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Liz Truss to Make a Statement; Liz Truss Resigns. Aired 8:30-9a ET
Aired October 20, 2022 - 08:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: We have a developing story out of the United Kingdom this morning. You're looking at live pictures outside 10 Downing Street where they just set up that lector outside the door and we've been told we're about to hear a statement from the prime minister, Liz Truss.
Now, she has been under enormous pressure just six weeks into her job. Just six weeks into her job, there have been all kinds of calls even for her resignation. She has lost her chancellor of the exchequer, home secretary because of the economic turmoil inside the country. And again, we are expecting a statement any minute now.
Let's go right to CNN's Bianca Nobilo, who is live for us in London with what we might expect from this.
BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, one thing I can tell you for certain is this is not good news for the prime minister. When the podium comes out in front of the steps of Number 10 Downing Street, it's usually a victory speech or announcing that you'll soon be departing.
The events of the last 24 hours have gathered pace and severity. Last night we had these chaotic scenes within the House of Commons where there were reports of members of Truss' government actually physically manhandling other lawmakers to make them vote in a certain way. That's been denied, but these reports have come from senior members of the opposition parties.
Obviously, we had the resignation of the home secretary, who took the opportunity to lay into the prime minister and criticize her approach.
Then, today, we've had the chairman of the powerful committee of lawmakers within the House of Commons, which can determine the rules of ousting a conservative prime minister, go into Downing Street we're told at the prime minister's behest. Then shortly they were joined -- I see the prime minister coming out now, John. We can expect to hear from her about the choreography of what happens next. LIZ TRUSS, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I came into office at a time of
great economic and international instability. Families and businesses were worried about how to pay their bills. Putin's illegal war in Ukraine threatens the security of our whole continent. And our countries have been held back for too long by low economic growth.
I was elected by the conservative party with a mandate to change this. We delivered on energy bills and on cutting national insurance. And we set out a vision for a low tax/high growth economy that would take advantage of the freedoms of Brexit.
I recognize, though, given the situation, I cannot deliver the mandate on which I was elected by the conservative party. I, therefore, have 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 that 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.
BERMAN: The prime minister of the United Kingdom, Liz Truss, announcing she is stepping down, resigning about six weeks after taking office to begin with. Of course, Boris Johnson stepped down himself over the summer. Political upheaval in the United Kingdom.
Let's bring back CNN's Bianca Nobilo for your reaction, Bianca, to this, frankly, stunning announcement.
NOBILO: John, this is stunning. A prime minister for six weeks. You'd think after the turbulence of the years that had come before, that perhaps Britain would be in for a period of more stability, but certainly not.
The prime minister said that she was elected on the mandate to address Britain's economic crisis. But that mandate was always slim. By less than 0.1 percent of the electorate, John.
Now, the prime minister, I believe, might become the shortest ever serving prime minister. I know there was one deep in Britain's history who died unexpectedly after a period of weeks. But I think Liz Truss may be the shortest serving prime minister in these circumstances.
She has acknowledged the pressure that has been building within her own party, the country at large. The last week saw polls come out putting her at the lowest approval rating of a prime minister ever. Other polls came out which showed that the prime minister and people that elected her wanted her out. And they possibly wanted Boris Johnson in her place again. She then had resignations and more and more of her lawmakers coming out saying that it simply wasn't tenable for her to continue. The drip, drip became a tidal wave of opposition to her staying in post. And what's happened today is the party grandees, the most influential members of the conservative party, the chairman of the party, the chairman of the powerful committee that chooses how prime ministers are elected, and her deputy prime minister and close confidant have all visited her in Downing Street. They've, obviously, discussed and acknowledged the political reality that she simply can't continue, John. And this was all set into another gear and largely precipitated by those chaotic scenes I was talking about last night that have led conservative lawmakers to tell me, and to tell the media, that they were simply so ashamed, depressed and horrified at what their party has become.
BERMAN: Bianca, let's stay on this for a moment, if we can, and help the international and the United States audience understand what has happened over this short period of time.
This was an administration that began, frankly, in turmoil with economic proposals that were wildly unpopular and were lashed out against by the economic system in the U.K. itself. So that was what set this all in motion. And then we got to the point where we are today.
What are the possible implications now really for the rest of the world, for the United Kingdom, which had been a staunch supporter of Ukraine, of course a key ally to the United States? What changes? What might we see there?
NOBILO: John, you make an important point because Liz Truss is both a victim and an architect of her political misfortune. A victim because she became prime minister at a time when the country was in deep economic turmoil. We've just had inflation figures go into double digits. That was announced yesterday, 10.1 percent in the United Kingdom over the last month.
