The whirlwind of chaos that has gripped British politics for most of 2022 swept another Prime Minister out of office on 20 October when Liz Truss resigned after being in post for just 45 days.
She was only elected as Leader of the Conservative Party, beating former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, on 6 September after a two month long leadership contest following Boris Johnson’s resignation.
The turmoil surrounding her Premiership started on 23 September when her initial choice as Chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, delivered a mini-budget containing pledges of wide-ranging tax cuts alongside a huge programme of financial support for consumers and businesses facing rising energy costs. This created an estimated £60bn hole in the public finances which spooked the markets – especially without the normal independent analysis of spending and revenue from the Office for Budget Responsibility.
The pound crashed and bond yields jumped, forcing the Bank of England to step in with an emergency bond purchase scheme to shore up pension funds destabilised by the sudden volatility.
Less than two weeks later Kwarteng was forced to resign and was replaced by former health secretary and leadership contender Jeremy Hunt. He immediately reversed almost all of the Truss/Kwarteng tax cutting plans, seriously undermining Truss’s credibility.
On Wednesday 19 October the newly appointed Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, resigned, ostensibly over a breach of rules concerning the use of personal email accounts for government business. This appeared to be little more than a smokescreen as Braverman’s resignation letter focussed on another policy reversal by Truss, this time over immigration. Braverman was committed to policies to severely limit immigration which were now being ditched by Truss.
In the evening a vote in the House of Commons on fracking descended into farce when the government kept changing its mind on whether it was an issue of confidence amid allegations of Tory MPs being pushed into the voting lobbies in support of the government by ministers. Truss herself failed to vote.
At lunchtime on Thursday she resigned.
In the wake of her resignation, the Conservatives announced that a new leadership election would be rushed through by the end of next week. Whoever wins will be the third occupant of 10 Downing Street this year and the fifth Conservative Prime Minister in six years.
Report by David Worsfold.