When she took the keys to 10 Downing Street in the wake of Boris Johnson’s political demise, Liz Truss promised to “ride out the storm” of Britain’s economic crisis. But she was soon engulfed by a hurricane of her own making.
It was a humiliating end to a calamitous premiership marked by failed economic policies and a deeply divided ruling party.
Here are the lowlights of Truss’ term as Britain’s shortest-serving prime minister.
Sept. 5: Truss takes over — Truss is declared the winner of the Conservative Party leadership contest after her predecessor, Boris Johnson, is forced to step down following a series of ethics scandals. The omens aren’t good. The country is facing a bruised economy, a spiraling cost of living crisis and a crumbling healthcare service. Truss, who served as foreign secretary in Johnson’s government, also faces huge diplomatic challenges in the face of Russia’s war on Ukraine.
Sept. 8: Queen Elizabeth II dies — Days into Truss’ premiership Queen Elizabeth II dies at the age of 96, sending the country into a period of national mourning. Truss pays tribute to the Queen as a symbol of stability who ruled through crises, tragedies, political scandals, pandemic and recessions. The period of mourning gives Truss a breathing space after a marathon leadership campaign that lasted most of the summer.
Sept. 23: A disastrous "mini budget" — In her first big move as prime minister, Truss' Chancellor of the Exchequer (the UK finance minister) and closest friend in politics, Kwasi Kwarteng, unveils a sweeping plan to extricate the country from recession, which includes a swath of tax cuts that will be funded by higher government borrowing. The plan’s a huge gamble — the biggest tax cuts in 50 years — without a clear plan on how to pay for them. Usually, big fiscal statements in the UK are audited independently by the Office for Budget Responsibility. But Kwarteng says there was no time for such an audit — a move that stuns financial markets and sends the pound plunging. Bond prices subsequently collapse, sending borrowing costs soaring, sparking mayhem in the mortgage market and pushing pension funds to the brink of insolvency.
Oct. 14: Truss fires Kwarteng — The economic turmoil and the prospect of higher mortgage rates force Truss to walk back key components of her financial plan. After ditching her plan to slash the highest rate of income tax, she fires Kwarteng in a desperate attempt to salvage her position. In a letter posted on Twitter, Kwarteng says he agreed to step down at Truss’ behest. Truss appoints former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt as Kwarteng’s replacement, making him Britain’s fourth finance minister in just over three months.
Oct. 17: Hunt ditches Truss' fiscal plan —Just three days into the job, Hunt says he will scrap “almost all” tax measures announced by his predecessor in an effort to calm spooked markets and restore the government’s credibility. A proposed cut to the basic rate of income tax from April 2023 is postponed “indefinitely.” And while the government says it will still guarantee energy prices for households and businesses through this winter, it won’t commit to capping prices beyond next spring. The moves amount to a gutting of Truss’ flagship “growth plan” and leave her in a perilous political position. While investors show support for Hunt’s new plan, the opposition Labour Party is not appeased.
Oct. 19: Key ally quits cabinet —Home Secretary Suella Braverman announces her departure from Truss’ Cabinet, as claims emerge of chaos and “bullying” during a parliamentary vote the same day. Braverman says she stepped down as Home Secretary over the use of a personal email address that violated ministerial rules, but also launches a thinly veiled criticism of Truss’ leadership in her resignation letter. Allegations also emerge of some ruling Conservative Party lawmakers being physically dragged to vote with the government against the ban on fracking for shale gas. Politicians later share accounts on Twitter of angry scenes of shouting and altercation in parliament.
Oct. 20: Truss resigns — After a chaotic six-week spell in Downing Street, Truss announces her resignation. “I recognize though given the situation I cannot deliver the mandate on which I was elected by the Conservative Party,” she says. Truss says she has tendered her resignation to the King, and a leadership election will take place within a week. She will remain UK prime minister until her successor is chosen. Her swift exit as prime minister prompts calls for an early general election in Britain. But a fresh election is no certainty before 2025, even as Britain prepares for its fifth leader in just over six years – and its third since the last ballot.
CNN’s Rob Picheta, Tara John, Bianca Nobilo, Luke McGee, Stephen Collinson and Julia Horowitz contributed reporting.