After six disastrous weeks in power, and on the heels of one of the more shambolic days in recent political memory, U.K. prime minister Liz Truss announced on Thursday that she was stepping down, making her the shortest-serving British PM ever. Below are the latest updates about the ongoing mess as it develops.
Sunak, BoJo Have Most Public Support So Far
The Telegraph is tracking the prime ministerial contenders’ pledges of support from the Tory Members of Parliament who will decide the next Prime Minister. As of Thursday evening, Rishi Sunak was at 29, Boris Johnson at 24, and Penny Mourdant, who finished in third after Truss and Sunak last month, is at 11.
The paper notes that Sunak, the oddsmakers’ favorite, has “hardly said a word in public” since he lost to Truss six weeks ago. Having predicted that her economic plans would end in disaster, it appears he is attempting to take the high road by not appearing smug about her fate.
A Nice Chaotic Welcome for King Charles III
Queen Elizabeth II, who died in September, reigned for so long that she overlapped with 15 prime ministers, from Winston Churchill to Liz Truss (barely). She ascended to the crown at age 27, which gave her an enormous head start over her son in this regard; King Charles III will turn 74 next month. But maybe, with enough political turmoil in the U.K., he can catch up.
There will be a new PM very soon
Unlike the Tory leadership battle that brought Liz Truss into power, the race to succeed her will not be a drawn-out affair.
Who’s the favorite to succeed Truss?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Boris Johnson is vying to return to the top job. But beyond him, the group of possible successors so far looks familiar from last month’s leadership contest. But uncertainty is the name of the game right now, particularly because, as the New York Times notes, the method for selecting the next leader is up in the air. (One certainty: It will be a Tory Party decision, and regular British voters will not be consulted.)
Sky News reports that Rishi Sunak, who served as Chancellor of the Exchequer under Johnson before his dramatic resignation, is the oddsmakers’ favorite. Sunak, who remains a member of Parliament, was the runner-up to Truss in last month’s leadership contest, and must be feeling pretty smug after warning Truss last month that “borrowing your way out of inflation is a fairy tale.”
Another contender is former Defense Secretary Penny Mordaunt, who gained surprising momentum last month before finishing in third behind Truss and Sunak.
Then there’s Johnson, whom oddsmakers rate as the third or fourth favorite, but who will need to overcome a lot of ill will after paving the way for the Truss era with his duplicitous personal behavior.
Current Defense Secretary Ben Wallace is another fairly serious contender. He declined to enter last month’s contest despite pleas for him to do so, but may not pass up another chance. Wallace has drawn widespread praise for his firm policy on the war in Ukraine.
A certain someone may be plotting a comeback:
Could the last PM — who was done in by a relentless string of scandals, most notably “Partygate” — actually return to power? Within the Conservative Party, opinions on the matter seemed decidedly mixed.
Johnson, who is still under investigation by a Parliamentary committee, has been conveniently absent during the last few weeks of political upheaval, supposedly on a Caribbean vacation. But he’s reportedly heading back to the U.K. this weekend and has been following all the drama on WhatsApp.
Star lettuce celebrates victory
At this time of crisis, British eyes turned to the Daily Star’s “lettuce cam,” which has been tracking whether a head of lettuce the tabloid bought at Tesco last week would last longer than Truss’s leadership. Naturally, the vegetable was in a jubilant mood on Thursday.
“I cannot deliver the mandate on which I was elected,” she said in a short statement outside 10 Downing Street.
Truss’s proposal for massive, unfunded tax cuts had led to financial chaos and inspired a revolt within her own party, which forced her to sack her Chancellor of the Exchequer in charge of the budget and reverse course on almost all of her signature policies.
She will serve until a new Conservative leader is chosen by a party committee, a decision that is expected within a week. (Perhaps this time, the committee will have a bit more foresight than when it selected Truss over the more moderate Rishi Sunak.)