After just 45 days as Prime Minister of the UK, Liz Truss has resigned. Today, let’s talk about what happened, discuss why Truss resigned, and predict what is going to happen next! And, at the same time, let’s learn and practice some political and economic vocabulary!
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Rebellion (n) – action agaisnt those in authority
There was a political rebellion against her economic policies
Front-runner (n) – the person, animal, or organization that is most likely to win something
She is the front-runner in the school math competition
Mandate (n) – the authority given to an elected group of people, such as a government, to perform an action or govern a country
The government is hoping to win the election and get a mandate for their policies from the people
To cut (v) – to make something shorter, lower, smaller, etc
The singer promised to cut ticket prices for his next concert
Ill-advised (adj) – not wise, and likely to cause problems in the future
He made an ill-advised investment in the property market
To sell off (phrasal v) – to charge a low price for something to encourage people to buy it
The supermarket is selling off bananas at half price
On the brink of something (idiom) – if something is on the brink of a bad situation, it is likely that situation will happen soon
The country is on the brink of civil war
General election (n) – an election in which the people living in a country vote to choose the government
The general election will be held next year
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Liz Truss has resigned as the Prime Minister of the UK after only 45 days in power – the shortest time of any British leader in history. No one could have predicted her resignation at the beginning of September, when she was elected as leader of country by a majority of Conservative party members.
Yet, a series of terrible economic policies, bad decisions, and poor political management left Truss weak and ineffective. And after a rebellion by Conservative Party MPs, Truss finally made the decision to step down on October 20th.
Today, let’s take a deeper look into the reasons why Liz Truss resigned as Prime Minister and briefly discuss what will happen next! And, at the same time, let’s learn some useful political English vocabulary!
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What Happened to Liz Truss??
In July, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson resigned after years of controversy and scandals. Despite leading the Conservative party to their largest election win since 1987, Johnson lost the support of his MPs and was forced to resign.
He became the first Prime Minister to be punished by the police while leading the country for hosting parties during the strict Covid lockdowns (lockdowns that his own government introduced). Taxes were increased and the cost of living was becoming a crisis. Johnson tried to change government rules to stop his friends from being punished for corruption and, in general, the Conservative party was confused with a lack of focus and policies.
And the final issue, that directly led to a loss of confidence in Johnson, was a scandal over the former MP Chris Pincher who had assaulted people. The Johnson government knew about his behaviour but lied publicly about it.
After a lot of pressure, Johnson announced his resignation and the search for a new leader of the Conservative party (and Prime Minister of the UK) began.
After a complicated process, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak emerged as the two frontrunners. Rishi Sunak was the Chancellor under Boris Johnson (so the guy in charge of the economy) and was the most popular with politicians. Liz Truss was inspired by Margret Thatcher, promised tax cuts, and was the most popular with the Conservative party members.
At the beginning of September, Truss was announced as the winner of the party election and officially became the Prime Minister after meeting with Queen Elizabeth.
The leadership of Liz Truss started off with a tragedy – Queen Elizabeth II passed away just one day after meeting with Truss. The UK government effectively stopped for a few weeks while the country was conducting funeral arrangements for the former monarch. Truss was at the centre of many ceremonies, meaning that her first real acts as prime minister began towards the end of September.
One month later… and Truss has announced her resignation. In her own words, she stated “I cannot deliver the mandate on which I was elected.”
So, what happened in the last month? Why did Liz Truss resign?
Why Did Truss Resign?
Lack of Support
As I already mentioned, Truss replaced Boris Johnson as the leader of the Conservative party. And, due to the structure of British politics, the leader of the largest political party automatically becomes Prime Minister of the country. This means that Truss did not win a general election. Boris Johnson, despite his controversial behaviour, had a “mandate” from the whole UK after winning a general election… Truss only had support from just over half of the Conservative Party members.
Truss won the support of Conservative party supporters with an economic plan that only appealed to them. It was not good for the entire country, and not even good for all Conservative party supporters – but it was enough to get her elected. But as Prime Minister, there was no way her ideas would be popular nationally.
Moreover, she was not the first choice of her colleagues in parliament. Rishi Sunak received the most votes from Tory MPs, and many Conservatives were worried about Truss’s economic ideas and ability to govern the country. Her rivals, including Rishi Sunak, warned that Truss’s plan was risky, and the Conservatives would probably not win the next election with such policies… but it was what the party members wanted.
When Truss won the party election, she refused to give roles to anyone who had supported her rivals in the election. This meant many of the most experienced Conservative party politicians were pushed away, and experts criticised her government for having a lack of talent. And in just under a month, the two most senior officials in the UK government apart from Prime Minister – the chancellor and the home secretary – were both fired.
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Truss’s Economic Mess
The political crisis in the UK began with an economic mess. Truss inherited an already struggling economy: inflation was at record levels, the UK recovery from the pandemic was slower than expected, energy prices were incredibly high due to Russia’s war in Ukraine and an incredibly hot summer.
Truss was elected by Conservative party members on the promise of cutting tax… and that is exactly what she did. On September 23rd, Kwasi Kwarteng (the former chancellor of the UK) introduced the UK’s largest tax cuts in over 50 years.
