British Prime Minister Liz Truss resigned on Thursday – bowing to the inevitable after a tumultuous six-week term in which her policies sparked turmoil in financial markets and an insurgency in her party erased her authority.
She said: “I cannot fulfill the mandate to which I have been elected.”
Just a day earlier, Mrs. Truss had vowed to stay in power, saying she was “a fighter and not a quitter”. But Mrs Truss could not hold out any longer after a high-ranking minister left her government amid a barrage of criticism and a vote in the House of Commons just days after she was forced to give up many of her economic policies plunged into chaos and bitterness. .
Her departure leaves a divided conservative party looking for a leader to unite its warring factions.
A growing number of lawmakers had called for Ms Truss to resign after weeks of unrest over her economic plan. The plan unveiled by the government last month sparked financial turmoil and a political crisis that has led to the replacement of Mrs Truss’ Treasury chief, multiple policy changes and a collapse of discipline in the ruling Conservative Party.
Earlier, conservative lawmaker Simon Hoare said the government was in disarray.
“Nobody has a roadmap. It’s kind of hand-to-hand fighting from day to day,” he told the BBC on Thursday. He said Ms. Truss had “about 12 hours” to turn the situation around.
In her office at 10 Downing Street, Mrs Truss had a hastily arranged meeting with Graham Brady, a high-ranking Conservative lawmaker who oversees leadership challenges. Mr Brady was tasked with assessing whether the Prime Minister still has the support of Tory MPs – and it appeared she did not.
A growing number of Conservative MPs had called on her on Thursday to resign and end the chaos.
“It’s time for the prime minister to leave,” lawmaker Miriam Cates said. Another, Steve Double, said of Ms. Truss, “She’s not up to the task, unfortunately.” Legislator Ruth Edwards said “it is not responsible for the party to let it remain in power.”
Legislators’ anger grew after a Wednesday night vote on fracking for shale gas – a practice Ms Truss wants to resume despite opposition from many conservatives – sparked chaotic scenes in parliament.
With Conservatives holding a large parliamentary majority, an opposition call for a ban on fracking was easily rejected. But there were displays of anger in the House of Commons, with party whips accused of using heavy-handed tactics to win votes.
Chris Bryant, a lawmaker for the opposition Labor Party, said he saw “members being physically abused … and bullied.” Conservative officials denied any manipulation.
There were rumors that Conservative chief Whip Wendy Morton, who is responsible for party discipline, and her deputy had resigned. Hours later, Mrs. Truss’s office said both had kept their jobs.
Newspapers that usually support the conservatives were vicious. An editorial in the Daily Mail read: “The wheels have come off the Tory clown car.”
International Trade Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan, who was sent on air Thursday morning to defend the government, insisted that the government ensure “stability”. But she could not guarantee that Mrs. Truss would lead the party to the next election.
“Right now I think that’s the case,” she said.
With opinion polls giving the Labor Party a large and growing lead, many Conservatives now believe their only hope of avoiding electoral oblivion is to replace Ms Truss. But they were divided on how to get rid of her and who to replace her.
The party is keen to avoid another divisive leadership contest, such as the one a few months ago in which Ms. Truss defeated ex-treasury chief Rishi Sunak. Potential replacements – if only Conservative lawmakers can agree – are Mr Sunak, House of Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt, and newly appointed Treasury chief Jeremy Hunt.
National elections do not have to be held until 2024.
With a major blow, Home Secretary Suella Braverman resigned on Wednesday after breaking the rules by sending an official document from her personal email account. She used her letter of resignation to reprimand Ms Truss, saying she was “concerned about the direction of this government.”
“Government business depends on people taking responsibility for their mistakes,” she said in a thinly veiled dig at Ms Truss.
Ms. Braverman was replaced as Secretary of the Interior, the minister responsible for immigration and law and order, by former Secretary of State Grant Shapps, a prominent supporter of her defeated rival Mr. sunak.
The dramatic developments came days after Ms Truss fired her Treasury chief, Kwasi Kwarteng, on Friday after the economic package the couple unveiled on September 23 shocked financial markets and sparked an economic and political crisis.
The plan’s £45bn ($50bn) in unfunded tax cuts caused turmoil in financial markets, raising the value of the pound and increasing the cost of borrowing from the UK government. The Bank of England was forced to intervene to prevent the crisis from spreading to the wider economy and endangering pension funds.
On Monday, Mr Kwarteng’s replacement, Mr Hunt, canceled almost all of Ms Truss’s tax cuts, along with her flagship energy policy and her pledge not to cut government spending. He said the government needs to save billions of pounds and that “many tough decisions” need to be made before drafting a medium-term fiscal plan on Oct. 31.
Ms Truss spoke to lawmakers for the first time since the U-turn, apologized Wednesday and admitted she’d made mistakes during her six weeks in office, but insisted that by changing course she had “taken responsibility and done the right thing.” had made decisions in the interest of the economic stability of the country.”
Opposition lawmakers shouted “Resign!” as she spoke in the House of Commons.
Labor leader Keir Starmer accused the Conservatives of lacking “the fundamental patriotic duty to keep the British people out of their own pathetic quarrels”.
He said that, amid a worsening cost of living crisis, “Britain can no longer afford the chaos of the Conservatives. We need general elections now.”
This story was reported by The Associated Press.