Liz Truss resigns as U.K. PM, successor to be elected next week 

October 20, 2022 09:20 pm | Updated 09:20 pm IST

British Prime Minister Liz Truss announces her resignation outside 10, Downing Street in London on October 20, 2022.

British Prime Minister Liz Truss announces her resignation outside 10, Downing Street in London on October 20, 2022. | Photo Credit: Reuters

British Prime Minister Liz Truss on October 20 dramatically announced her resignation just six weeks after taking office. Truss bowed to the inevitable after her right-wing platform of tax cuts disintegrated and many MPs among the ruling Conservatives revolted.

Speaking in Downing Street, Truss said she would stay on as Prime Minister until a successor is chosen to serve as Tory leader.

“We’ve agreed that there will be a leadership election to be completed within the next week,” she said, after senior backbench MP Graham Brady told her the game was up.

“This will ensure that we remain on a path to deliver our fiscal plan and maintain our country’s economic stability and national security,” she added.

The contest to replace Truss should be concluded by October 28, Brady said.

After the announcement, U.K. Labour leader Keir Starmer demanded an immediate general election.

The end for Truss came after a key minister resigned and many Tory MPs rebelled over an important vote in chaotic scenes at the House of Commons late Wednesday. By Thursday morning, more than a dozen Conservative MPs had publicly urged Truss to resign, after her tax-cutting plans caused a market meltdown during an already severe cost-of-living crisis.

Many more were reported to have submitted letters to Brady calling for her to be removed, although party rules would have forbidden another leadership campaign for 12 months.

“The prime minister acknowledges yesterday was a difficult day and she recognises the public wanted to see the government focusing less on politics and more on delivering their priorities,” her official spokesman told reporters. Barely two hours later, she quit.

Events reached a head after what right-wing tabloid The Sun called “a day of extraordinary mayhem” on Wednesday. Interior minister Suella Braverman left, apparently at Truss’s demand after she sent a government document in a personal email.

But Braverman, an arch right-winger who enjoys strong support among the Tory membership, used her resignation message to attack Truss in blistering terms.

There then followed farcical scenes in parliament as many Tory MPs rebelled against the government’s demand that they drop the party’s manifesto commitment to maintain a ban on fracking.

Accusations swirled of heavy-handed efforts to whip MPs into line, some of whom later briefed the media that it was the nail in the coffin of the Truss premiership. Conservative lord Ed Vaizey said the “only way out of this mess is for Liz Truss to stand down and for somebody to be appointed as prime minister by Conservative MPs”.

Now, the party can avoid a lengthy leadership contest by consolidating around a unity candidate for her replacement. Truss beat former finance minister Rishi Sunak in the leadership race after Boris Johnson announced his resignation in July — but Johnson supporters have vowed to block a coronation for Sunak now.

“It’s time for the prime minister to go,” lawmaker Miriam Cates said. Another, Steve Double, said of Truss: “She isn’t up to the job, sadly.” Legislator Ruth Edwards said “it is not responsible for the party to allow her to remain in power.”

Braverman’s resignation message came hours after Truss sought to dispel doubts over her leadership with a combative appearance in parliament. Truss faced harsh putdowns from Labour’s Starmer as she took part in her first Prime Minister’s Questions since the budget U-turns.

Starmer asked the House of Commons: “What’s the point of a prime minister whose promises don’t even last a week?”, as opposition MPs jeered and booed Truss, and her own party’s MPs remained silent.

French President Emmanuel Macron said it was important that Britain found “stability as soon as possible”, as he commented on the resignation of British Prime Minister Liz Truss.

“We want, above all else, stability,” Macron told reporters as he arrived at a European Union summit in Brussels. “On a personal level, I am always sad to see a colleague go,” he added.

Russia’s foreign ministry welcomed the departure of British Prime Minister Liz Truss, saying she was a disgrace of a leader who would be remembered for her “catastrophic illiteracy”.

