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UK will have a new PM next week

United Kingdom (UK) Prime Minister Liz Truss makes a statement outside 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, Oct. 20, 2022. (Xinhua/Li Ying)

London, UK | Xinhua | United Kingdom (UK) Prime Minister Liz Truss resigned on Thursday after just a little over six weeks in office and thus became the shortest-serving prime minister in the country’s history.

In a statement outside 10 Downing Street, she said that there will be a leadership election “to be completed within the next week” and that she will remain as caretaker prime minister until a successor has been chosen.

“I came into office at a time of great economic and international instability,” she said. “Our country has been held back for too long by low economic growth. I was elected by the Conservative Party with a mandate to change this … I recognize though, given the situation, I cannot deliver the mandate on which I was elected by the Conservative Party.”

Truss’s resignation came after the mini-budget, the fiscal plan announced by her government last month, caused economic chaos and tanked the ruling Conservative Party’s poll rating.

The mini-budget, which contained controversial debt-funded tax cuts, has been blamed for plunging the British pound to a 37-year low against the U.S. dollar, while pushing up the cost of government borrowing and mortgage rates.

One of the main architects of the fiscal plan, Kwasi Kwarteng, left his post as chancellor of the exchequer last week. His successor, Jeremy Hunt, tore up almost all the announced tax cuts and limited the government’s cap on rising energy prices.

With her economic strategy reversed and Kwarteng gone, Truss’s premiership had been considered untenable. On Wednesday, Home Secretary Suella Braverman resigned, noting “serious concerns” about the direction of Truss’s government.

The number of Tory lawmakers who publicly demanded Truss’s resignation quickly snowballed to more than a dozen on Thursday morning. Shortly before her resignation, Truss met with Graham Brady, chair of the Tory backbench 1922 Committee, which oversees the election of Conservative leaders.

The leaders of the three largest opposition parties — Keir Starmer of the Labour Party, Ed Davey of the Liberal Democrats and Nicola Sturgeon of the Scottish National Party — have all called for an immediate general election.

Experts told Xinhua that the drama at 10 Downing Street since this summer does not bode well for the future of the Conservative Party. Truss succeeded Boris Johnson, who was forced to step down after support for him evaporated under his scandal-plagued leadership.

“The impact on the Conservative Party over the last few weeks is going to be pretty horrific for them because it has exposed huge divisions within the party between left and right, between pro-Brexit and anti-Brexit, between those who are sometimes regarded as the grown-ups and those who want to be more radical. It’s going to be very hard to stitch that back together again,” Professor Iain Begg from the London School of Economics and Political Science said.

“The likelihood for the Conservative Party is — unless there is a dramatic turnaround — that they are going to be beaten very seriously by the Labour Party in a general election,” Begg predicted.

Stuart Wilks-Heeg, a political expert at the University of Liverpool, said: “It’s really, really hard for the Conservatives to turn it around from here. It would be almost unprecedented for them to be able to salvage the situation, even with a couple of years to go until the next general election.”

The chaos in the UK political scene came at a time when the county’s cost-of-living crisis continues to worsen. Inflation rose by 10.1 percent in September as food costs keep rising.

The UK’s international standing has also taken a beating as the world looks on, experts told Xinhua.

“We probably look like a bit of a laughingstock politically and overseas observers would have noticed political instability in the UK ever since the Brexit referendum,” Wilks-Heeg said.

“Britain’s standing in the world is going to be adversely affected by what’s happened over the last few months … Changing prime ministers, changing ministers, appointing people, making decisions and unmaking decisions. All of this just looks terribly bad internationally,” Begg said.

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