‘Chaotic scenes’: how did Liz Truss’s premiership come to an end?

Prime minister got off to a strong start in ‘combative’ PMQs but hit the skids following departure of home secretary

Liz Truss outside Downing Street after announcing resignation
Liz Truss outside Downing Street after announcing her resignation
(Image credit: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Liz Truss has become the shortest-serving UK prime minister on record after resigning as Tory leader following just 44 days in office.

In a statement outside Downing Street this afternoon,Truss said that she could not “deliver the mandate on which I was elected by the Conservative Party”. She and 1922 Committee chair Graham Brady had “agreed that there will be a leadership election to be completed within the next week”, which would “ensure that we remain on a path to deliver our fiscal plans and maintain our country’s economic stability and national security”, Truss said.

Her 89-second resignation speech followed what The Telegraph described as “a day of political upheaval and chaotic scenes in Parliament” that left Truss “clinging on to power”. After insisting yesterday that she was a “fighter not a quitter”, the “level of chaos in government, Parliament and the Conservative Party” swiftly led “Truss to a point where she knows she can’t continue”, said the BBC’s political correspondent Nick Eardley.

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What do the papers say?

The final 24 hours of the Truss premiership began with a PMQs in which she sounded “confident and combative”, said The Guardian’s Andrew Sparrow. Underlining her commitment to the triple lock on pensions “meant at least she was on the front foot at one point”.

But Truss’s standing suffered another major blow shortly after PMQs, with the announcement that Suella Braverman had quit as home secretary.

Braverman’s resignation letter contained “thinly veiled” digs at Truss, said the BBC. “I have made a mistake; I accept responsibility; I resign,” wrote Braverman, who also criticised Truss’s stance on issues including reducing migration numbers.

If Truss’s “grasp on power was precarious” before Braverman quit, her premiership from that point looked “doomed”, wrote The Times’ policy editor Oliver Wright. The resignation fractured an “already fragile coalition”, with many members of the European Research Group fearing that having junked the right-wing economic policies of her mini-budget, Truss was also “about to jettison all the other policies for which they supported Brexit”, said Wright.

In a sign of her “desperately weakened position” amid the “unprecedented chaos”, Truss appointed one of her “arch-critics”, Remain-supporter Grant Shapps, as her new home secretary, said Politico.

As Wednesday drew towards a close, Truss then turned “a minor vote” on fracking into “a make-or-break test of her authority”, said Bloomberg. But she “managed it in such clumsy fashion that she may have convinced most of her party that her time is up”.

When Truss’s climate minister did “yet another U-turn” to say the vote would not be deemed a confidence vote, “it seemed the PM’s entire whipping operation had been decimated too”, amid reports that the chief whip and deputy had quit, said i news’s political editor Paul Waugh. And while those reports proved to be premature, few believed that Truss could “make it to Halloween”.

What next?

The key problem for the Tories is that the party isn’t “bitterly divided and unable to reliably pull together parliamentary majorities” because it was led by Truss, said the Financial Times’s Stephen Bush. It was led by Truss “because it is bitterly divided”.

The party’s “rows over tax and spend have not been quelled by the market panic caused by Trussonomics, and its adherents will be a challenge for the next Conservative leader, whoever they may be”, Bush predicted.

This leader, “if they can find someone who can unite the party – and that is a massive if – will then face a huge challenge around legitimacy”, said the BBC’s political editor Chris Mason.

Truss’s “resignation speech proves why she was not up to the job”, tweeted The Atlantic’s Tom McTague. “Was there a single thought in there, a sentence that conveyed an emotion or a reflection, even an attempt at a narrative to explain the last six weeks to an angry country? No. Appalling.”

As the hunt began for Truss’s replacement, The Times’s Francis Elliott related a story told by Truss’s brother about how, when playing Monopoly as a child, the now ousted PM would create “some special system” because she “had to win”.

Now, “the woman who ‘had to win’ instead leaves office as Britain’s shortest-serving prime minister, her project and reputation in ruins”, wrote Elliot. “Game over.”

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