The end of Lizz Truss the UK Prime Minister after a total of 44 days was clear to seasoned observers of British politics. To them it was a question of when not whether. But I doubt that most of them expected her to go as quickly as she did as the Prime Minister with the shortest tenure in all of British history.
To listen to her at Prime Minister’s Question Time in Parliament on Wednesday last week she sounded sure when she answered the Leader of the Opposition “I am a fighter, not a quitter!” And the same day she told a British television interviewer the same.
This response seemed to some as mere bravado. For less than 24 hours later she was at the lectern in front of Number 10 Downing Street, the Prime Minister’s official residence, to recant that “I cannot carry out the mandate on which I was elected Leader of the Conservative Party.” Which prompted one newspaper to mock her “I am not a fighter but a quitter!”
Ms. Truss’s downward spiral came quickly after her election. In a bid to keep her promise to cut taxes right way, she and Dr Kwasi Kwarteng, the first Black man to be appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer (Minister of Finance) and her ideological soulmate, packaged a mini-Budget and announced it to parliament. This budget turned out disastrously as the tax cut favoured the rich few and left the majority worse off.
The Kamikaze mini budget based on Trussonomics provoked an uproar on both sides of the aisle. To pacify her Party who felt that the economics of the mini-Budget is against the grain of core Conservative principles, Truss quickly did a U-turn and promptly tossed Kwarteng under the Conservative bus, just as he was stepping down from the aircraft on his return from an IMF meeting in Washington DC. But that did not quite satisfy her critics who asked what she was doing in office since she and Kwarteng packaged the mini-Budget together.
One panic move followed another as the man she appointment the new Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, presented a fresh package of measures which practically junked all the Kwarteng/Truss measures. Ms. Truss swallowed hard and said she was in total support of it. That was the end of her tenure!
Now the race is who will succeed Ms. Truss. With Seven Prime Ministers in roughly seven years, the door to Number 10 Downing Street is looking like the revolving doors of Italy and Greece. For what seemed to be a straight duel between Rishi Sunnak, the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer who Liz Truss defeated by a whisker in the leadership contest the last time threatened to turn into a fist fight when Boris Johnson, the man who was booted out a short while ago was drawn into the equation. This left a lot of people wondering how come since the majority of Conservative Members of Parliament who wanted him out were still adamant he should be gone for good. Much surprisingly from where he was luxuriating in the sunshine in the Caribbean Johnson tossed a hand grenade and screamed that he was “Up for it” and characteristically claimed he had the support of the mandatory minimum of 100 MPs needed to sponsor a candidate.
He abandoned his holiday to dash back to the UK and found he had about 50 MPs not 100. He of course dropped out! That left Sunnak and Penny Maudaunt in the race. By lunch time on Monday Penny Maudaunt had dropped out leaving the door of Number 10 wide open for Sunnak, who had all of 200 sponsors.
Rishi Sunnak is the very first ethnic minority person to be elected Prime Minister of the UK. A multi-millionaire of Indian parentage, he went to Oxford University where he read Politics, Philosophy and Economics and made his millions after first working as an investment banker.
Labour Party opposition would of course prefer an election now that they are more than 35 points ahead of the ruling Conservatives. They will argue that the new leader has no national mandate. That may well be true, but they will have to wait at least two years.
And their fortune will depend on how well or badly the Conservatives fare under Sunnak.