With the news that Britain’s Prime Minister Liz Truss had offered her resignation Thursday, speculation has turned to who will replace, and for some, former Prime Minister Boris Johnson could be the safe option for the Conservative Party.
“There’s a great deal of uncertainty,” Nile Gardiner, the director of The Heritage Foundation’s Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom and Bernard and Barbara Lomas Fellow, told Fox News Digitial. With Truss’ resignation Gardiner said, “I think it throws the leadership contest wide open in the Conservative Party.”
The comments come after Truss resigned just weeks after taking over as prime minister, in part because of controversy generated by her administration’s inconsistent position to cut taxes by eliminating the U.K.’s top tax bracket.
The push sent U.K. markets downward while the British pound dropped in value, causing her to attempt to walk back the position in an effort to stabilize markets. Truss was also pushed to fire her Treasury chief and longtime friend Kwasi Kwarteng, an early champion of the prime minister’s tax and budget plans.
But Gardiner believes walking back that position was a mistake, arguing that the Conservative Party’s goal should be to promote pro-growth policies that will turn the British economy around.
“If they had just stuck to a high-growth, low-tax strategy, that would result in a turnaround in the British economy over the course of the next couple of years,” Gardiner said. “The prime minister lost her nerve and surrendered to the left and reversed all the tax cuts, which is a big mistake.”
Truss initially remained defiant amid the calls for her to step aside, taking to the podium during a Wednesday session of Parliament to defend her short tenure as prime minister.
“I am a fighter and not a quitter,” Truss said. “I have acted in the national interests to make sure that we have economic stability.”
But she also faced heavy pushback inside the Conservative Party from members who wanted to replace her while there was enough time to salvage their standing in the polls.
“The party still has a chance to bounce back in the polls,” Gardiner added. “I think the goal is certainly stability, demonstrating that they can run the country effectively. Turning the economy around is the number one goal.”
Who takes over could depend on who gets a say in the final round of voting, with Johnson being a popular candidate among the grassroots members of the party. Ministers of Parliament have launched an effort to change the rules and limit the vote to just MPs, something that would cut out the grassroots and likely result in a prime minister from the party’s more left-leaning flank.
But if that effort is unsuccessful and the grassroots gets a say in the final vote, Johnson would first have to declare his intention to pursue the job. If he did, Gardiner believes he has a good chance of returning to the job he left last month.
“Boris Johnson remains a very popular figure among conservative grassroots… Johnson would stand a strong chance,” Gardiner said. “But Boris would have to declare his candidacy right at the start…. it’s not clear if he has any interest in doing so.”