“Britain has never known such a disgrace of a prime minister,” Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said. The claim of illiteracy appears to refer to Truss’ visit to Moscow shortly before Russia invaded Ukraine while she was British foreign minister.

In a meeting with Russia’s veteran foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, she appeared to confuse two regions of Russia with Ukraine, triggering mockery by the Russian diplomat and across talk shows on Russian state TV.

The United States will have a close relationship with whomever replaces outgoing British Prime Minister Liz Truss after she announced her resignation on Thursday, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said.

UK’s main stocks indexes hit session highs before paring gains on Thursday after Liz Truss said she was resigning as Prime Minister, brought down by her economic programme that sent shockwaves through the financial markets.

Committed to supporting press freedom, U.S. says on Kashmiri journalist Mattoo’s travel block 

The U.S. State Department has said it is tracking the story of Pulitzer Prize-winning Kashmiri journalist Sanna Irshad Mattoo being prevented from boarding a New Delhi-New York flight on October 17 to collect her award. The U.S. also said it supported press freedom and that democratic values were the basis of the India-U.S. relationship.

Mattoo, a 28-year-old photojournalist, who won a Pulitzer Prize for her coverage of COVID-19 in India in 2020, announced on Twitter that she had been stopped at Delhi airport from boarding her flight despite having a valid ticket and U.S. visa. Other journalists who won the prize along with Mattoo were Adnan Abidi, Amit Dave and the late Adnan Siddiqui, all from Reuters. The other two journalists who are not from Kashmir, were, as per reports, allowed to board their flight.

“Being able to attend the award ceremony was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me,” she had written. Mattoo had been stopped from travelling to Paris in July for a photography exhibition as a winner of the Serendipity Arles grant 2020.

“...We are aware of the reports of Ms. Mattoo being prevented from travelling to the U.S. and are tracking these developments closely. We are committed to supporting press freedom,” Principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel said at the Department’s press briefing on Wednesday.

“And as the Secretary has noted, a shared commitment to democratic values, including the respect for the independence of press, is a bedrock of the U.S.-India relationship,” he said, adding that he did not have specific information to share apart from the fact that the U.S. was tracking developments “closely”.

In March, writer Rana Ayyub, who has been deeply critical of the government, was barred from boarding an international flight. In April, Amnesty International Chair Aakar Patel was prevented from travelling to the U.S. from Bengaluru because a Look Out Circular against him had not been withdrawn (despite a Delhi High Court order saying it must). Both individuals were allowed to travel later following court interventions.

Government officials have repeatedly denied that there is crackdown on its critics and said that the agencies are acting independently.

India suffered income loss of $159 billion in key sectors due to extreme heat in 2021: Report

India suffered an income loss of $159 billion, 5.4% of its gross domestic product, in the service, manufacturing, agriculture, and construction sectors due to extreme heat in 2021, according to a new report.

Heat exposure in the country led to the loss of 167 billion potential labour hours, a 39% increase from 1990–1999, said the Climate Transparency Report 2022 compiled by an international partnership of organisations.

Labour productivity in India is projected to decline by 5% from the 1986–2006 reference period if global temperatures increase by 1.5°C, it said. The decline in labour productivity will be 2.1 times more if the global temperatures increase by 2.5°C, and 2.7 times at a 3°C scenario.

Between 2016–2021, extreme events such as cyclones, flash floods, floods, and landslides caused damage to crops in over 36 million hectares, a $3.75 billion loss for farmers in the country, the report said. The annual damage from river flooding in the country is likely to increase by around 49% at 1.5°C of warming. The damage from cyclones will increase by 5.7%.

“The annual expected damage from tropical cyclones and river flooding at 3°C is 4.6 to 5.1 times that from 1.5°C,” the report read. “Precipitation is projected to increase by 6% from the reference period of 1986–2006, at 1.5°C of warming. Under a 3°C warming scenario, precipitation will increase by three times the precipitation anticipated at 1.5°C of warming,” it said.