The idea is that by cutting tax, people will have more money. As they have more money, they will spend more money… and therefore push the UK economy forward. The problem is… that this economic policy has never really worked.
The tax cuts were aimed to help the richest people in the UK and large corporations – and would have cost the UK around £45 billion over a 5-year period. Giving extra money to rich people does nothing to help the UK economy… as the people are already rich and will likely not spend anymore. Truss’s economic plan was described as “Trussonomics” – a reference to the economic ideas of former US President Ronald Reagan’s “Reaganomics.”
It quickly became clear that the tax cuts were ill advised. The Monday after the policy was announced, investors rejected the plans. International financial markets began to sell off UK assets, pushing the Great British Pound, the UK Currency, to a value of just $1.03 – the lowest ever level.
Investors also began selling UK government bonds – something that rarely happens as government bonds are usually considered safe investments. The sell-off was so extreme that the UK central bank, the Bank of England, was forced to purchase £65 billion of bonds to calm the markets and rescue the UK pension scheme (which was on the brink of collapse).
The International Monetary Fund publicly criticised the UK government’s policy – an unprecedented action against one of the world’s biggest and most influential economies. According to the IMF, “The nature of the UK measures will likely increase inequality.”
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Truss’s Political Mess
Although initially standing by the policies, then Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng announced a partial reverse of the policy on October 3rd. The government’s reputation had become so bad that Liz Truss was recorded as being the least popular Prime Minister in UK history, and in an attempt to rescue her time in office she sacked Kwarteng on October 14th.
His replacement, Jeremy Hunt, immediately reversed Truss’s economic plan and criticised her idea of borrowing more money to fund tax cuts. In the days before her resignation, there were articles across the media describing Liz Truss as powerless – and stating that Jeremy Hunt was now the unofficial Prime Minister.
One MP reportedly told the BBC that “Jeremy Hunt is de fact PM… I don’t see the point of [Truss].” Many Conservative party politicians believed that Truss’s reputation and authority would never recover.
On Monday, it was Jeremy Hunt, not Liz Truss, who stood up in parliament and announced the new plans. The image of her sitting silently next to someone who was removing everything she believed in was humiliating.
A few days later, the home secretary resigned after breaking a rule about emails… but during her resignation attacked the Prime Minister and her ideas. And the final issue came over a parliamentary vote on “fracking” – a method to extract gas from the ground. The Conservative MPs were told to vote a certain way, and there were scenes of MPs being physically pushed and forced to vote a certain way by officials. It was clear that no one in the government had control over the Conservative party anymore, and Truss had no choice but to resign.
What Comes Next?
The UK will have to choose another Prime Minister… the 3rd this year. However, it is inaccurate to say the UK gets to choose… instead it will the Conservative party MPs and members who elect the next leader.
Although I recorded an episode on the process to choose the new Prime Minister only a few months ago, it has changed. The new leader will be chosen by October 28th. Conservative MPs must first get the support of 100 other MPs to be eligible for the election. As there are 357 Tory MPs… this means a maximum of three candidates can be chosen. If there are at least 2 candidates left after all the MP’s votes are collected, then an online election will be held allowing Conservative party members around the country to vote.
I’m writing this episode on Saturday October 22nd… so what I’m about to say may be wildly out of date by the time you hear this episode. However, as I am writing, Rishi Sunak is the only candidate to have so far secured 100 nominations. He lost to Truss in the earlier election but was popular among the politicians. However, Sunak had issues around his wife (a billionaire who didn’t pay tax in the UK).
The first person to publicly enter the race to become Prime Minister was Penny Mourdant with around 21 supporters so far.
The biggest shock, however, is that there is a growing support for Boris Johnson to return as Prime Minister, just a few months after resigning. He flew back from a vacation after Truss’s resignation and reportedly sent his advisors a message saying “We are going to do this. I’m up for it.”
Opposition parties have called for a general election to be held. Labour party said that the “the British people deserve so much better than this revolving door of chaos.” However,… as the next election is not schedule until 2024… it seems unlikely the new Conservative leader will make this decision.
And there have also been calls for Truss to not use a fund given to former Prime Ministers. Former Prime Ministers are allowed to use up to £115,000 a year to run their offices and fund activities like international meetings… but as Truss was only in office for 45 days many people believe she shouldn’t use the money.
Finally, the UK economy is also uncertain. While the policy reversal has helped stop a complete economic collapse, there are a lot of issues. Inflation is terrible, UK energy prices are increasing at record rates, and the no one trusts the Conservatives.
Today, I have tried to explain why Liz Truss resigned as Prime Minister of the UK. Her record in office might be one of the worst in history: she will be remembered as only leading the country for 45 days, for being the least popular Prime Minister ever, and for nearly ruining the UK economy with her policies.
What happens next? No one knows… but I personally believe the UK needs a full general election. The people need to be given the choice over who the next leader of the country is – we can’t let a small number of MPs and Conservative Party members make more terrible decisions.
What do you think? Should Boris Johnson be Prime Minister again? Who is the worst leader in your country’s history?