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Liz Truss announces resignation after just 45 days as prime minister

Leadership election within the next week - as Keir Starmer demands general election

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Thursday 20 October 2022 16:04 BST
Watch in full: Liz Truss resigns as PM after just 45 days in Downing Street
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Liz Truss has announced that she is to resign as prime minister just six weeks after taking office.

The dramatic announcement outside the door to 10 Downing Street came shortly after the PM requested a meeting with the chair of the backbench 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady.

An election for the leadership of the Conservative party will be completed by 28 October and Ms Truss will remain as prime minister until a new leader is chosen.

Sir Graham, who oversees leadership elections, said it was his expectation that Conservative party members will get the final vote on the new leader unless MPs coalesce behind a single candidate for a coronation.

The breakneck timetable would require any ballot to be conducted online in a matter of a day or two, but will ensure the new PM is in place in time for chancellor Jeremy Hunt’ s crucial 31 October statement setting out the government’s tax and spend plans.

It is understood that Mr Hunt will not stand in the contest. Among those tipped for a bid are Mr Sunak, leader of the Commons Penny Mordaunt and former home secretary Suella Braverman, with some MPs calling on Boris Johnson to put himself forward.

Do you want a general election?

Many MPs will want to avoid a repeat of this summer’s divisive election by the membership, either by ensuring that only one candidate is nominated or by securing agreement that the second-placed candidate in parliamentary rounds of voting pulls out to avoid a members’ vote.

The leaders of the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties demanded an immediate general election, insisting that there will be no mandate from voters for a third Tory PM in the space of two months.

In a brief statement at a lectern in Downing Street, Ms Truss said she accepted that she “cannot deliver the mandate” on which she was elected.

She spoke to King Charles III this morning to notify him of her decision to quit as Tory party leader, before requesting a meeting with Sir Graham, who acts as representative of backbench MPs.

Expectations that Ms Truss had decided to stand down were fuelled when the meeting was joined by deputy prime minister Therese Coffey and Conservative chair Sir Jake Berry.

Shortly after 1pm, Ms Truss emerged from the famous black door of No 10 dressed in a dark blue dress.

She said: “We’ve agreed that there will be a leadership election to be completed within the next week.

“This will ensure that we remain on a path to deliver our fiscal plan and maintain our country’s economic stability and national security.

“I will remain as prime minister until a successor has been chosen.”

Asked if party members will be included in the process of choosing the leader, Sir Graham told reporters: “That is the expectation.”

But he indicated that MPs may present the Tory faithful with only a single choice: “The party rules say there will be two candidates unless there is only one candidate.”

With her husband Hugh O’Leary alongside her, Ms Truss said she came into office “at a time of great economic and international instability” when families and businesses were worried about paying bills and Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine was threatening European security.

She said the UK had been “held back for too long by low economic growth”

Ms Truss said she had “delivered on energy bills and on cutting national insurance (and) set out a vision for a low tax, high growth economy that would take advantage of the freedoms of Brexit”.

But she added: “I recognise though, given the situation, I cannot deliver the mandate on which I was elected by the Conservative Party.”

Her resignation followed a day of chaos on Wednesday during which Ms Truss lost her home secretary Suella Braverman and was forced to persuade chief whip Wendy Morton not to walk out of her government.

Today’s announcement, coming just 45 days after Ms Truss was named as successor to Boris Johnson on 6 September, means that she will become the shortest-serving PM in British history, beating George Canning who died after 119 days in office in 1827.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer issued a demand for an immediate election once a new Tory leader is in place.

“The Conservative Party has shown it no longer has a mandate to govern.,” he said. “After 12 years of Tory failure, the British people deserve so much better than this revolving door of chaos.”

Starmer added: “The Tories cannot respond to their latest shambles by yet again simply clicking their fingers and shuffling the people at the top without the consent of the British people. They do not have a mandate to put the country through yet another experiment; Britain is not their personal fiefdom to run how they wish.

“The British public deserve a proper say on the country’s future. They must have the chance to compare the Tories’ chaos with Labour’s plans to sort out their mess, grow the economy for working people and rebuild the country for a fairer, greener future. We must have a chance at a fresh start. We need a general election - now.”

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey also called for a general election.

“We don’t need another Conservative prime minister lurching from crisis to crisis,” he tweeted.

“We need a general election now and the Conservatives out of power.”

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