Can Liz Truss lose her job? How long a Prime Minister needs to be in power before being removed from office

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The Prime Minister is only one month into her premiership, but the pressure is already on for Liz Truss after an economic crisis was created as a result of her policies

Prime MinisterLiz Truss has had a difficult few weeks since becoming the Conservative Party leader and the newest Prime Minister of the UK.

From the Queen’s death two days after her confirmation at Balmoral Castle, to economic chaos caused by her and her Chancellor’s mini-budget, the past month has been a rollercoaster to say the least. The ensuing economic trouble caused by Truss’ policy has led to rumours of a building rebellion and overall unhappiness within her party, cutting her honeymoon period short.

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Her position has been weakened by U-turns on her key tax policies, with another U-turn expected on corporation tax. Adding to her woes, Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng is rumoured to be losing his job, which could put Truss in a precarious position.

With only over a month under her belt, the possibility has risen of replacing the party leader once again. But can Truss actually be forced out this early in her premiership? Here’s everything you need to know about the rules for replacing the Prime Minister.

Liz Truss has been through the wringer during her first month in power - but how early could she be forced out? (Credit: Getty Images)Liz Truss has been through the wringer during her first month in power - but how early could she be forced out? (Credit: Getty Images)
Liz Truss has been through the wringer during her first month in power - but how early could she be forced out? (Credit: Getty Images) | Getty Images

How long does a Prime Minister need to be in power before being removed from office?

The rules for replacing a party leader and - in the case of the ruling party - the Prime Minister can vary from party to party. The 1922 committee, which deals with internal elections in the Conservative Party, had a specific set of rules for leadership challenges.

Committee rules state that the leader of the party can only face a vote of confidence once a year. A vote of confidence is triggered if a certain amount of letters of no confidence are received by Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the committee.

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According to Sir Graham, this once-a-year rule also applies to the newly elected leader, with the initial leadership election which they succeeded in being classed as the de-facto first ‘vote of confidence’. Therefore, according to this rule, Truss cannot face a vote of confidence until September 2023 at the earliest.

However, this could quickly change, after a new executive was elected to the 1922 committee. The new executive had been campaigning to change the one-year rule, with MPs voting them into the committee on this policy.

The change had come around following Mr Johnson’s vote of no confidence and unease about allowing him to survive another year. Whether or not the committee will press ahead with changing the rule remains to be seen, but if it doesn’t, Truss may be facing a vote of confidence sooner than she thought.

Boris Johnson resigned on 7 July 2022, after pressure from his government. (Credit: Getty Images)Boris Johnson resigned on 7 July 2022, after pressure from his government. (Credit: Getty Images)
Boris Johnson resigned on 7 July 2022, after pressure from his government. (Credit: Getty Images) | Getty Images

Can Liz Truss leave office another way?

The Prime Minister can hand in a resignation letter at any time during their time in office, if forced to do so by the party. This would most likely be done if a significant number of MPs voice their concerns and take action, for example resigning from governmental roles or rebelling against the party on major policies and during House of Commons votes.

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Boris Johnson was the last Prime Minister to resign - he did so after three years in power. Mr Johnson had survived a vote of confidence brought forward by the 1922 committee in early June 2022, therefore a second vote would not be able to be held until at least June 2023.

As it became clear that Mr Johnson’s position was untenable, the only recourse left for MPs to force the former Prime Minister to resign was a mass resignation of his government. More than 50 MPs resigned from their role in his government - including prominent cabinet members such as Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid - before he announced his intent to resign in July 2022.

Following a meeting of the 1922 committee on 12 October, Truss faced resistance from her MPs on her controversial tax-cutting mini-budget, headed up by Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng who is likely to lose his job over the economic chaos created by the policy announcement. Truss may be taking steps to U-turn on her policies in order to thwart a mutiny by MPs.

Another way that a Prime Minister could be removed from power during the early days of their leadership is through a snap election. A snap election is held in a year which is not scheduled to hold a general election.

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A snap election is normally only called under significant circumstances. Following the Tory leadership contest 2022, in which Truss won the role of party leader and Prime Minister, many opponents called for a snap election after it was announced she had been elected as Prime Minister on a mandate of 81,326 votes - just 0.02% of the population. The next election is scheduled to take place in 2024.

Former Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has spoken publicly about her desire for a snap election due to Truss’ radically different policies compared to Mr Johnson’s government. Ms Dorries tweeted: “Widespread dismay at the fact that 3 years of work has effectively been put on hold. No one asked for this.

“C4 sale, online safety, BBC licence fee review - all signed off by cabinet all ready to go, all stopped. If Liz wants a whole new mandate, she must take it to the country.”

Many more MPs could follow in Ms Dorries’ footsteps and put pressure on the administration to call the election early. Current polls suggest the Conservatives are trailing the Labour Party by 33-points, with the party likely to lose many seats, and ultimately power, if an election is called now.

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