Could the Tory party get rid of Liz Truss and install a new prime minister?

Downing Street Number 10 door
Liz Truss’s premiership appears in danger as some Tory MPs insist she must go, after a disastrous start. Credit: PA

Just six weeks into her premiership, Liz Truss is fighting for her political life as her flagship economic growth plan lies in tatters.

The Prime Minister presides over a party in crisis, after a day of chaos in the Commons, Home Secretary Suella Braverman's resignation, and confusion over whether the Chief and Deputy Chief Whip had quit.

Her new chancellor Jeremy Hunt has effectively torn up her fiscal agenda - so-called Trussonomics - in a bid to restore stability.

Mr Hunt was appointed on Friday to replace Kwasi Kwarteng whose £43 billion mini-budget tax giveaway unleashed market turmoil.

But disquiet within the Tory party has only grown, with the Truss camp forced to bat away claims Mr Hunt was the one in charge, and some MPs publicly calling for her resignation.

Lord David Frost on Thursday joined calls for the Prime Minister to quit, as the Conservative party was plunged into chaos.

MPs Angela Richardson, Crispin Blunt, Andrew Bridgen and Jamie Wallis have all urged the PM to step down, and others are likely to follow.

Can a prime minister be ousted just weeks into the job, and how could it happen?

Liz Truss speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions Credit: House of Commons/PA Wire

How can a PM be removed?For a prime minister to lose their job they must either resign, their party must lose a general election, or they must lose a confidence vote.

Under current Conservative Party rules, there can be no confidence ballot for another 11 months - and the next general election is not due until late 2024.

Rishi Sunak lost to Liz Truss in the last leadership contest Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA

What are the Conservative rules for a vote of no confidence?

The Conservative Party’s 1922 Committee of backbench MPs stipulates a prime minister cannot face a confidence vote during their first year in office.

Outside of that period, 15% of the parliamentary party would have to submit letters of no confidence to Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the Committee, for a vote to be held.

That means Ms Truss would face a vote if 53 Tory MPs submitted letters.

MPs’ letters are held on file by Sir Graham, unless they are withdrawn, and he keeps a secret running tally of the number.

At least 50% of Tory MPs must then vote “no confidence” in a ballot for a PM to lose. A leadership contest would then start.

But given the backlash against the PM, there is speculation Tory MPs could bypass the current rules.

What are their other options?

The 1922 Committee executive could be forced to change the party rules to allow a vote if there is enough pressure from MPs.

If such a decision is made, it is likely Sir Graham would raise the threshold of letters needed for the vote from the 15% mark.

On the other hand, mounting criticism from her own party may force Ms Truss to resign without a confidence vote.

Andrew Bridgen Credit: Beresford Hodge/PA

Although Boris Johnson survived a confidence ballot earlier this year, he was forced to resign relatively quickly in the aftermath due to a wave of mass resignations from his government – including from Cabinet ministers.

Regardless of formal confidence vote rules, if enough MPs submitted letters of no confidence to prove Ms Truss could not command her party or pass legislation, her hand would likely be forced.

Would there be another Tory leadership contest?

If rules are changed to allow a confidence ballot, or if Ms Truss resigns, it could trigger another leadership contest.

But the party may be keen to avoid a repeat of the lengthy and often bitter process so soon.

A contest typically takes place in two stages. In the first stage, Conservative MPs put themselves forward as candidates.

All Conservative MPs then vote in a series of rounds to reduce the number of candidates until only two remain.

The second stage of the contest sees the two remaining candidates put to a vote of Conservative Party members.

Boris Johnson won the leadership contest in 2019 against Mr Hunt, following Theresa May’s resignation. Ms Truss won against Rishi Sunak, following Mr Johnson’s resignation.

Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the powerful 1922 Committee

But if only one person is successfully nominated, they become leader unopposed without a vote of party members.

This is what happened when David Cameron quit and Theresa May was left as the last candidate standing following the withdrawal of Andrea Leadsom.

The rules could theoretically be changed to try to ensure only one person is nominated by significantly raising the threshold for nominations.

During the last contest, the backing of 20 MPs was needed for a successful nomination.

Who could replace Ms Truss?

Despite growing moves to oust Ms Truss, there is no consensus among Tory MPs as to who could replace her.

With the party riven by factionalism, finding a “unity candidate” could prove difficult.

Former chancellor Rishi Sunak, who was runner-up to Ms Truss in the leadership election and topped the voting among MPs, could be a popular option, with Conservative MPs reportedly exploring a joint ticket with his fellow contender Penny Mordaunt.

Boris Johnson has nominated some of his former allies and aides for peerages Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA

But Mr Sunak would be fiercely opposed by Mr Johnson loyalists unable to forgive his role in bringing down the former prime minister.

Well-regarded defence secretary Ben Wallace and Sunak-loyalist former transport secretary, Grant Shapps, have also being touted as possible successors.

Former culture secretary Nadine Dorries earlier warned her colleagues they must support Ms Truss or bring back her predecessor to avoid a general election.

She tweeted: “There is no unity candidate. No-one has enough support.

“Only one MP has a mandate from party members and from the British public – a mandate with an 80-seat majority. @BorisJohnson.

“The choices are simple – back Liz, if not bring back Boris or face a GE within weeks.”

Could there be a general election?

Opposition parties have been vociferous in their demands for an early general election in response to the the calamitous start to Ms Truss’s premiership.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer argued the Tories “no longer have a mandate from the British people” and that Ms Truss’ sacking of Mr Kwarteng as chancellor “doesn’t undo the damage” done to the economy.

There have also been calls for an immediate general election from the public, with MPs on Monday due to debate a petition which amassed more than half-a-million signatures.

With the maximum term for Parliament five years, the latest possible date for the next general election is January 23, 2025.

But the prime minister can decide to call one earlier, although the Conservatives are unlikely to want one, given dire polling which has predicted a landslide for Labour and wipe-out for the Tories.

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