London, Oct 20 (IANS) The ruling Conservatives will race to find a new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in a week, after Liz Truss dramatically, though not unexpectedly, resigned as head of government on Thursday after only 45 days in office – the shortest period for any British Premier in history.
“I cannot deliver the mandate on which I was elected by the Conservative party,” Truss declared standing in front of the door of her office cum residence – 10 Downing Street. In effect, Britain will have an incredible and unprecedented third Prime Minister in three and a half months.
Truss added she had agreed with Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee – the body that conducts internal elections in the Conservative party – that the leadership election will be completed within a week.
What an election of a new Prime Minister in a week means is the vote is unlikely to be extended to the rank and file of the party and may be restricted to Conservative MPs only.
Speculation was swirling in Westminster and Whitehall about the Indian origin former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak – who lost the contest to Truss in the summer – once again throwing his hat into the ring. There was, however, no confirmation of this from him. He has of course made enemies within his party for being instrumental for the downfall of Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister before Truss, and has been lying low since his defeat.
Apart from Sunak, the names of Ben Wallace, the Secretary of State for Defence, Penny Mordaunt, Leader of the House of Commons, and even Johnson are doing the round. Wallace refused to bid for the leadership in the summer, but could be a unifying figure and thereby a frontrunner, if he stands. Mordaunt said she will “keep calm and carry on”. Another figure of Indian descent, Suella Braverman, who resigned as Home Secretary on Wednesday, could also have ambitions.
BBC reported Jeremy Hunt, the current Chancellor, will not fight an election for the Prime Ministership.
Johnson supported Truss against Sunak. It was rumoured he did so because he knew her limitations, expected her to implode soon, which would pave the way for his return. Nicknamed the “human hand-grenade”, she has certainly self-destructed in record time.
Sir Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labour party and their prime ministerial candidate, called for an immediate general election. He said: “The Conservative party has shown it no longer has a mandate to govern.”
The Daily Telegraph newspaper, however, reported Rishi Sunak will stand. He has emerged as the bookmakers’ favourite.
Conservative MP and Northern Ireland minister Steve Baker has said that former British Chancellor of Indian-origin Rishi Sunak will make a good Prime Minister.
Meanwhie, for the first time in British history, a Prime Minister could be selected by a political party by online voting. This though will only happen in the event of a run-off between two candidates. In other words, if the ruling Conservative party MPs decide on a consensus candidate, there will be no confirmatory online vote extended to rank and file members.
The Conservatve parliamentary party set a high bar for a candidate to qualify to contest – support of at least 100 MPs. Aspirants have to throw their hats into the ring by 2 p.m. on Monday London time.
If only one candidate crosses the threshold, there will automatically be a new Prime Minister the same day. If there are more, then there will first be a vote by MPs until the list is watered down to two, before party members get a say. This process will be completed by October 28.
Realistically, there can at most be three contestants, given the minimum entry mark of 100. Conservative MPs in the House of Commons number an estimated 357.
The emergency election of a new Prime Minister was necessitated by the resignation of Liz Truss on Thursday after only 45 days in office. Truss defeated Sunak in a head-to-head in the summer.