By Agencies and published by CNA
London – Liz Truss said today (Oct, 20) she was resigning as British prime minister just six weeks after she was appointed, brought down by an economic programme that sent shockwaves through the market and divided her Conservative Party.
Speaking outside the door of her Number 10 Downing Street office, Truss accepted that she had lost the faith of her party and said she would step down next week, becoming the shortest-serving prime minister in British history.
Truss, who had said on Wednesday she was a “fighter and not a quitter”, told the mass of journalists gathered in Downing Street that she realised she could no longer deliver on the promises that won her the Conservative leadership.
“I have therefore spoken to His Majesty the King to notify him that I am resigning as leader of the Conservative Party,” said Truss, who was supported only by her husband with her aides and loyal ministers noticeably absent.
A new leadership election will be completed by Oct 28. Those expected to run include former finance minister Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt, a former defence minister.
Party members and Conservative lawmakers are expected to be given a say in the vote. A poll earlier this week showed that most members wanted former prime minister Boris Johnson – who was ousted from Downing Street in July – to return.
Britain is not scheduled to hold a national election for another two years.
Betting odds put Sunak as the favourite, ahead of Mordaunt and Johnson.
Appointed on Sept. 6, Truss was forced to sack her finance minister and closest political ally, Kwasi Kwarteng, and abandon almost all her economic programme after their plans for vast unfunded tax cuts crashed the pound and British bonds. Approval ratings for her and her Conservative Party collapsed.
On Wednesday she lost the second of the government’s four most senior ministers, faced laughter as she tried to defend her record to parliament and saw her lawmakers openly quarrel over policy, deepening the sense of chaos at Westminster.
New finance minister Hunt is now racing to find tens of billions of pounds of spending cuts to try to reassure investors and rebuild Britain’s fiscal reputation as the economy heads into recession and with inflation at a 40-year high.
He is due to deliver a new budget on Oct. 31.
In a very short speech, Truss – whose brief term as premier beat the record of George Canning, who had held the role for 119 days when he died in 1827 – said she had come into office as the country faced great uncertainty.
“I recognise though, given the situation, I cannot deliver the mandate on which I was elected by the Conservative Party,” Truss said.
UK opposition leader Keir Starmer demanded an immediate general election.
“The Tories cannot respond to their latest shambles by yet again simply clicking their fingers and shuffling the people at the top without the consent of the British people. We need a general election — now,” the Labour party leader said.
The Conservative Party “has shown it no longer has a mandate to govern,” he added.
“After 12 years of Tory failure, the British people deserve so much better than this revolving door of chaos.”
Commenting on Truss’ resignation, French President Emmanuel Macron wished Britain a rapid return to stability.
Arriving at an EU summit, Macron said he would not comment on British domestic politics but added: “It is important that Great Britain regains political stability very quickly, and that is all I wish.”
Relations between Paris and London have often been sour as Britain negotiated its divorce from the European Union, and threatened to get worse as Truss courted the hardline pro-Brexit wing of her party.
During her campaign to be elected leader of the Conservative Party, and thus prime minister, Truss famously said that “the jury is out” on whether the French leader was a friend or foe of Britain.
Macron said that he had had several telephone calls with Truss during her brief time in office and had been glad to see her in Prague.
“I want to say that France, as a nation and people who are friends of the British people, wishes them above all stability,” he said, stressing the context of the war in Ukraine and energy price crisis.
“But personally, I’m always sad to see a colleague leave in this way.”
White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said the US will have a close relationship with whoever replaces Truss.
US President Joe Biden would issue a statement later today, Klain said in an interview on MSNBC.
Russia’s foreign ministry welcomed Truss’ departure, saying she was a disgrace of a leader who would be remembered for her “catastrophic illiteracy”.
“Britain has never known such a disgrace of a prime minister,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a social media post.
Truss has been the target of withering comments from Moscow since she visited in February as part of a fruitless drive by Western politicians to avert a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The claim of illiteracy appears to refer to that trip, when Truss was British foreign minister. In a meeting with Russia’s veteran foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, she appeared to confuse two regions of Russia with Ukraine, triggering widespread mockery in Russian media.
Top: Liz Truss delivers a speech outside of 10 Downing Street in central London today, Oct. 20, 2022, to announce her resignation. Photo: AFP/Daniel Leal and published by CNA
Insert: Liz Truss and her husband Hugh O’Leary walk back into 10 Downing Street, in central London, today, Oct. 20, 2022, following a statement to announce her resignation. Photo: AFP/Daniel Leal and published by CNA
Front Page: Prime Minister Liz Truss gestures and speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons in London on Oct. 12, 2022. File photo: AFP/Jessica Taylor, UK Parliament handout and published by CNA