The rainfall pattern in India has changed in the past 30 years, impacting many economic activities such as agriculture, forestry and fisheries. “Snowfall in India is expected to decrease under 1.5°C scenario by 13% when compared with the reference period’s snowfall levels. At 3°C of warming, the decrease is expected to be 2.4 times the 1.5°C scenario,” the report said.

Earth’s global surface temperature has increased by around 1.1° C compared with the average in 1850–1900. To address climate change, countries adopted the Paris Agreement in 2015 to limit global temperature rise in this century to well below 2°C, preferably to 1.5°C, compared to pre-industrial levels.

Suruchi Bhadwal, director for earth science and climate change at The Energy and Resources Institute, said, “Extreme weather events in our regions have shown that the effects of climate change are increasing, and more and more people are being affected.”

“The need to transform our energy systems is obvious, which will also require the support of rich countries whose per capita emissions are much higher than India’s,” she said.

New Zealand farmers hit streets to protest cow-burp tax plan

Farmers across New Zealand took to the streets on their tractors on Thursday to protest government plans to tax cow burps and other greenhouse gas emissions, although the rallies were smaller than many had expected.

Lobby group Groundswell New Zealand helped organise more than 50 protests in towns and cities across the country, the biggest involving a few dozen vehicles. Last week, the government proposed a new farm levy as part of a plan to tackle climate change. The government said it would be a world first, and that farmers should be able to recoup the cost by charging more for climate-friendly products.

Because farming is so big in New Zealand — there are 10 million beef and dairy cattle and 26 million sheep, compared to just 5 million people — about half of all greenhouse gas emissions come from farms. Methane from burping cattle makes a particularly big contribution.

But some farmers argue the proposed tax would actually increase global greenhouse gas emissions by shifting farming to countries less efficient at making food. At the protest in Wellington, farmer Dave McCurdy said he was disappointed in the small turnout, but said most farmers were working hard on their farms during a spell of good spring weather at a particularly busy time of year. He said farmers were good environmental stewards.

“It’s our life, our family’s lives,” he said. “We’re not out there to wreck it, we wouldn’t make any money. We love our farms. That’s what annoys us. We’re painted as these bad guys, but a lot of farmers have spent generations looking after that land.”

He said the proposed tax didn’t take proper account of all the trees and brush he and other farmers had planted, which helped trap carbon and offset emissions. He said if the proposed tax and herd reductions went ahead, it would be ruinous to many farmers.

“I’m out,” he said. “Waste of time.”

Tractors drive down the southern motorway in central Auckland on October 20, 2022 during a protest on climate change proposals to make New Zealand farmers pay for greenhouse gas emissions.

Tractors drive down the southern motorway in central Auckland on October 20, 2022 during a protest on climate change proposals to make New Zealand farmers pay for greenhouse gas emissions. | Photo Credit: AP

Farming remains vital to New Zealand’s economy. Dairy products, including those used to make infant formula in China, are the nation’s largest export earner. McCurdy said farmers had almost singlehandedly kept the economy afloat during the COVID-19 lockdowns, and now that the threat had passed and a recession was looming, the government was coming after them.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has pledged the nation will become carbon neutral by 2050. Part of that plan includes reducing methane emissions from farm animals by 10% by 2030 and by up to 47% by 2050.

The government had worked with farmers and other groups to try to come up with an emissions plan they could all live with. But many farmers have been incensed by the government’s final proposal, while environmentalists have said it doesn’t go nearly far enough.

In Brief: 

Ahead of the crucial mid-term polls, U.S. President Joe Biden has announced a slew of measures to lower gas prices, which have been hurting the middle class. Biden, in a major policy speech, reiterated that Russian President Vladimir Putin was responsible for the hike in energy prices in the U.S. “When the price of gas goes up, other expenses get cut. That’s why I have been doing everything in my power to reduce gas prices since Putin’s invasion of Ukraine caused these prices to spike and rattled international oil markets,” he said in a speech. Biden said the Department of Energy will release another 15 million barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, extending the previously announced release, through the month of December.

Evening Wrap will return tomorrow

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