Liz Truss' government in meltdown as top minister quits and Tory MPs squabble in parliament

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By Euronews  with Reuters
Britain's Prime Minister Liz Truss speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons in London, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2022.
Britain's Prime Minister Liz Truss speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons in London, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2022.   -   Copyright  Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament via AP

Britain's interior minister quit on Wednesday with a broadside at Liz Truss before her lawmakers openly quarrelled in parliament, underscoring the erosion of the prime minister's authority after just weeks in the job.

The departure of Home Secretary Suella Braverman — she cited a "technical" breach of government rules — means Truss has now lost two of her most senior ministers in less than a week, both replaced by politicians who had not backed her for the leadership.

Hours after the resignation, lawmakers openly rowed and jostled amid confusion over whether a vote on fracking was a confidence vote in her administration.

Opposition parliamentarians complained that Truss's politicians were being manhandled to make them vote with the government.

Meanwhile there was confusion over whether or not two MPs responsible for Conservative Party discipline had quit their posts. "I'm not entirely clear on what the situation is," said Business minister Jacob Rees-Mogg when asked on television. 

After hours of uncertainty, Downing Street said they were still in their jobs, but the episode illustrated the confusion in government and underscored the prime minister's faltering authority.

Government discipline 'falling apart'

A handful of lawmakers have openly called for Truss to quit, and others have discussed who should replace her.

"Discipline is falling apart, we can't go on like this," one Conservative lawmaker told Reuters.

Another, Charles Walker, told BBC television he was "livid" at the "talentless people" who had put Truss into power, just because they wanted a job. "I think it is a shambles and a disgrace," he said, in a video that a couple of other Conservative lawmakers tweeted in agreement.

Truss, in power for just over six weeks, has been fighting for her political survival ever since September 23, when she launched a "mini-budget" — an economic programme of vast unfunded tax cuts that sent shockwaves through financial markets.

The latest turn in what seems to be a never-ending drama at Westminster comes as millions of Britons worry about rising inflation and cuts to public spending, with the political elite seen to be doing little to ease those concerns.

Braverman replaced by Truss critic

Truss had just told lawmakers that she was sorry for the mistakes she had made but was not going to quit, when reports swirled that her interior minister, or home secretary, had gone.

Confirming her departure, Braverman said she had broken the rules by sending an official document from her personal email to a parliamentary colleague. But she added she had serious concerns about the government and that just hoping problems would go away was not a viable approach.

"I have made a mistake, I accept responsibility, I resign," she said in a letter to the prime minister.

As a replacement, Truss appointed former minister Grant Shapps, who said recently that Truss faced a massive battle to survive.

He also failed to offer a ringing endorsement of the prime minister. On arrival at his new workplace, Shapps admitted the government had "obviously had a very difficult period."

But he added, referring to Truss's new finance minister: "Jeremy Hunt, I think, has done a great job of settling the issues relating to that mini budget."

Media reports suggested Truss and Braverman may have clashed over immigration. Braverman, who said recently that she dreamt of seeing asylum seekers being deported to Rwanda, has advocated a hard line on immigration numbers.

Truss had suggested restrictions could be lifted in some sections of the economy; as Hunt works to find ways to boost the economy, easing immigration rules further could be one option.

Fracking commotion caps chaotic day

After a move to make a vote on fracking a confidence matter, scenes in parliament descended into chaos as Conservative lawmakers were confused over whether they were obliged to vote in line with the government.

The motion by the main opposition Labour Party was defeated by 326 votes to 230 and the government proposal won, but some lawmakers said they were angry over the tactics, or lack of them, used by the government.

Voting results showed that tens of Conservative lawmakers did not take part in the vote, although some of those were on work trips or unwell.

Hours earlier, Truss had faced a raucous prime minister's questions session in parliament for the first time since Hunt scrapped most of her tax-cutting plan.

She came out fighting, but some Tory backbenchers were not convinced, calling on the prime minister to quit.

The Conservative Party is some 30 points behind Labour, according to opinion polls, and YouGov ranks Truss as the most unpopular leader the pollster has ever tracked.