds and insurance companies.

Sept. 29: Truss doubles down on the plan, saying she’s prepared to make “controversial and difficult” decisions.

Oct. 3: Truss and Kwarteg walk back their plan to abolish the 45% highest tax bracket after immense backlash and market chaos. Their economic credibility is shattered.

Oct. 10: Kwarteng brings forward the publication date for fiscal plans and economic forecasts to Oct. 31 from Nov. 23.

Oct. 11: The BoE expands its programme of daily bond purchases to include index-linked gilts for a week. “Dysfunction in this market, and the prospect of self-reinforcing ‘fire sale’ dynamics, pose a material risk to UK financial stability,” it warns.

Oct. 14: Truss fires Kwarteng and replaces him with Jeremy Hunt.

Truss acknowledges that the mini budget went “further and faster” than markets were expecting, adding that corporation tax will rise to 25% instead of being frozen 19%. She also assures public spending will have to grow less rapidly than previously planned.

Oct. 17: Hunt reverses pretty much everything in the Kwarteng’s mini-budget, including cutting the basic rate of income tax, freezes in alcohol duty and VAT-free shopping for international tourists. He also scales back energy bill support, bringing the program to an end in April 2023, 18 months earlier than originally thought, which could save the Treasury up to £40 billion next year.

Oct. 19: Home secretary Suella Braverman resigns following a “mistake” of using her personal email for ministerial duties. In her resignation, she expressed “serious concerns” about the government. Former transport secretary Grant Shapps, who strongly backed Rishi Sunak, replaces her the next day, suggesting more cracks developing in Truss’ government.

Will Rishi Sunak become prime minister next?

According to Oddschecker, which collates the odds given by the biggest betting sites, Truss’s final rival in the previous leadership election is now one of the top candidates most likely to replace her:

Who was the UK’s short-serving prime minister before Truss?

British Conservative leader George Canning died in 1827 after 119 days in office.

How Liz Truss’s tenure compares to UK leaders in the past century

Liz vs Lettuce

Besides the premiership, Truss also lost another battle—one against a 60p Tesco lettuce.

It all started when an Oct. 11 article by The Economist described Truss’s hold on power as such: “Take away the ten days of mourning after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, and she had seven days in control. That is roughly the shelf-life of a lettuce.”

Three days later, British tabloid Daily Star launched a Twitter poll asking “Which wet lettuce will last longer?” The livestream of the lettuce with a 10-day shelf life ran continuously on YouTube—and now we know who wilted first.

LIVE: Can Liz Truss outlast a lettuce?

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