Whoever replaces Truss will have to deal with a potential recession, double-digit inflation and spiralling energy costs.

The resignation of British Prime Minister Liz Truss on Thursday after just 45 days in office has thrust the country into political chaos, further sinking the value of the British Pound.

Truss stepped down, conceding she wouldn’t be able to deliver on her so-called “mini-budget”, leaving the country to deal with a potential recession amid spiralling energy costs, which have pushed inflation up to 13.2 percent in September. 

Critics had warned Truss of the consequences of her government’s proposed unfunded tax cuts that would have required significant borrowing. Markets, already shaky by the economic downturn triggered by the war in Ukraine, reacted badly to the plan to cut taxes for the wealthy in a bid to trigger economic growth. 

The frontrunners to replace Truss are former chancellor Rishi Sunak, scandal-ridden former prime minister Boris Johnson and the leader of the House of Commons, Penny Mordaunt, who is popular with the Conservative party’s base. Nominations for a new party leader and prime minister are expected to close on Monday, while the opposition and even some Conservative MPs are calling for elections.

“The Tories cannot respond to their latest shambles by yet again simply clicking their fingers and shuffling the people at the top without the consent of the British people,” Labour leader Keir Starmer wrote in a statement. 

The leadership raceThe Conservative party is expected to elect a new leader, and prime minister, by October 28. Nominations close on the afternoon of Monday, October 24. Candidates will need to gather signatures from at least 100 of the 357 Conservative MPs. This means that a maximum of three candidates will be nominated before a vote is held to narrow it down to two. 

MPs will then hold an indicative vote on the remaining two candidates, who the party’s 172,000 members will finally elect in an online poll.  

A Johnson comeback?

Boris Johnson has not officially announced whether he will run yet, but his allies in parliament have already started galvanizing support on his behalf. 

A deeply divisive figure, Johnson is very popular among some sectors of the conservative party who consider him a vote-winner, and reviled by others who point to his lack of ethics and the ongoing internal investigation against him.

“I think that the news that Boris Johnson might be riding to the rescue of the country and the Conservative party is really a great tonic,” said veteran Tory MP Sir Christopher Chope, speaking to Sky News, adding that any new leader other than Johnson should stand the test of a public vote. 

“I think there should be a general election because we need whoever becomes the leader - if it’s not Boris Johnson - we need to have the proper mandate. And the only way to get a proper mandate is to go to the people. I’m not pessimistic about the outcome of a general election,” Chope told the broadcaster.

Other members of the party do not want to see Johnson return at the helm of the Conservative party.

 “We need to remember that Mr Johnson is still under investigation by the privileges committee for potentially misleading the House,” said veteran Tory MP Sir Roger Gale. “Until that investigation is complete and he is found guilty or cleared, there should be no possibility of him returning to government.” 

The leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) in the House of Commons, Ian Blackford, whose party has also called for a general election, said there would be a “wave of revulsion” among the Scottish people if Johnson is thrust back into power.

“You really have to think that the Conservatives have learned nothing as to what we’ve gone through and the reason why Boris Johnson had to be swept from office,” Blackford told BBC Radio Scotland on Friday.

57 Conservative party ministers resigned last July, after details had emerged of several episodes that tarnished Johnson’s credibility and ethics, including of parties being held at Downing Street at the height of the pandemic, while the country was in lockdown.

According to an October 18 YouGov survey of Conservative party members, Boris Johnson tops the list of then-potential successors to Liz Truss, with 32 percent of preferences, compared to Rishi Sunak’s 23 percent and Penny Mordaunt’s 9 percent.

The Liberal Democrats tabled a motion in parliament on Friday to block Boris Johnson from becoming prime minister again. 

‘Steady’ Sunak or base-supported Mordaunt?

Both Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt have run in the leadership race that followed Johnson’s resignation in the summer, and that eventually saw Truss win against Sunak – who analysts say is now the favourite to succeed her. 

“I believe Rishi Sunak is the best person to take the Conservative party and, most importantly, the country forward,” Conservative MP Gavin Williamson tweeted on Friday. 

“He has the talent, integrity, and humility necessary to provide us with a fresh start and a steady hand.”“Although she wasn’t my first choice, I supported Liz Truss because I believed she would deliver the growth the country needs,” wrote MP Derek Thomas on Twitter. “My first choice for Prime Minister is again Penny Mordaunt.”

Source: TRT World