Liz Truss loses seat as ex-prime minister becomes biggest scalp in Tory bloodbath

Liz Truss has lost her South West Norfolk seat in a humiliating defeat on the worst night for the Conservatives in general election history.

The former prime minister squandered a 26,195 majority in the once true blue seat, finishing in second to Labour’s Terry Jermy by around 600 votes.

Her defeat was the last domino to fall among the Tory MPs associated with her Popcon movement which she launched last year in a bid to ultimately take over the party.

Ms Truss’s humilaition followed agonising defeat for Sir Simon Clarke, Ranil Jayawardena, Brendan Clarke-Smith and Marco Longhi.

The only MP at her launch to survive was Lee Anderson who had since jumped to Reform UK.

Ms Truss’ demise followed a painful suspense in the building in the run up to the declaration at around 6.50am, with the former prime minister absent from the stage for several minutes while rival candidates lined up on stage.

But when Ms Truss eventually appeared on stage, Britain’s shortest-serving prime minister suffered the shock upset.

Click here for our live coverage of the general election campaign.

Mr Jermy won 11,847 votes, with Ms Truss second on 11,217 and Reform UK’s Toby McKenzie on 9,958. On a devastating night for the Conservatives, with a record-breaking 11 cabinet ministers and a handful of other big beasts losing their seats, Ms Truss became the most high profile scalp.

Her disastrous 49-day stint in Downing Street saw her become an emblem of 14 years of Tory chaos and mismanagement, leaving her even more vulnerable than colleagues such as Jeremy Hunt and James Cleverly who managed to cling on.

Ms Truss did not give a speech after losing her seat. But she told the BBC: “I think the issue we faced as Conservatives is we haven’t delivered sufficiently on the policies people want.

“And that means keeping taxes low, but also particularly on reducing immigration. And I think that’s been a crucial issue here in South West Norfolk, that was the number one issue that people raised on the doorstep with me.”

Asked whether she accepted some responsibility for that, Ms Truss said: “I agree. I was part of that. That’s absolutely true.

“But during our 14 years in power, unfortunately we did not do enough to take on the legacy we’d been left, in particular things like the Human Rights Act that made it very difficult for us to deport illegal immigrants. And that is one of the reasons I think we’ve ended up in the situation we are now.”

She said “I’ve got a lot to think about” when asked whether she wanted to stay in Tory politics.

Losing the seat meant Mr Sunak is the only Tory prime minister since 2010 whose seat is still Conservative, with David Cameron’s former Witney seat backing the Liberal Democrats, Theresa May’s Maidenhead also flipping to the Lib Dems and Labour gaining Boris Johnson’s old Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat.

Ms Truss left the count without giving a speech after losing her seat (Jacob King/PA Wire)
Ms Truss left the count without giving a speech after losing her seat (Jacob King/PA Wire)

Ms Truss had held the seat since 2010 and spent years as a backbench MP before securing her first ministerial job as an education secretary during David Cameron’s stint as prime minister in 2014.

From there she rose through the ranks to become foreign secretary under Boris Johnson. After Mr Johnson’s downfall she won the Tory leadership election by promising radical tax cuts and stronger economic growth.

Her time in No 10 was arguably the most disastrous of any prime minister in the history of the UK. She lasted just 49 days in Downing Street, having been forced out when her mini-budget caused turmoil in the financial markets and sent mortgage bills spiralling.

The stunning defeat came as Rishi Sunak led the Conservatives to their worst election defeat in history, with a record 11 cabinet ministers losing their seats.

Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng with Liz Truss at the Tory Party conference following his disastrous mini budget (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Archive)
Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng with Liz Truss at the Tory Party conference following his disastrous mini budget (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Archive)

As polling stations closed at 10pm, the exit poll predicted that Labour will win 410 seats, the Tories 131, the Lib Dems 61, Reform 13 and the SNP 10.

Johnny Mercer, Grant Shapps, Gillian Keegan, Lucy Frazer, Penny Mordaunt, Michelle Donelan, Alex Chalk, David TC Davies, Victoria Prentis, Mark Harper and Simon Hart are among the Tory big beasts who fell as Sir Keir’s party swept to victory.

Ms Truss had sought to burnish her right-wing credentials and released a memoir called “Ten Years to save the West” in which she blamed everyone but herself for her disastrous time as leader. While she was not expected to stand herself, Ms Truss was also set to play a key role in the race to succeed Mr Sunak as Tory leader.

She attended the Conservative Political Action Conference in the US earlier this year and took part in an interview with Steve Bannon, who served as a senior White House aide to former Republican president Donald Trump, and she remained silent as he hailed English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson as a “hero”.

Ms Truss has also backed Donald Trump to be the next president of the United States.

Timeline: Key moments in Liz Truss’s 45 turbulent days as prime minister

Ms Truss’s tenure lasted just over six weeks in the autumn of 2022. Here are the key moments in the shortest reign in Downing Street as the PM lost two cabinet members, watched her economic strategy go up in smoke and ultimately succumbed to a mutiny by her own MPs.

September 5: Liz Truss is the victor in the Tory leadership contest and will become the country’s next prime minister. She promises a “bold plan” to cut taxes and grow the economy and “deliver on the energy crisis”.

