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Embattled UK PM Liz Truss holds crunch talks as political crisis escalates

The door to number 10 is seen beyond a rain-covered umbrella at Downing Street on October 20, 2022 in London, England.
Leon Neal | Getty Images News | Getty Images

LONDON — U.K. Prime Minister Liz Truss is reportedly locked in discussions with a key member of the Conservative Party who oversees leadership challenges, as speculation mounts that her tenure is nearing an end.

Downing Street is due to give a statement at 1:30 p.m. London time.

Truss is meeting with Graham Brady, the Conservative politician that is in charge of leadership votes and reshuffles. Brady chairs the 1922 Committee — the group of Conservative MPs without ministerial positions who can submit letters of no confidence in the prime minister.

As the meeting went on, Deputy Prime Minister Therese Coffey and Conservative Party Chair Jake Berry both entered Downing Street.

Truss’ key government meetings have also reportedly been canceled for Thursday.

The news agency PA quoted the prime minister’s official spokesman saying Truss “recognises the public wanted to see the government focusing less on politics and more on delivering their priorities.” “That is also what the Prime Minister wants.” The spokesperson also said she had faced a “difficult day” but wanted to continue in the post.

A vote of no confidence is usually held when 15% of the group submits letters, but current party rules state no leadership election or vote of no confidence can be held for one year after a leader assumes office. Truss entered the post on Sept. 6.

Media reports earlier this week said Brady had received more than 100 letters. This has left uncertainty over whether Truss will be ousted and how.

Meanwhile, the number of Conservative MPs publicly calling on Truss to resign has reached 16. During broadcast rounds on Thursday morning, after a vote in the House of Commons descended into chaos on Wednesday evening, MPs Henry Smith and Miriam Cates joined the call.

Smith told Times Radio: “We need new leadership … we need solid leadership, and I’m afraid, I’m very sorry to say, that has been distinctly lacking from Downing Street in the last several weeks.”

Cates said of the same show of Truss’ position, “It seems untenable … And yes, I do think it’s time for the prime minister to go.”

She cited the prospect of the Conservative Party being “decimated” if a General Election were to be held now.

A Tuesday poll from YouGov put Truss’ favorability among the public at just 10%, the lowest level for a prime minister since it began surveys 22 years ago. The Conservative Party was considered favorable by 18% of people, versus 45% for the opposition Labour Party.

Labour leader Keir Starmer reiterated his call for a General Election in a speech on Thursday morning, saying “all the failures of the past 12 years have now come to the boil.”

The last public vote was held in December 2019, when Boris Johnson led the Conservatives to a landslide majority against then-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Johnson resigned amid his own political turmoil in July.

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