Liz Truss, the last British prime minister appointed by the late Queen Elizabeth II, resigned after only six weeks in office, causing concern for Conservative Party fatigue.
Continued leadership resignations and political instability in Britain stand as an example of election importance and candidacy trust for U.S. citizens as the early November election approaches.
Truss’ resignation on Oct. 20, at the nadir of the country’s deepening economic crisis, makes her the shortest serving prime minister in British history. Failed plans by Truss to revitalize the country’s collapsing market saw the British pound crash to its lowest exchange rate on Sept. 26 since the 1980s recession, less than three weeks after Truss took office.
Truss proposed 105 billion pounds in tax cuts and spending increases without adequate justification as to how the cost of the cuts would be covered.
BYU professor Matthew Mason, who specializes in 18th and 19th century British politics, shared how the intersection of bad politics and economic choices can affect nations even at the best of times.
“Her absolute tone deafness as prime minister to the needs of average British people is 100% responsible for her collapse in a time of economic uncertainty and privation,” Mason said. “Cutting taxes from the rich and guaranteeing corporations tax shelters, it’s tremendously horrific politics at any time, but especially during times of economic uncertainty.”
Mason said that politics and economics in Britain work together in a way that is familiar to American and other international audiences.
Prior to Truss’ resignation, former prime minister Boris Johnson of Britain’s Conservative Party also resigned, sparking concerns for party fatigue, and bringing to attention the importance of elections.
“With Boris Johnson’s resignation and this most recent resignation, there hasn’t been a new election,” Mason said. “The Labour Party, the opposition party, is calling for an election, and that is more in keeping with the historical precedent than just kind of shifting leadership, or the prime minister within the conservative party which has happened now twice.”
Mason said Britain needs to uphold historical precedents regarding elections — an issue currently of high importance in the U.S. as the Nov. 8 election day approaches.
Joel Leighton, a British citizen from Sussex, England, also shared his concerns for political party fatigue, and the “prime minister of the week” pattern that is causing ongoing political instability in the UK.
“Liz Truss, rather than people being upset by her policies, she’s facing the brunt of this Conservative Party fatigue that’s going on in the country,” Leighton said. “I think there’s little she could have done to stay in power for a long time. I think the country is ready to switch out the Conservative Party.”
In the May 2022 elections in the UK, the Conservative Party and the opposition, the Labour Party, both won control of fewer councils than they did in the 2018 elections. The Liberal Democrat party gained more council votes than in 2018, and 28 councils ended the elections with no overall control.
Leighton responded to the change in electoral preferences.
“I think the Conservative Party no longer fully represents even the conservatives of England, let alone the left of England,” he said. “You can see this going on since 2016 where the Conservative Party were totally blindsided by the majority of the UK citizens wanting to leave the European Union. Leaving the EU is a conservative position, but the Conservative Party didn’t believe we should leave it.”
Chris Hodson, director of the BYU London Center from June to August 2022, reflected on Conservative party happenings, and the way in which country leaders are instated after resignations.
“It’s important to remember that Liz Truss was not elected by the people of the United Kingdom,” Hodson said. “She had no meaningful mandate from the people of the UK to be the prime minister.”
The opposition, The Labour Party, is calling for another election as opposed to the Conservative Party reinstating another prime minister, a political phenomenon unfamiliar to the United States.
“This Tory government, under whoever, could just limp along with no mandate to rule for the better part of two years,” Hodson said. ‘It’s just in general a bad situation. That’s why a lot of people in the Labour Party are calling for an immediate, full blown parliamentary election to let the British people have at least some say in what sorts of people are leading the country and what policies they pursue.”
Matthew Mason drew parallels between the United State and the UK, and reflected on how ongoing political instability can damage international alliances, saying that “it’s very bad in terms of your position on the global stage.”
Hodson agreed and shared how these political implications affect long-held alliances between the U.S. and UK.
“It’s in the United States’ best interests, that long standing allies and partners and so forth have normal politics, stable governments, good financial outcomes. That’s really genuinely not happening in Great Britain right now,” he said, and that the next prime minister is going to inherit a “colossal mess” that will make it hard for Britain to face economic headwinds.
British citizens are angered at the ongoing situation that they currently do not have a say in.
“Nobody had ever heard about her before she became prime minister and then she didn’t do much good so it makes sense,” Eleanor Boome, a BYU student from West Yorkshire, London, said. Upon asking acquaintances in the UK their thoughts on the situation, Boome said her contacts said “it’s better that I don’t comment,” and that their reluctance to share their true thoughts speaks louder than any comment.
The political instability issue is ongoing, and stands as a reminder to U.S. citizens as elections approach, that familiarization with party and candidate ideals is of utmost importance.