But she also had a series of unforced errors. For example, that economic package, which you referenced, which she announced after becoming prime minister, went a lot further and faster than what she'd promised in her leadership campaign. It had tax cuts for the wealthiest in the country, slashing of corporation tax and other measures that deeply unsettled the markets and sent them into a spiral, causing the Bank of England to make this unprecedented financial intervention. It caused deep consternation within the party. It was very difficult to find any economist that could agree with the course that she was taking.
And this made many within her party question not only her economic judgment, but also her political judgment because at a time when the country was grappling with this cost of living crisis, and a lot of people in Britain are wondering whether or not they can afford to pay both their heating and their food bills, the prime minister announcing reducing taxes for the wealthiest and removing caps on bankers' bonuses. It's just very peculiar political decision making and terrible optics. [08:40:01]
So, after that happened, and then Britain once again looks like an unstable partner and an unstable ally, this has been a motif and a reoccurring theme since Brexit that sometimes the country can't be trusted. There have been promises from Boris Johnson to break international rule, and others.
In terms of where Britain finds itself now, in a deeply embarrassing and unstable position. And this has been the concern from lawmakers within Liz Truss' own party. They can see how this is being interpreted, not just by this country, but the world at large. Britain had been playing an influential role in Putin's invasion of Ukraine. It's a key partner to the United States and is an important part of that Trans-Atlantic alliance and still does have a major role to play in Europe and on the content. But when we're having a revolving door of prime ministers and chancellors and home secretaries, clearly it's a very difficult partner to engage with. And there has been shock and consternation on the continent as well about what is really happening here in Britain. And we even had Joe Biden speaking out last week expressing his concerns about the policy direction that Liz Truss was taking. And as we both know, that's quite unusual for a president to do and to remark of a key ally.
BERMAN: All right, Bianca, stand by if you will for a moment.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: All right, I want to go ahead and bring in Christiane Amanpour to talk about these stunning turn of events in Britain.
Christiane, I don't think we can overstate how significant this is, the shortest serving prime minister, Liz Truss, and what this is going to mean at an incredibly chaotic time in Britain.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: That's right. And that is according to the stats official, she is the shortest serving. The last time was in 1827 when after a more than 100 days a prime minister resigned. Those are just the stats.
But what you have here has been the drip, drip, drip since she met the queen. You remember the first dramatic picture of Liz Truss was when she met the queen on the eve two days before the queen died. And that was the last official action that the queen did under her constitutional role as monarch. And then it looked like Liz Truss almost had a baptism of light really, that she was going to take this mandate and move on to what could have been a successful premiership, except, except, except she decided, in cahoots with her then chancellor, to settle on a financial package which they dubbed a mini budget that nobody knew about, nobody approved and there was no mandate for that sent the markets tumbling and has sent this country rocking and ricocheting from one disaster to the next over the last more than a month or so.
And she could no longer hang on. Her members of her party, starting from last night, officially, and maybe just before, even on my program, started to say that we will not support her, we cannot support her, she has to go.
The question is, after she's made this extremely short statement outside Downing Street, the question is what happens next, what is the procedure. We're told that there should be a leadership contest, but what she's laid out, in a very, very short time, she suggested that within a week or so a new leader should be found. Well, how? Does that go to even the members?
What's happening here is a distinct lack of the democratic process, Brianna, because she was not elected by the people. And this is what happens. After 12 years of this party in power, through austerity, through Brexit, through the demise of Britain on the foreign stage, except for in Ukraine, this is what's happened. A country -- a party that appears to be unaccountable to the people. So, you've heard the labour opposition leader, Sir Keir Starmer, today again say there needs to be a national election, a general election to help this country out of the crisis that it is now and at least put it to the people.
KEILAR: This was something that had really grabbed global attention here recently. Not the least, Christiane, because she had been compared to a head of lettuce, right? You had "The Economist" dubbing her the iceberg lady, that she had the shelf life of a head of lettuce. And then you had "The Daily Star" actually doing a live stream of a head of lettuce and Liz Truss, asking, which one is going to last longer. And, actually, the head of lettuce seems to have outlasted Liz Truss. She has come down in such a fashion here.
But when you're talking about this going in one week, right, if you're talking about an election and it's not part of the democratic process happening in one week, what would that look like in terms of stability and the reaction that Britain is going to have to that?
AMANPOUR: Well, look, let's just take one step at a time. Nobody's talked about an election yet. They've talked about a new leadership.
KEILAR: Well, yes. Yes.
