Europe Politics

The chaotic 24 hours that rocked Britain's political scene and left the UK leaderless

Key Points
  • Liz Truss has resigned as U.K. Prime Minister following a tumultuous 24 hours.
  • The culmination of events prompted one member of the Conservative Party to publicly express his anger with the government.
  • "This is an absolute disgrace," Conservative lawmaker Charles Walker told BBC News on Wednesday evening.
  • "I think it's a shambles and a disgrace. It's utterly appalling," he said. 
Political chaos in the U.K. continues, including a high-profile resignation and questions over how long Liz Truss has in office.
House of Commons - PA Images / Contributor / Getty Images

LONDON — An extraordinary few days in British politics plunged embattled Prime Minister Liz Truss into turmoil, ultimately leading to her resignation on Thursday afternoon.

Truss has stepped down following a failed tax-cutting budget that rocked financial markets and which led to a revolt within her own Conservative Party.

Wednesday and Thursday saw high-profile resignations, reports of parliamentarians being bullied and one member of the Conservative Party publicly expressing his anger with the government.

"This is an absolute disgrace," Conservative lawmaker Charles Walker told BBC News on Wednesday evening. "I think it's a shambles and a disgrace. It's utterly appalling," he said. 

"I hope all those people that put Liz Truss in Number 10, I hope it was worth it … Because the damage they have done to our party is extraordinary," Walker said, visibly angry as he spoke.

"I've had enough of talentless people putting their tick in the right box not because it's in the national interest but because it's in their own personal interest," he said.

Here's a look at how the Truss' final days in office unfolded.

Wednesday midday: 'A fighter not a quitter'

At midday on Wednesday, Truss faced fellow lawmakers in the House of Commons for the first time since a major U-turn on her controversial fiscal package.

The government's so-called "mini-budget" on Sept. 23 was the first – and last – big fiscal announcement from former Finance Minister Kwasi Kwarteng, who was hastily replaced by Jeremy Hunt following a backlash to the spending plans.

British PM Liz Truss refuses to step down: 'I am a fighter and not a quitter'
British PM Liz Truss refuses to step down: 'I am a fighter and not a quitter'

Truss said she was "a fighter not a quitter" as she was grilled by parliamentarians.

Opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer asked how the British public could have faith in a leader whose "promises didn't last a week."

Truss then apologized for mistakes made during her first six weeks in office.

Wednesday evening: A resignation and bullying accusations

Britain's Interior Minister Suella Braverman was then added to the list of departures from Truss' government, as she resigned after just 43 days in the position – the shortest stint in the role since World War II.

In her resignation letter, Braverman said she sent an official document from a personal email – breaching ministerial rules – and that this was the reason for her departure. But she also used the letter to express her "concerns about the direction of this government," saying that key pledges to voters had been broken.

"Pretending we haven't made mistakes, carrying on as if everyone can't see that we have made them, and hoping that things will magically come right is not serious politics. I have made a mistake; I accept responsibility; I resign," Braverman said.

Braverman has been replaced by former Transport Minister Grant Shapps.

Later on Wednesday evening, lawmakers were asked to vote on whether fracking should be completely banned across the U.K., but members of the Conservative Party were told the vote was being treated as a "confidence motion" in Truss' government.

Members were also told they would "lose the whip" – effectively losing their position in Parliament – if they voted to ban fracking. Unsurprisingly the majority voted not to ban fracking.

Could Boris Johnson replace Liz Truss as British PM
Could Boris Johnson replace Liz Truss as British PM

The vote itself was chaotic, with reports of members being "bullied" into making the decision favored by the Conservatives.

"That looked like bullying to me. It's bullying like I've not seen since school," Labour MP Chris Bryant told BBC News.

Party whips – those tasked with encouraging members to vote in line with the party consensus – can be quite assertive, Bryant said, but they typically use "the force of reason, not the force of force."

House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle said Thursday he had asked officials to "investigate the incident" and report back, and reminded parliamentarians to "treat each other courteously and with respect."

A government spokesperson provided no further comment when contacted by CNBC.

Thursday morning: Truss has 12 hours to 'turn the ship around'

Thursday morning saw Conservative MPs trying to explain the events of the night before – and delivering fresh assessments of how long Truss has left in office

Transport Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan described Wednesday as a "very turbulent day," speaking on the BBC's "Breakfast" program, but she defended the prime minister.

"Yes, Liz Truss is our prime minister and she has the confidence of the Cabinet," Trevelyan said when asked if Truss was the right person to lead the government.

Conservative MP Simon Hoare said the next few hours would be critical for Truss to retain her authority.

He said he had never seen such a growing sense of pessimism across all wings of the party, speaking on BBC Radio 4's "Today" show.

"Can the ship be turned around? Yes. But I think there's about 12 hours to do it," he said, describing Thursday and Friday as "crunch days" for the prime minister.

Thursday afternoon: Truss resigns

A number of Conservative Party members called for Truss to resign Thursday, including Miriam Cates and Henry Smith speaking on Times Radio. Sky News reported that Jill Mortimer became the 15th MP to publicly announce their lack of confidence in the prime minister around 1 p.m. London time.

By Thursday afternoon, Truss was in urgent discussions with officials from the Conservative Party, including Graham Brady, who is in charge of leadership votes and reshuffles. She then spoke outside 10 Downing Street at 1.30 p.m. London time.

"I cannot deliver the mandate on which I was elected by the Conservative Party. I have therefore spoken to His Majesty the King to announce that I am resigning as leader of the Conservative Party," Truss said in her short resignation speech.