LONDON — Liz Truss has resigned as Britain’s prime minister after a chaotic six weeks in office, saying she “cannot fulfill the term” she was elected to serve.
In a short but dramatic televised statement outside 10 Downing Street on Thursday, Truss admitted she could no longer muster her party’s support and that a snap Tory leadership election will be held next week to choose her successor.
Truss’s resignation after just 44 days makes her the shortest prime minister in British history – an extraordinary and unwanted label she could hardly have imagined when she was chosen as leader by Tory members on September 6.
But in less than two months in office, she triggered a meltdown in financial markets, sacked two of her most senior ministers, was forced into multiple policy reversals and ultimately lost the support of her own MPs.
“I cannot deliver the term for which I was elected by the Conservative Party,” Truss said in his statement Thursday. “I have therefore spoken to His Majesty the King to inform him of my resignation as Leader of the Conservative Party.”
Truss had faced a disastrous start to his post as Prime Minister after unveiling a sweeping economic plan of unfunded tax cuts on September 23 that spooked financial markets, sent UK borrowing costs skyrocketing United and knocked his party’s poll ratings to an all-time high.
Truss tried to stabilize his failing administration last week by sacking his friend and chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, and replacing him with a central pick, his former leadership rival Jeremy Hunt. He immediately trashed his entire economic program in a bid to calm the markets and drive down Britain’s borrowing costs.
But Truss’ premiership disintegrated on Wednesday night amid chaotic scenes in the House of Commons, where party officials struggled to rally mutinous Tory MPs in a crucial vote. Earlier in the day, Truss had been forced to suspend one of her closest aides and sack her interior secretary, Suella Braverman, angering her right-wing supporters.
The turmoil has prompted more Tory MPs to go public with their demands for Truss to leave office, with dozens more calling for him to go behind the scenes.
Truss then held crisis talks on Thursday morning with Graham Brady, chairman of the powerful 1922 committee, which sets the rules for the leadership contest; Deputy Prime Minister Thérèse Coffey; and Conservative Party Chairman Jake Berry. Together they concluded that she could no longer garner support from her own MPs.
Speaking to reporters in Westminster on Thursday afternoon, Brady said the plan agreed with Berry was to conclude the leadership election by October 28, meaning a new prime minister will be appointed before the Hunt’s next big budget statement on Oct. 31.
Brady said the “expectation” was that the Conservative Party base — approximately 180,000 basic members — will be included in the truncated selection process, although no details of the process have yet been defined.
Favorites to succeed Truss as prime minister include Rishi Sunak, the former UK chancellor who won more support from Tory MPs than any other candidate last time out but defeated in a poll against faced by Conservative members over the summer.
Also in the running are Secretary of Defense Ben Wallace, Leader of the House of Commons Penny Mordaunt and – incredibly – former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who remains hugely popular among Conservative party members. Johnson, who only left office last month, is currently vacationing in the Caribbean with his wife Carrie. Hunt has already ruled himself out of the race.
Keir Starmer, the leader of the Labor Party, has called for an immediate general election so that the British people can choose their next leader.
He told broadcasters on Thursday that “we can’t have a revolving door of chaos, we can’t have another experience at the top of the Conservative Party. There is an alternative, and that is a stable Labor government. The country should have the right to have its say.
This developing story is being updated.