AMANPOUR: And we don't - we don't know what that's going to look like, Brianna, and that's the problem, we just don't know what it's going to look like. But the immediate analysis, the immediate comment is, oh, here we go again, another appointment.
We just don't know what it's going to look like. But, at the moment, we understand that the process for a general election has not been - has not been triggered. Is she talking about a new head of her party in one week to again be appointed? Not even, you know, somewhat given some kind of some in-house inter-party credibility by the members? We just don't know what that's going to look like at the moment.
But what I'm saying is, that for 12 years there has been this -- you know, this situation where the party has gone through so much, including austerity, including, you know, Brexit as I said. And these last prime ministers, you know, with the demise of Boris Johnson, let's not forget that he also didn't last his mandate, that he was actually elected in a general election in 2019 with an overwhelming majority. I mean, he put the conservative party on a map like they hadn't been in many, many years, including a famous blue wall in the north, which is traditional opposition labour territory. And then drip, drip, drip, drip. Culminating with the chaos of partygate, that his party members then said, you know, we can't tolerate this anymore.
But, in between, there was a lot going on that seemed to be chipping away at the democratic process. Not to mention when he tried to perog (ph) parliament, in other words suspend parliament while he tried to get through his own Brexit vision through parliament. That didn't go down well.
And then, you know, even now, Bianna -- even now, Brianna, we've got a situation where this prime minister, you know, she managed to get something through parliament last night. But it turned out that it was about pushing back, you know, major regulations on climate and talking about fracking.
So just everything seems to be in a bit of a mess right now. And we're not sure how the markets are going to react to all of this. Clearly it's done to try to - to try to calm markets more than it -- they were calmed by her appointment of a new and moderate chancellor, Jeremy Hunt. But even he has said that what we've just done in our U-turns is just the beginning and we're going to have to take a sythe, you know, an axe to public spending. And that doesn't sit well with people right now who are going through severe hardship. People who are trying to figure out how to pay their mortgages as this scheme that they cooked up about, you know, several weeks ago to - their mini budget, sent the interest rates skyrocketing. So, ordinary people are literally wondering whether they're going to have a roof over their head this coming winter.
It is a terrible situation right now. The idea is to try to right this ship. And can we just talk about the fact that this was once the world's fifth largest economy. It is not anymore. It was once the mainstay of the Trans-Atlantic alliance. It may not be anymore because it doesn't have any throw weight in, you know, between the United States and Europe. It barely has a relationship with Europe after Brexit. And, you know, its influence on the international stage has been - has been diminished, which is a big - you know, it's a pity because Britain did always punch above its weight and was a very important member of the Trans-Atlantic alliance in its foreign policy and the like.
So, we'll see whether this move now will right the ship and what their next steps are.
KEILAR: So much chaos there right now.
Christine, if you could just stand by for us as we follow this breaking news that the British prime minister, Liz Truss, has resigned. And, Berman, she's talking about leadership elections here sometime in
the next week, but that certainly isn't going to assuage any of the chaos that is going on right now.
BERMAN: No. Announcing her resignation a mere six weeks into the job, becoming the shortest serving British prime minister basically in modern history.
Want to bring in CNN anchor Max Foster into this discussion.
Christiane brought up the point that Britain I still - still, it likes to think that it punches above its weight in both finance and in both international relations and, to a certain extent, the world still looks to the United Kingdom to play a role on the international stage. And there's just been this enormous amount of upheaval there. What do you make of it?
MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: We'd like to think we - well, we like to think we represent stability and continuity and we've got all that history, haven't we? We've got the monarchy that we like to look at as this symbol of stability as well. And, you know, that's changed recently. And then this utter chaos, in shambles, frankly, in British politics right now. In parliament, John, there were horrendous scenes last night. There were people openly shouting at each other over a vote, a controversial vote. The people, apparently, pushing and shoving, trying to get the vote to go in their direction.
And then there were back bench MPs coming out on British television almost in tears talking about the state of the conservative party and British politics.
It's in absolute shambles. She had no choice but to step down.
But it's still in shambles because they haven't figured out whos' going to follow next. I mean we had no clarity whatsoever from the conservative party about who they plan to install instead of Liz Truss, who hey only appointed 44 days ago. So now we go into a process where they have to decide on some sort of compromise candidate between Boris Johnson at the right of the party and his camp and then you've got Rishi Sunak at the other end of the party, and they're utterly divided. How are they going to find a compromise candidate to have in power within a week who the conservative party going to be able to rally behind, and then, you know, the wider public.
I think the only way of getting through this is probably to get that person in power and for them to announce a general election next week to install some sort of authority back into the British political system.
