Outlasted by a Lettuce: The Shortest Prime Minister

Only one day after Liz Truss announced she was ‘a fighter, not a quitter’, she has resigned. Following Boris Johnson’s resignation, the Conservative party started a seven-week party leader election, in which Truss was triumphant over Rishi Sunak. Truss remained in her role as Prime Minister for 44 days, and her premiership will mark her as the shortest PM the UK has ever had.

What happened during her time in 10 Downing Street? Truss was the last PM to be appointed by Queen Elizabeth II, followed by Her Majesty’s death two days later. Being voted in during a cost of living and energy crisis, Truss announced fewer taxes, and aimed to stabilise the U.K. economy as early as ‘day one’. These tax cuts were intended to help the general public and allow for companies to keep larger portions of their own earnings, allowing them to better develop themselves and theoretically making the UK look more desirable to outside investors. In addition to this, she also introduced the Energy Price Guarantee , capping energy and gas bills, with the intention of each household saving up to £700 through the winter. None of this solved the cost-of-living crisis, and the value of the GBP majorly dropped, putting her and her Cabinet under significant pressure. Kwasi Kwarteng was fired as Chancellor of the Exchequer, and replaced with Jeremy Hunt. However, none of these new ideas were enough to solve financial difficulty across Britain, and further added to the duress her government was in.

Outside of the Conservative party, the reception to her tenure and resignation have been largely negative. Both the SNP and Labour party have criticised the present state of the Conservatives, and further insisted for another general election, while Nicola Sturgeon has continued her pursuit for Scottish independence. Beyond government opposition, the general public, newspapers, and tabloids have also joined in on mocking Truss. A prime example of this is the tabloid The Daily Star, which started a livestream on the 14th of October featuring a wet lettuce, wondering if it would outlast the remainder of Truss’s tenure (it did). Presently, the Conservative party appears fragmented, with prediction for the next general election estimating a loss for the majority of their seats. With the possibility of the next General Election only a few years away, the next PM has limited time to prevent the possible loss of hundreds of seats.

Following her resignation, the contest for the next Conservative party leader (and thus Prime Minister) happened immediately, in which Rishi Sunak emerged as the sole candidate able to get enough votes. Unlike previous party leader elections- which were decided by approximately 172,000 Conservative party members– Sunak was voted solely by fellow MPs, being unelected by the people. Previously holding the role of Chancellor of the Exchequer from 2020-2022, Sunak has previous experience managing the UK economy, and hopefully the new financial mindset needed to fix the cost-of-living crisis. Sunak entered no debates during this election contest as he had no opposition, effectively meaning that he goes into Parliament with a lack of mandate and no indication as to whether the previous policies that failed to get him elected will remain the same.

As for Liz Truss, she will be able to claim an annual allowance of up to £115k a year under the Public Duty Costs Allowance. This policy was announced by the then-PM John Major and gives previous PMs the annual allowance upon the end of their tenure, as long as they remain active in public life. Liz Truss will continue to serve as an MP for Southwest Norfolk and will reside within Parliament as a backbencher.

By Andrew Taylor [he/him]

[Image Credit: The Daily Star]

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