September 6: Ms Truss becomes Prime Minister after being invited to form a new government by the Queen at Balmoral. Later that afternoon, in her first speech in Downing Street, she says she is honoured to take on the role “at a vital time for our country”. Kwasi Kwarteng is appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer.

September 7: Ms Truss uses her first Prime Minister’s Questions to promise to work with MPs across the House to tackle “the challenges we face” at a “vital time for our country”. She confirms she will set out her package of support to deal with soaring energy bills the following day.

September 8: In Parliament shortly before midday, the PM announces a new energy price guarantee and promises support for businesses struggling with bills for six months, with targeted help for vulnerable firms beyond that.

Within hours, Buckingham Palace issues a statement saying doctors were concerned for the Queen’s health, and that the head of state was under medical supervision.

A Palace statement is released at 6.30pm, saying: “The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon.”

September 9: The King holds his first in-person audience with Ms Truss at Buckingham Palace. Politics all but comes to a halt as the country observes a national period of mourning.

September 19: The Queen’s funeral is held at Westminster Abbey in London.

September 23: Mr Kwarteng announces the biggest raft of tax cuts for half a century. Using more than £70 billion of increased borrowing, he sets out a package which includes abolishing the top rate of income tax for the highest earners and axing the cap on bankers’ bonuses while adding restrictions to the welfare system.

The pound falls to a fresh 37-year low as “spooked” traders swallow the cost of the spree.

September 29: Almost a week on, the PM insists the Government had to “take urgent action to get the economy growing” in her first public comments since the mini-budget market turmoil.

October 2: Ms Truss acknowledges mistakes over the mini-budget but says she is standing by her tax-cutting plan as she refuses to rule out public spending cuts.

The PM admits she could have done more to prepare the ground for Mr Kwarteng’s financial statement, and she faces accusations of throwing her Chancellor “under the bus” by saying the abolition of the 45p top rate of tax was made by him, and not discussed with the Cabinet.

October 3: In a dramatic U-turn, Ms Truss and Mr Kwarteng abandon their plan to abolish the 45p rate of income tax for top earners.

Somewhat embarrassingly, Ms Truss was still defending the 45p tax rate in a TV interview filmed just hours before the U-turn.

October 4: Mr Kwarteng says the Queen’s death added to the “high-pressure” environment around the preparation of the mini-budget. In an interview with GB News, he says it is important to place the so-called fiscal event in the “context” of the Queen’s death and funeral.

October 5: Ms Truss pledges she will “get us through the tempest” and “get Britain moving” as she delivers her first Tory conference speech as party leader.

October 10: Mr Kwarteng bows to pressure to bring forward the publication of his financial strategy and independent economic forecasts. Completing another U-turn, he agrees to set out his medium-term fiscal plan alongside Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) predictions on October 31.

October 11: As Parliament returns, the Chancellor is warned, during a session of Treasury questions, that the Government’s economic credibility would be further shredded if he tries to push through the policies without the support of Conservative MPs.

October 12: Ms Truss insists she will not cut spending to balance the books, despite economists and the financial markets continuing to question her plans.

October 14: Mr Kwarteng is sacked, having flown back early from International Monetary Fund talks in Washington. He says he has accepted Ms Truss’ request he “stand aside” as Chancellor and she replaces him with Jeremy Hunt.

Ms Truss dismisses calls for her resignation at a hastily arranged eight-minute press conference in Downing Street, during which she takes just four questions from journalists.

October 15: The new Chancellor indicates the PM’s immediate economic plan is now largely defunct in a series of broadcast interviews. He criticises the “mistakes” of the Truss administration and warns of “difficult decisions” to come on tax and spending.

In an unusual intervention, US President Joe Biden appears to join in the criticism of Ms Truss’s original plan, telling reporters “I wasn’t the only one that thought it was a mistake” and calling the outcome “predictable”.

October 16: Former minister Crispin Blunt becomes the first Tory MP to publicly call for Ms Truss to quit, saying the “game is up” for the Prime Minister.

He is followed by Andrew Bridgen and Jamie Wallis, while other senior figures within the parliamentary party express deep unease with the PM’s leadership but stop short of calling for her to go.

Labour urges Ms Truss to come before Parliament to face MPs.

October 17: Mr Hunt ditches the bulk of the PM’s economic strategy in an emergency statement designed to calm the markets.

Ms Truss sits silently in the Commons for roughly 30 minutes as her Chancellor informs MPs of the change of direction, staring straight ahead as he bins huge chunks of her plan.

October 18: Ms Truss survives a meeting of the Cabinet without any ministers calling for her to quit, while Mr Hunt tells colleagues they must review departmental budgets to find ways to save taxpayers’ money.

October 19: The PM declares she is a “fighter, not a quitter” and insists she is “completely committed” to the triple lock on state pensions at PMQs.

Tory MPs are told a Labour vote in the Commons seeking to ban fracking is being treated as a “confidence motion” in Ms Truss’s embattled Government, which leads to jostling and chaos among MPs. Suella Braverman quits.

October 20: Ms Truss announcing her resignation as PM outside Downing Street. She said she recognised she “cannot deliver the mandate on which [she] was elected by the Conservative Party”.

Join our free virtual event examining the rise of Reform and Labour’s landslide victory