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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Liz Truss resigns as UK prime minister

Prime Minister President Liz Truss of the United Kingdom meets with President Joe Biden during the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York on Sept. 21, 2022.

By Mark Landler and Stephen Castle

Prime Minister Liz Truss announced on Thursday that she would resign, just days after her new finance minister reversed virtually all of her planned tax cuts, sweeping away a free-market fiscal agenda that promised a radical policy shift for Britain but instead plunged the country into weeks of economic and political turmoil.

“I cannot deliver the mandate on which I was elected,” she said in brief remarks outside Downing Street.

She said she had informed King Charles III that she was resigning as leader of the Conservative Party, and that she would remain leader and prime minister until a successor is chosen within a week.

Her departure, after only six weeks in office — the shortest tenure ever for a British prime minister — was a shockingly rapid fall from power, and throws her Conservative Party into further disarray, following the messy departure of Boris Johnson from Downing Street over the summer.

The announcement came minutes after Truss held an unscheduled meeting with Graham Brady, the head of a group of Conservative lawmakers known as the 1922 Committee that plays an influential role in selecting the party leader. One week is an extraordinarily quick turnaround for a leadership election, and the procedure for selecting Truss’ successor was unclear. It will be presided over by Brady, who told reporters that party members would be consulted about who the new leader will be. But he gave few details on the process and left open several scenarios.

Among the leading candidates to succeed Truss are Rishi Sunak, the former chancellor of the Exchequer who lost out to Truss in the party leadership campaign over the summer; Penny Mordaunt, leader of the lower house of Parliament; and Ben Wallace, the defense secretary Truss’ political viability had become tenuous after her proposals for broad unfunded tax cuts roiled markets and sent the pound’s value plunging. She suffered a grave blow on Monday, when her newly appointed chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, said that the government was undoing the last vestiges of Truss’ tax proposals.

That announcement constituted one of the most dramatic reversals in modern British political history, and a humiliating repudiation of Truss’ leadership. In recent weeks, support for her Conservative Party had collapsed in opinion polls and unrest among its lawmakers intensified, undermining her ability to remain in office.

Hunt also said that the government would end its huge state intervention to cap energy prices in April, replacing it with a still-undefined program that he said would promote energy efficiency but that could increase uncertainty for households facing rising gas and electricity prices.

Further chaos followed on Wednesday, when Truss was jeered by opposition lawmakers while answering questions in Parliament, and hours later was forced to fire of one of her most senior Cabinet ministers, Home Secretary Suella Braverman, over a security breach.

Braverman acknowledged having committed a technical breach of security rules, involving a government document that she sent to a lawmaker in Parliament through her personal email. But in her letter of resignation to Truss, she said she had “concerns about the direction of this government,” accusing it of breaking pledges to voters and, in particular, failing to curb immigration.

On Wednesday, a vote on whether to ban hydraulic fracking erupted into a near melee, with accusations that ministers manhandled Conservative lawmakers and threatened them with retribution if they did not vote to support Truss.

The British pound and government bond prices inched higher after the announcement, but the market’s reaction was muted. While the change brings a firm end to Truss’ tax-cutting economic agenda, it introduces even more political instability to Britain at a time when households and businesses are grappling with a cost-of-living crisis.

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