After taking over for Boris Johnson early last month, British Prime Minister Liz Truss announced Thursday she is resigning as soon as her Conservative Party can find a replacement.
She said she notified King Charles III of her decision.
Truss assumed office on Sept. 6, two days before the death of Queen Elizabeth II. In the weeks since, she has faced challenges from lawmakers and the public over her economic plan, which has failed to gain traction.
The plan unveiled by the government last month triggered financial turmoil and a political crisis that has seen the replacement of Truss’ Treasury chief, multiple policy U-turns and a breakdown of discipline in the governing Conservative Party.
Conservative lawmaker Simon Hoare said the government was in disarray.
“Nobody has a route plan. It’s all sort of hand-to-hand fighting on a day-to-day basis,” he told the BBC on Thursday. He said Truss had “about 12 hours” to turn the situation around.
Lawmakers' anger grew after a Wednesday evening vote over fracking for shale gas — a practice that Truss wants to resume despite opposition from many Conservatives — produced chaotic scenes in Parliament.
With Conservatives holding a large parliamentary majority, an opposition call for a fracking ban was easily defeated. But there were displays of anger in the House of Commons, with party whips accused of using heavy-handed tactics to gain votes.
Chris Bryant, a lawmaker from the opposition Labour Party, said he “saw members being physically manhandled ... and being bullied.” Conservative officials denied there was manhandling.
Rumors swirled that Conservative Chief Whip Wendy Morton, who is responsible for party discipline, and her deputy had resigned. Hours later, Truss’ office said both remained in their jobs.
Newspapers that usually support the Conservatives were vitriolic. An editorial in the Daily Mail was headlined: “The wheels have come off the Tory clown car.”
International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan, sent onto the airwaves Thursday morning to defend the government, insisted the administration was providing “stability.” But she was unable to guarantee Truss would lead the party into the next election.
“At the moment, I think that’s the case," she said.
With opinion polls giving the Labour Party a large and growing lead, many Conservatives now believe their only hope of avoiding electoral oblivion is to replace Truss. But they were divided about how to get rid of her, and over who should replace her.
The party is keen to avoid another divisive leadership contest like the race a few months ago that saw Truss defeat ex-Treasury chief Rishi Sunak. Among potential replacements — if only Conservative lawmakers can agree — are Sunak, House of Commons leader Penny Mordaunt and newly appointed Treasury chief Jeremy Hunt.