The five shortest-serving UK prime ministers in modern history – could Liz Truss steal the crown?

With Labour surging to a record lead in the polls and letters of no confidence being sent from Tory MPs hoping to trigger yet another leadership contest, is Truss about to become the shortest-serving UK prime minister in recent times?

Liz Truss

She’s been in the job for less than a month and havoc has been wreaked on the economy. Her chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s controversial mini budget has been blasted as fiscally irresponsible. The housing market has been sent into chaos with surging interest rates, the pound fell to its lowest value in 35 years, and fears of a fresh round of austerity have raised alarm in Whitehall.

With Labour surging to a record lead in the polls, it’s not surprising ‘no confidence letters’ are being sent from Tory MPs, hoping to trigger yet another leadership contest.

But even before the economic turmoil was sparked by the chancellor’s £45bn tax giveaway gamble, the bookies didn’t think Truss would have staying power at No 10.

Could it be that Liz Truss becomes the shortest-serving UK prime minister in modern history?

We take a look at what Truss is up against, the PMs who hold the record of having the briefest terms in office.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home – Tory PM from 1963 to 1964 (a year and a day)

Conservative Sir Douglas-Home currently holds the crown as the UK’s shortest-serving PM in recent history. Douglas-Home became prime minister following the resignation of Harold Macmillan during a Tory Party crisis. Pitting against trade unions and with an aristocratic background, Douglas-Home was deemed old-fashioned and out of touch and lost in the 1964 election to Harold Wilson.

Sir Anthony Eden – Tory PM from 1955 to 1957 (1 year and 279 days)

Sir Anthony Eden resigned as PM in 1957 after less than two years in the job. It is widely believed that his controversial decision to use armed intervention in the Suez crisis marked the start of his demise.

Gordon Brown – Labour PM from 2007 to 2010 (2 years and 318 days)

The former chancellor took over from Tony Blair in 2007. During his time in office, Brown oversaw the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, the devolution of powers in Northern Ireland, and the world’s first ever Climate Change Act. Yet he was defeated by David Cameron in the 2010 general election.

Neville Chamberlain – Tory PM from 1937 to 1940 (2 years and 348 days)

Chamberlain is remembered for his support for the policy of appeasement towards Adolf Hitler over the annexation of Czechoslovakia and the signing Munich Agreement on 29 September 1938.  Less than a year after Chamberlain delivered his “Peace with Honour – Peace for Our Time” speech, Britain had entered the war following the invasion of Poland by German forces.

Theresa May – Tory PM from 2016 to 2019 (3 years and 11 days)

Stepping up after David Cameron jumped ship following the Brexit referendum, Theresa May’s time in office was short but not sweet. After just over three years in the top job and a number of Brexit deal defeats in Parliament, she suffered a catastrophic loss of confidence among MPs and cabinet ministers and announced her resignation in 2019.

With top economists, opposition parties, currency markets and a number of Tory MPs reacting to Truss and Kwarteng’s borrowing-fuelled tax cut spree in dismay, the humiliation of being the shortest serving PM in modern history could well be on the cards for Liz Truss.

Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

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