BERMAN: And to be clear, just so everyone around the world understands how this works, is that the party gets to choose first. The party can put someone into power first. That person will be prime minister. And then they can call a general election, which means that the whole country would have a say in this, put in a new government. At this point, the polls show that it would not be the conservative
party that would control that government. But that's a whole separate issue.
Any leading candidates at this point? Any names being bandied about, Max, in terms of who could be next after Liz Truss?
FOSTER: Well, Jeremy Hunt is the current finance minister, only been in power for a number of days, but he has built up a huge amount of credibility as someone who brought stability back to the markets by coming up with a budget statement, which reassured them. As I understand it, he's just ruled himself out.
The other sort of option that the media were talking about in the week, and we were, you know, discussing to some extent, it's impossible to confirm, is that there's a compromise perhaps in having Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt, who are from different parts of the party, as a -- as a double act, if you like. But that doesn't work in the same way it would work in American where you could have a vice president and a president. You know, how would they share the responsibilities of prime minister? There have been deputy prime ministers. There's one at the moment. But they don't have any sort of constitutional authorities. So how are they going to work that out? It's not clear. They've got a huge amount to work out in a weak (ph) conservative party.
But they're utterly divided and they've broken. So, it's difficult to see how they're going to get through it. Obviously, people look towards the monarch in these situations as well, as someone that can bang heads together. A big test for King Charles as his first constitutional crisis, if you like, is he going to run a mile from this, like his mother would have done, or might he get involved and try to find some sort of resolution.
KEILAR: And, Max, certainly one of the lessons coming out of this when you look at the failures of Liz Truss is that she was out of touch with what British people were feeling. And certainly the policies and the chaos were not in line with what they needed in this difficult and unstable time.
So, can you talk a little bit about the atmosphere and also how that needs to be corrected by whoever may next come in, and really how many options there may be for someone with the proper temperament to bring that?
FOSTER: Well - so there are global headwinds. You know, the global economy is heading towards a recession. So there was that sort of issue that she had. And then there's the cost of living crisis in the United Kingdom, as exists in America and around the world. So, difficult times to walk into it.
But she didn't read the room. She accentuated all of those problems by then coming up with a budget which was cutting taxes, but particularly for the - for the wealthy, which didn't sit well, of course, with the public, but wasn't costed out. Basically, you know, she couldn't afford to cut those taxes and she wouldn't outline how she would cut spending as a result.
So, that's really what caused the market chaos. And then she didn't respond effectively to that when her party then got very upset about it, justifiably. So, the next person coming in has to take the sort of Jeremy Hunt point of view, I suggest, which is, he worked with the Bank of England. He worked with the city, trying to find some sort of way through with a budget, calm the markets, and then he was going to presumably move on to sort of supporting the conservative party.
So, someone's got to come in who has authority with the economy and the markets and the international community. We even have President Biden coming out criticizing Liz Truss. It was extraordinary. Someone that has that credibility and can pull the party together enough to get through to a general election. But, frankly, the problem you've got is that the people - that person is going to asks for support are the people that are going to lose their jobs in a general election because, as John just said, the polling numbers for the conservative party are absolutely appalling. If we went to the polls right now, they'd be absolutely wiped out and all those MPs would probably lose their job, or most of them.
BERMAN: Obviously, this comes at a time when there are so many challenges facing the world. I want to bring in CNN's senior political analyst John Avlon.
You know, there's the war in Ukraine. There's global inflation. And this comes at a time when there are so many in the world who just want stability. And this is the pure opposite of that.
JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: This is the opposite of that. This is a dumpster fire on Downing Street.
And here's, I think, the continuity that Americans can understand. Partly this is a result of an ideological approach to the economy. Liz Truss came in without the support of the British people, less than 0.3 percent of the British public ended up voting for her because of the way they select prime ministers outside elections. And then she put forward a very ideological, economic package that blew up in their face. And it's the danger of these sort of unrepresentative elections.
BERMAN: And why it matters for us here in the United States, John?
AVLON: Because the U.K. remains our closest ally on the world stage. They have been rock solid on Ukraine. And when democracy itself is struggling with autocracy, when you see this kind of instability in our closest partner, combined with our own political problems here at home, that's a bad sign for the west and for liberal democracy, which is why stability is so key for Ukraine and for democracy writ large.
BERMAN: The bombshell announcement coming just minutes ago. The prime minister of the United Kingdom, Liz Truss, has announced she is resigning. There will be new elections within the party within the week.
It is a stunning development in that country and for the entire world, frankly. Much more on the breaking news right after this.