U.K. Prime Minister Liz Truss resigns after 45 days
U.K. Prime Minister Liz Truss announced her resignation Thursday after six disastrous weeks in office, during which her tax plan panicked the markets and her own party turned on her. She'll be the shortest-serving prime minister in history.
What she's saying: Truss said she recognized that she could not "deliver the mandate on which I was elected by the Conservative Party," and that the election to pick her successor would be completed within a week.
- That's a remarkably short timetable for Conservative members of Parliament to pick their fifth prime minister since the 2016 Brexit referendum left the party deeply divided. Truss will remain in office in the interim.
- The Times of London and Daily Telegraph both report that Truss' predecessor, Boris Johnson, is expected to throw his hat in the ring just three months after resigning over a series of scandals. It's unclear if Johnson would be able to get enough parliamentary colleagues to support him.
- Leaders around the world reacted Thursday to Truss' resignation announcement, with President Biden saying it did not change the two countries' "enduring" relationship.
Driving the news: The announcement — 45 days after taking office — followed a tumultuous day in which Home Secretary Suella Braverman resigned and several senior Conservatives called on Truss to do the same.
- "This whole affair is inexcusable. It is a pitiful reflection on the Conservative parliamentary party on every level, and it reflects very badly obviously on the government of the day," senior Conservative MP Charles Walker fumed to the BBC.
- Walker was speaking in the wake of a chaotic vote on Wednesday evening over fracking, which Truss supports but many Conservative MPs oppose.
- With Truss' lieutenants desperately pressuring MPs to vote with the government, a chaotic scene played out in which the chief whip reportedly announced she was resigning and Truss left the chamber to chase after her — causing both to miss the vote. That episode seemed to sum up Truss' short tenure.
The market panic had already forced Truss to fire her finance minister, a close ideological ally, and replace him with a more centrist figure in Jeremy Hunt.
- Hunt will be among the potential consensus picks to replace Truss, along with Rishi Sunak, who finished second to Truss in the leadership race but correctly warned of the economic dangers of her tax cut plans.
- Other potential successors include Defense Minister Ben Wallace or House of Commons leader Penny Mordaunt, though hardline Brexiteers like Braverman may also throw their hats in the ring.
How it happened: Truss won the intra-party race to replace Boris Johnson by promising "bold" tax cuts, including for the rich, in order to boost economic growth.
- Truss dismissed claims that such a plan was highly risky given rising inflation and the U.K.'s stretched fiscal circumstances as "project fear" from the "anti-growth coalition." In fact, she announced the tax cuts alongside massively expensive energy subsidies.
- That spooked the markets so badly that the Bank of England staged an emergency intervention to ease a run on the pound.
- Unable to steady the situation, Truss took the humiliating step of handing economic policy over to Hunt.
- The situation further made clear that in jittery times like these, previously little-known risks in the financial system can bubble up seemingly from nowhere — with seismic economic and political consequences.
Approval ratings for Truss and the Conservatives fell even faster than the pound.
- Polls now consistently put the Conservatives more than 30 points behind Labour. Remarkably, one new poll out this week finds that just 21% of 2019 Conservative voters would prefer Truss as prime minister to Labour leader Keir Starmer.
- "There was anger toward Boris Johnson. With Liz Truss, it's more despair. People think she's not up to the job," says James Johnson, whose firm JL Partners has been conducting focus groups on Truss.
- No election is due for two years, but many Conservatives are already expecting to lose power for the first time since 2010, possibly in a landslide. "A lot of people have essentially already given up," Johnson says.
Of note: Truss is eligible for a taxpayer-funded allowance of $129,000 annually for the rest of her life.
- "The costs are a reimbursement of incurred expenses for necessary office costs and secretarial costs arising from their special position in public life," per the government’s website.
The big picture: A post-Brexit identity crisis has led the U.K. to what will be its fifth prime minister since the 2016 referendum.
This story has been updated with additional developments. Axios' Sareen Habeshian contributed to this report.