UK PM forced out of office amid economic turmoil, chaos in Parliament and a party in tatters


This article by Garret Martin is republished here with permission from The Conversation. This content is shared here because the topic may be of interest to Snopes readers; however, it does not represent the work of Snopes’ fact checkers or editors.

Britain’s government is in tatters following the resignation of Prime Minister Liz Truss on October 20, 2022 – the second leader to be expelled in just months. It follows a economic waste largely of his own making which resulted in U-turnsa high level shooting, curious absences and free fall support.

The resignation means Truss will fall as Britain’s shortest Prime Minister in history.

So what exactly happened and what happens next? The Conversation asked Garret Martin, an expert on British politics at the American University School of International Service, to explain everything.

Who is Liz Truss and how did she become Prime Minister?

Liz Truss was, until October 20, both leader of the Conservative Party and political leader of the country – even though she was not put in place by the electorate. In early July 2022, then British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, having lost his party’s support after a series of scandals, resigned as leader of the Conservatives. Instead of stepping down as prime minister immediately, Johnson announced he would stay on until his party chose a successor.

This leadership election took place in two distinct stages over the summer. Through a series of votes, Tory MPs narrowed the list of candidates to two finalists: Truss, who served as Foreign Secretary, and former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak. It was then up to the broadest members of the Conservative Party to choose between the first two. On September 5, Truss was officially announced the winner, with 57.4% of the vote, paving the way to become the new prime minister.

His tenure lasted just over six weeks.

What got him into trouble?

Truss came to power under extremely difficult circumstances. Queen Elizabeth II died a few days after taking office of Johnson. It took away the promise of any new leadership ‘bounce’, as the nation was plunged in an official period of mourning.

Overseeing the transition to a new monarch has only added to the plethora of thorny challenges plaguing the government, including the war in Ukraine and the threat of Scottish secessionas good as the severe energy and inflation crises.

But if any observers expected caution from Truss, they were quickly corrected. On September 23, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Kwasi Kwarteng, presented a audacious “mini-budget” in Parliament. This new plan promised the growth of a struggling British economy, based on a massive package of tax cuts. That would have been the biggest tax cut in half a century, with benefits mainly for the wealthier segments of the population.

This was not a total surprise, since Truss had campaigned on such a platform in the leadership election. Yet the scale and speed of the announcement was staggering, an example of what BBC journalist Nicholas Watt described as “shock and awe» tactic.

It was a bold gamble by Truss – and one that failed to convince the markets at all. Within days of the Kwarteng announcements, the pound had fallen in value, leading UK borrowing costs to soar. Meanwhile, soaring interest rates piled on the misery of millions of people in the UK in the form of higher mortgage payments.

The International Monetary Fund has also stepped up, urging the British government to to “reassess” the planned tax cuts because of how they could “fuel runaway inflation”. And the Bank of England was forced to take drastic measures, including buying an unlimited amount of government bonds, to protect the British economy from an even greater collapse. Truss’ premiership never recovered from the loss of credibility.

How did she react to the crisis?

With increasing pressure and growing concern among the general public and members of his own party, Truss again resorted to drastic measures. She sacked Kwarteng unceremoniously on October 14, meaning he had only lasted 38 days on the job.

Jeremy Hunt, a former foreign secretary, stepped in to replace Kwarteng – the fourth chancellor in less than four months. He proceeded immediately go back on almost all measurements promised in the Kwarteng mini-budget. Hunt stressed that this was necessary to restore confidence in the British economy, but it was also an unmistakable and staggering rebuke from the Prime Minister. His absence from parliament during an “urgent question” about Kwarteng’s dismissal and subsequent avoidance of a planned media event did little to inspire confidence in his handling of a political crisis.

The crisis escalated on October 19 with the announcement that the British Home Secretary had resigned following an apparent security breach. It was followed by chaotic scenes in Parliament in which conservative politicians were allegedly bullied and intimidated into voting in accordance with Truss’s wishes. This angered many MPs and appears to have sealed the deal from its undoing.

Why did she have to leave?

Truss’ loss of credibility and support posed a dilemma for the Conservative Party. He could have tried to stay with Truss, hoping she would have enough time to recover. After all, the the next elections could take place in January 2025.

Yet the Prime Minister was so deeply hurt that the party as a whole suffered and his future electoral chances diminished. Before his resignation, only 10% of voters approved of his leadership, with 80% having an unfavorable opinion, a far worse score than even Boris Johnson when he quit. Within his own party, a whopping 55% wanted Truss gone. Meanwhile, the Tory Trail the opposition Labor Party by a dramatic 29 percentage points in the latest polls.

What shall we do now?

There are several possible candidates to replace her.

These include characters like Rishi Sunak; Leader of the House of Commons Penny Mordaunt; or Jeremy Hunt – who all ran against Truss in July. Boris Johnson could even attempt a bold comeback, although that is still overkill given the circumstances in which he left office.

But whoever is in power will face a steep climb to win back the trust and support of voters.

This article was updated on October 20, 2022 with news of Truss’s resignation.

Garrett Martin is a lecturer and co-director of the Transatlantic Policy Center at American University School of International Service.

This article is republished from The conversation, an independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to unleashing expert knowledge for the public good, under a Creative Commons license. Read it original article.

The conversation

Comments are closed.