4 min read
How Liz Truss failed to get any trust in her ability to govern the UK
Domagoj Fuk

Only 45 days after becoming the prime minister of the United Kingdom, Liz Truss announced her resignation stating “I recognize I cannot deliver the mandate on which I was elected by Conservative party”. The announcement of her resignation marked the end of Liz Truss’s time as prime minister and gave her the infamous distinction of governing for the smallest duration in the history of Great Britain. Her announcement was a dramatic U-turn from the day before in which she pushed back against demands for her resignation, saying defiantly “I’m a fighter not a quitter”. The speed of her downfall demands a question: how did it all go so wrong, so quickly for Liz Truss? 

Truss, the former foreign minister under her predecessor, Boris Johnson, tried to profile herself as a new Margaret Thatcher, with plans for radical reforms intended to cut taxes. Rishi Sunak meanwhile warned about this plan, but his service as Chancellor of the Exchequer (finance minister) made him an unpopular candidate in the eyes of party members. Truss was more popular in their eyes, and this ultimately decided the vote in her favour, even if many members of the Parliament (MPs) disliked her and voted for Sunak in the last round. Unfortunately for her, the general public was not convinced of her abilities. 

From the start of her mandate, things seemed to go downhill with every passing moment. Just two days from her election, the reign of Elisabeth II ended by her sudden death, which left the nation in mourning for ten days. After the resumption of normality in political life, her Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng delivered the so-called “Mini budget”. The “Mini budget” proposed tax cuts, some expected and some not, made to relieve the economy. However, the expected cost of the plan, which was estimated to cost the treasury 45 billion Pounds, was not addressed by Truss and her cabinet. She even refused to publish the analysis of the budget while stating that no cuts in spending will be made. This refusal to clarify the budget provoked a reaction on the markets and plunged the Pound to a very low position relative to the Dollar. Borrowing costs for the UK also spiked. This pushed the Bank of England to react and prevent further damage. 

Irreversible damage was unfortunately done, and cracks started to widen. Liz Truss’s popularity fell in the polls along with the Conservative party. Simultaneously, Labour’s polling was rising. The upcoming Conservative party conference also did not help her. Some MPs openly criticised her tax plan. This provoked her reaction and she decided to revert on the issue of top tax rate, which she planned to lower from 45% to 40%. Her reputation and authority, already weak, only got worse. 

Truss stood firm on her plan not to cut public spending, but it proved futile as the markets reacted negatively again. She then decided to sack Kwarteng and replace him with Jeremy Hunt. Hunt stated that a reversal of the “Mini budget” was made, which included removal of most planned tax cuts and only limited cuts in other areas. Along with this, he proposed a scale back on the support of energy bills. Although the markets calmed, this directly went against what Truss said earlier and rocked the confidence in her even more. It was also seen as a sign of the intention to remove her from office. Polls proved to be even more catastrophic for her, as she was perceived to be the worst prime minister of the United Kingdom since polling began. 

Then came a fatal blow for her on Wednesday 20th of October. This is how it went in a chronological order. Truss stood firm on her plan in stark contrast to Hunt’s previous statement regarding the reduction in scale of the “mini budget”, and also sacked her home secretary Suella Braverman over a disagreement. In the House of Commons, the Labour party proposed a vote on fracking. Unlike many members of the Conservatives, Truss is not against fracking. After some statements of Conservative MPs not to block the vote put forward by Labour because of their unfavourable opinion on fracking, Truss decided to frame the vote as a confidence issue. This move would imply that if any MPs from the Conservative party did not vote with the government their whip would be removed. This removal would essentially mean they would not be part of the party anymore. But, if enough of the members did not cast their vote as the government, then the government would lose confidence and a new one would have to take its place. 

An ensuing chaos erupted and seeing that she did not have the power to remove any dissident MPs, Truss backed down. But the final outcome was a revolt by over thirty members of the party who abstained from voting on the issue. Alongside this, alleged misconduct against some conservative MPs will be investigated. After the vote, Truss reversed the decision on the confidence vote and the MPs who did not vote in accordance with the government would face consequences. Unfortunately for her, Truss again realised that her power was not enough to kick out thirty members, among whom are Boris Johnson and Theresa May, both former prime ministers. She backed down once more. 

The next morning would see her downfall as annoyed members of the party started giving in letters of no confidence en masse to a specialised committee, called the 1922 committee. Sir Graham Brady, the leader of this committee, put these letters in front of Truss and told her to resign her post around noon. At 1:30 PM GMT in a televised address speaking outside 10 Downing Street, Truss announced her resignation. A new leadership election is to take place in the upcoming week. 

This leaves the United Kingdom without a government in time of great economic upheaval. The Conservative party is left to find a new prime minister to tackle the issues. This will not be an easy task as the leadership of the party will be put in the hands of a fifth leader in a period of just six years. Given the fact that the Conservatives have a governing majority and thus any elections are unlikely to occur, the candidate selected by the Conservatives to be prime minister will also face aspirations on the legitimacy of his/her mandate to govern. It remains to see if the successor will improve the situation or continue the downfall of both the party and the UK, which remains in a state of crisis hit hard first by the COVID-19 crisis and now the energy crisis. This instability has pushed many citizens to the brink and made them demand change, either in the government conduct or in elections. Truss’s successor will face an uphill battle to push through his/her proposed agenda effectively and will need to gain momentum early on. After all, Truss’s short stint as prime minister shows just how quickly political support can evaporate with an ineffective start.

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