The Shortest (and Least Successful?) Premiership in British History

(Photo: Flickr – Number 10)

By Laura Powell – Regular Contributor

“I came into office at a time of great economic and international instability… I recognise, though, given the situation I cannot deliver the mandate on which I was elected by the Conservative Party. I have therefore spoken to His Majesty The King to notify him that I am resigning as leader of the Conservative Party. This morning, I met the chairman of the 1922 committee, Sir Graham Brady. We’ve agreed there will be a leadership election to be completed within the next week. This will ensure that we remain on a path to deliver our fiscal plans and maintain our country’s economic stability and national security. I will remain as prime minister until a successor has been chosen. Thank you.” 

Liz Truss has resigned. After just 45 days in office, the shortest premiership in British history, we heard the above speech just after 1:30pm on the 20th of October. Although not many UK’s Prime Ministers have been able to maintain power for more than a standard term, this beats the previous record-holder, George Canning. He was in post for 118 days, dying of tuberculosis in office. 

Truss’ resignation comes after weeks of calls from Labour (and elsewhere) for her resignation, and a general election, after a month of significant reductions in her approval rating. As of the 16th October, Truss had approval ratings of -61%. Polling at a similar time suggests Keir Starmer has a 47 point lead on ‘The Best PM’ question. Polls may not always be fully representative or accurate, but these numbers seem too significant to be anomalies. We cannot continue on a path where the public has to sit back and watch the Tory party implode while in a position of leadership. Something has to give.

Is a general election that switch that could finally ignite some change? Many people of my age group were on the borderline of being able to vote in the last election. I remember the annoyance of many of my classmates that they were unable to do so. As those same people come closer to graduating university, they are still waiting for the opportunity to vote in a general election. Starmer is taking any opportunity possible to bring up this possibility, and he is probably in one of the strongest positions to be pushing so hard for a general election since the Brexit referendum. Those people who were unable to vote for the last Prime Minister will, by next week, have seen two more that not even the electorate have voted for, intensifying their desire to finally have some electoral input. 

We have watched Liz Truss preside over failure after failure since becoming PM: the pound has been plummeting; repeated U-turns; cabinet resignations; public outcry and ridicule. All in only 45 days. Perhaps Truss was the most unsuccessful Prime Minister in history. Or at least the most unsuccessful well within the crucial first 100 days. If Keir Starmer has had any opportunity to unite the Labour Party and present them as electable, now is definitely the time to do so. It seems unfathomable that any member of the Tory Party elected into the office of PM next week will create enough of a turn-around for the general public to believe they still deserve the majority in the Commons.

The swathes of Tory MPs interviewing on news channels on the day of Truss’ resignation shows how deeply divided and unstable the party truly is. How can a new PM, elected solely by this fractured parliamentary Tory Party, create the significant change that Britain is currently in such great need for? It is time for a general election. Starmer has the opportunity of his career to create a viable alternative, not just the lesser of two evils which the Tory candidates offered in the last leadership contest. There’s even a chance he could sit back and watch the Tories fall apart and still be electorally successful, but this is an unmissable opportunity, and perhaps one which could lead Britain into a period of great change under a more moderate Labour government. 

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