Friday, October 21, 2022 – La Minute Monocle
On August 8, 1827, British Prime Minister George Canning died in office, struck down by tuberculosis at the age of 57. He had been in charge for 119 days, the shortest stint ever served at 10 Downing Street. This long standing record has now been eclipsed, with time off, by Liz Truss (illustrated), who barely had time to unpack before his resignation yesterday.
Truss had been the winner of a second round of voting, from which Conservative party members were asked to choose a successor to Boris Johnson. She was duly named by Queen Elizabeth II on September 6. The monarch died two days later, bringing about a period of dismal formalities during which little happened – so in some respects Truss’ tenure was even shorter than it seemed.
Truss’ premiership imploded on September 23, when she allowed her new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Kwasi Kwarteng, to trigger a mini-budget. It brought down the markets, the pound and Truss’ meager credibility. Dismissing Kwarteng was the best, the worst, and the only thing she could do, but it would never be enough. In the annals of prime ministers’ calamitous unforced errors, Truss’ attempt at tax reform is comparable to Anthony Eden’s Suez misadventure or David Cameron’s reckless temptation to Brexit.
If his post as Prime Minister is to be remembered as anything other than an answer to a pub quiz or perhaps an instructive ‘How Not To’ chapter in a future prime minister’s guide, it’s like the inspiration for a splendid display of old-fashioned British tabloids. October 14, red-top scandal sheet The star of the day launched a Youtube live stream of a portrait of Truss alongside a lettuce, inviting speculation as to which would last the longest.
As I write these lines, 14,250 people watch the victorious vegetable, now wearing a crown, joined on his table by a bottle of bubbly, punctuated by a remix of Kool & The “Celebration” of the Gang. In its recent form, the UK could do worse than offer him the top job.
Andrew Mueller is the host of “The Foreign Desk” on Monocle 24.