Outlasted by a lettuce. What comes next?

Another resignation. Another Conservative party election. Just a week to find the next prime minister, tasked with the challenge of navigating the UK through the current situation of economic turmoil.

What has happened?

Liz Truss resigned as Prime Minister mere hours ago, following the chaos that has ensued during her short 6-weeks or 45 days in office, officially becoming the shortest serving Prime Minister in British history. Even the Daily Star’s viral iceberg lettuce  outlasted the Prime Minister, shedding some comedic value onto the pressing situation.

Last night, scenes in the commons were tense, with ructions forming over a vote on a motion involving the issue of fracking put forward by the opposition party. Conservative party whips were used to obligate MPs to oppose the motion, suggesting this signified confidence in their government. MPs would risk being removed from the party if they did not oppose the motion. Despite this, a party rebellion occurred, and chaos ensued. There were also allegations made of MPs being bullied into the House of Commons and into voting against the motion, but this has been denied by ministers. Calls for the Prime Minister to leave office then rapidly grew.

Liz Truss made a statement just after 13:30 today, outside 10 Downing Street, announcing her resignation. She said, “I recognise… given the situation I cannot deliver the mandate on which I was elected by the Conservative Party” , summarising the nature of her time as Prime Minister and her major contribution of the controversial mini budget. The budget, characterised by her desire for low taxation and a high growth economy, caused chaos within the financial market. This forced a series of major U-turns, eroding Liz Truss’ support base. Liz Truss officially resigned as prime minister today but will stay within the position until the next leader is selected.

Surely a general election must now be held.

The UK has cycled through four conservative prime ministers in four years, and soon the third conservative prime minister just this year will take office.

Kier Starmer weighed in on the matter, stating that this situation is “doing huge damage to our economy and to the reputation of our country”  . There have even been comments from across the channel, with the French President Macron expressing his concern for the lack of stability within the UK.

However, it was announced that an early general election will not take place. With opinion polls showing fleeting support for the majority party this would not be in the conservative parties’ interests. Instead, an internal conservative election will once again take place, but this raises questions of whether the government will maintain a leadership mandate following such chaos.

There is currently no clear figure within the conservative party who is an obvious choice to take on the role of prime minister, succeeding Liz Truss. Sir Graham Brady, a former Committee chairman, has suggested that it may be the case that the leadership contest will not just be confined to conservative MPs, but also opened up to all conservative members. This is unless there Is only one candidate left, but given the lack of an obvious successor, it is unlikely that the conservatives will be able to unite around a single candidate. Hence, the fractionalisation within the conservative party at the current time means that an election by conservative party members is likely to ensue.

Who may be in the running?

It was suspected that the new chancellor Jeremy Hunt may run in the election, however he has been quick to announce that he will not be standing. Other conservative figures that may be involved in the election include Defence secretary Ben Wallace, and Penny Mordaunt.

However, my prediction for the next UK prime minister is Rishi Sunak. According to the bookmaker’s predictions released this morning, Rishi Sunak has the highest chances of becoming the next prime minister, predicting him a 36% chance of becoming the next conservative party leader. This would be the most viable option for the conservative party in the interest in maintaining a mandate and public support. Rishi Sunak was the final opponent to Liz Truss in the previous conservative party election, and his economic policies strongly diverged from those implemented by Liz Truss over the past 6 weeks. Rishi Sunak has arguably been proven right by the damage that has been done to the economy and the conservative party under Liz Truss. Hence, his clearly different approach to leading the UK through the current economic turmoil may have the strongest chance at renewing the public’s trust in the government.

What about former prime minister Boris Johnson?

He possesses a significant amount of support within the party, and there are increasing suspicions that Boris Johnson may run in the election. However, it would not be viable for Boris Johnson to once again become Prime Minister, having previously resigned following series of scandals under his leadership that lost him support. Looking forward to the next general election, it would not be in the interests of the conservative party to re-elect Boris Johnson. Furthermore, it is likely that many MPs will be eager to avoid returning to old issues that may return by reinstating of a figure from the recent past.

In summary, despite calls from a collection of the major opposition parties for an early general election, with the Labour, the Lib Dems and the SNP united in their strong desire for an election, another internal conservative party will take place to elect the next prime minister.

With the time scale set out for the election of a new leader being just one week, this is quickly evolving politics. It is likely that circumstances may change over the next few days as the candidates for the election are established, and as influential politicians reveal their stances. However, as things stand on the day of Liz Truss’ resignation, what is my prediction? I believe the next prime minister will be Rishi Sunak.

Image by Jordhan Madec on Unsplash

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