U.K. Prime Minister Liz Truss said on Thursday that she would resign after a rising chorus of members of her own party called for her to step down. Support for the premiere collapsed spectacularly not even two months into her tenure, with a final straw seeming to be a parliamentary vote Wednesday evening that descended into total chaos, with members of her Conservative party shouting and swearing at each other, and some even claiming they had been physically manhandled.
"We set out a vision for a low tax, high growth economy that would take advantage of the freedoms of Brexit. I recognize though, given the situation, I cannot deliver the mandate on which I was elected by the Conservative party. I have therefore spoken to His Majesty the King to notify him that I am resigning as leader of the Conservative party," Truss said outside the prime minister's official residence at Number 10 Downing Street in London.
Truss is the shortest serving prime minister in U.K. history, having taken office only 45 days ago. She said she would remain in the job until the members of her party chose a new leader. Truss promised a party leadership election within a week, "to ensure that we remain on a path to deliver our fiscal plans and maintain our country's economic stability and national security."
The Wednesday parliamentary vote, which was on the future of fracking in the U.K., had initially been billed by Conservative party whips as a confidence vote in the government; Conservative members of parliament (MPs) were told that if they didn't back the government's position in favor of fracking, they'd be deemed rebellious and expelled from the party. It would have put a lot of MPs in the position of being forced to support fracking despite their opposition to the controversial practice.
Just minutes before the vote, however, Truss' government said it would no longer be taken as a confidence vote. The reversal led to confusion, which descended into chaos as the Conservatives' chief whip, whose authority had been undermined by the late change in plans, reportedly resigned. Hours later, Truss' office said the whip remained in her job, which only increased the private outcry from party members over the mayhem.
One Conservative MP was quoted anonymously by multiple British news outlets as deriding the debacle as "the most bullying, screaming and shouting" they had ever seen, while another was heard saying, "I am f****** furious and I don't give a f*** any more."
Senior Conservative MP Charles Walker expressed his outrage to a BBC News crew that was covering the events live as they unfolded inside the House of Commons on Wednesday night.
"This whole affair is inexcusable," Walker told BBC News. "It is a pitiful reflection on the parliamentary Conservative Party at every level, and it reflects really badly, obviously, on the government of the day."
"I'm livid, and you know, I really shouldn't say this, but I hope all those people that put Liz Truss in Number 10 — I hope it was worth it. I hope it was worth it for the ministerial red box, I hope it was worth it to sit round the cabinet table. Because the damage they have done to our party is extraordinary… I've had enough. I've had enough of talentless people putting their tick in the right box — not because it's in the national interest, but because it's in their own personal interest to achieve ministerial position."
Earlier on Wednesday, in a major blow to Truss even before the chaotic scenes unfolded in parliament, her Home Secretary Suella Braverman, the cabinet minister in charge of immigration and law enforcement, resigned. She stepped down after it emerged that she had sent an official document via her personal email account, in breach of government rules. She apologized for the infraction in her resignation letter, but also lashed out at Truss.
"The business of government relies upon people accepting responsibility for their mistakes. Pretending we haven't made mistakes, carrying on as if everyone can't see that we have made them, and hoping that things will magically come right is not serious politics. I have made a mistake; I accept responsibility: I resign," Braverman said. "It is obvious to everyone that we are going through a tumultuous time. I have concerns about the direction of this government. Not only have we broken key pledges that were promised to our voters, but I have had serious concerns about this Government's commitment to honoring manifesto commitments."
Labour party members have been demanding a new general election for weeks, eager to capitalize on the chaos gripping their opponents and take over the British government for the first time in more than a decade. In the U.K., general elections must be held every five years, at least. They are scheduled by the serving government. The deadline for the next general election to take place is January 2025, and with Conservatives polling at historic lows against the opposition Labour party, they would be extremely reluctant to call one soon.