Picture this – it is the 6th of September 2022 – you are Liz Truss – just elected as Conservative party leader and the third-ever female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom following the resignation of the infamous Boris Johnson. Hopeful of restoring a functional government after a barrage of resignations left your country in socio-political and financial uncertainty. Your slogan – “Getting Britain Moving”. You have a freshly appointed cabinet you trust to restore the country’s ever-growing need for functioning government. What could possibly go wrong?
In short, everything. Everything goes wrong. Truss’ time in Downing Street was a record 45 days. Put into context, the second shortest tenure as a British Prime Minister is held by George Canning, who held post for 119 days in 1827 and died while occupying the role. In this article, I take a deep look into what went wrong for Liz Truss and her short-lived government, how things got sour quick and what’s next for the United Kingdom.
In all fairness, luck didn’t fair Liz Truss’ way from the get-go. Just two days after starting her tenure, the longest-reigning monarch in British history, Queen Elizabeth II, passed away, leading to a change in the monarchy that ascended King Charles III to the throne. Also, tensions between Russia and Ukraine were ever-going, along with a cost-of-living crisis affecting the whole of Europe. It was clear that she would be thrown into the deep end. It was either sink or swim.
In all fairness, luck didn’t fair Liz Truss’ way from the get-go.
Due to the noise surrounding the Queen’s passing, Liz Truss’ first two weeks in power went mainly unnoticed. However, her first stern decision proved to start the domino effect of what was to come. Seventeen days into her tenure, a mini-budget was set to be unveiled. A budget meant to revolve around kick-starting the economy and making the pound a world-beating currency. Based on trickle-down economics. On paper, it should have allowed the richest to receive a tax cut, allowing them to spend that money on needs and wants. That money would trickle down to the benefit of all members of society. However, what happens is that the richest get more money, but as they already have whatever needs and wants they desire, no money gets trickled down. Hence, ‘the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.
The result, however? Things which were unseen for 50 years. The pound fell to a record low against the dollar. The mini-budget forced: the pound to crash, mortgages to be withdrawn, and pensions to nearly disappear. A budget slaughtered by financial markets, which left the Bank of England forced to intervene to calm the financial crisis. This led to £300 billion lost in the first month of Liz Truss’ tenure as PM, a 10% approval rate – according to a YouGov poll – lowest ever for a sitting PM on record and a YouGov poll published on the 29th September shown a record 33-point lead for Keir Starmer’s Labour Party, the biggest for any party since the 1990s. The Conservatives would only win three seats if an election were held that day, a massive reduction from the present 357, according to the Daily Mail.
In an interview with the BBC, Liz Truss affirmed that she was committed to abolishing the 45p income tax rate for higher earners. However, a day later, Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng U-turned plans to scrap the 45p income tax rate. Described by the BBC as “one of the most spectacular policy U-turns of modern times”. Kwarteng was later sacked as chancellor as Prime Minister Liz Truss junked vital parts of their economic plan. Followed by the infamous Suella Braverman, who resigned due to “sharing secure information from private email” while also being critical of Truss’ leadership. Braverman was quoted as ‘dreaming’ of deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda. Discourse that took place at a Tory conference.
Mounting pressure finally twisted Truss’ arm. A day after stating, “I am a fighter, not a quitter”, in PMQs, Liz Truss resigned from her post as Prime Minister. The shortest-ever sitting Prime Minister in British history. A woman who dreamt of leading with an iron fist like Thatcher but having the capability of a Johnson. As comical as her tenure seemed to be and to rub more salt into Truss’ self-inflicted wounds, the British newspaper Daily Star live-streamed a lettuce head to see if it would rot before her time as Prime Minister came to an end. To nobody’s shock, the lettuce reigned supreme.
That leaves the ever-pertinent question: what’s next for the once proud and great pillar of democracy, the United Kingdom? For starters, the UK was due to endure another Conservative leadership contest, whose irony is that it was meant to be a fourth the length of the one held last September. Boris Johnson was eyeing the post for a while, which would have opened a bigger can of worms, but that proved to be an unsuccessful venture for the shamed PM. However, due to a lack of contestation, Rishi Sunak has emerged as the UK’s next Prime Minister.
Starmer continues to call for a snap general election, as was expected. All the while, Labour are still going strong in the polls, and the Tory party’s ineptness is continuously helping his campaign for “A Fairer, Greener Future”. Furthermore, this current government mandate will run out in 2024. Hence a struggling Conservative party would be foolish to call one now. Considering the British democratic system instilled presently, it is unlikely we will be seeing a general election anytime soon.
Henceforth, all eyes turn to Rishi Sunak. No honeymoon period is expected as he must hit the ground running to reverse the much damage done in the past month and a half. One thing remains – worrying times for Britain.