UKLiz Truss Resignation

Candidates to be new British prime minister race to rally support after Liz Truss quits

EU heads of government hope the UK is able to establish a stable government after the departure of Truss

Potential candidates for the leadership of the Conservative Party and the position of British prime minister were frantically seeking to rally support on Thursday night after a day of unprecedented turmoil in Westminster which saw Liz Truss resign after just 44 days in Downing Street.

Would-be candidates included the former chancellor Rishi Sunak, Cabinet member Penny Mordaunt, the recently resigned former home secretary Suella Braverman and former prime minister Boris Johnson.

Amid a febrile atmosphere at Westminster, Mr Johnson was said to be flying back from holiday in the Caribbean to pursue a return to Downing Street less than four months after he resigned following a Cabinet revolt.

In Brussels, where EU heads of government are gathered for a two-day summit, leaders greeted the news with concern, with many expressing the hope that the UK would find itself able to establish a stable government after the departure of Ms Truss.


Taoiseach Micheál Martin expressed concern at the continuing political instability in London and said he hoped a successor could be elected as soon as possible.

“It’s a matter for Britain and for the British political system, but stability is important during these times when a major war is under way on the continent of Europe,” Mr Martin told journalists in Brussels.

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“We’re very close neighbours with the United Kingdom... so it’s very important for Ireland that political stability is restored to the United Kingdom,” he said.

News of the prime minister’s resignation broke just as EU leaders began to arrive at the summit to discuss a joint response to high energy costs and the war in Ukraine.

“In the context that we all know, the context of war, of energy tensions and a wider crisis, it is important that Britain quickly re-find political stability,” French president Emmanuel Macron said.

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte said he looked forward to working with Ms Truss’s successor, adding, “I think it will be number five.”

The abrupt departure of Ms Truss is the latest twist in a period of unprecedented political turmoil in the UK, which has seen four Conservative prime ministers resign since the Brexit referendum was passed in 2016.

Tory MPs revolted against Ms Truss after a series of U-turns on her economic plan, prompted by a sharply adverse reaction in the markets to her administration’s first budget, which destroyed her political authority.

In a brief speech outside number 10 Downing Street at lunchtime, Ms Truss said: “I recognise that I cannot deliver the mandate on which I was elected by the Conservative Party.”

It was only a day after she told the House of Commons that she was “a fighter and not a quitter”. Markets reacted favourably to the news of her departure, with sterling strengthening and borrowing costs for the UK falling after her announcement, before creeping up again after speculation began about her successor.

The Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, and other opposition parties called for an immediate general election.

But uncertainty surrounds the process and the likely line-up of candidates last night, with Westminster seeing furious jockeying for position. Some MPs immediately lined up to back a return by Boris Johnson, but there was also a strong reaction against the prospect, with others declaring they would resign if Mr Johnson returned.

Candidates must secure 100 backers by next Monday – a level that observers said would prove difficult for Mr Johnson – following which a series of ballots will narrow the field. If the last two candidates opt to stay in the race, the final decision will go to Conservative Party members via an online vote, with a result due next Friday.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times