How could Liz Truss be replaced as prime minister?

Over the summer, the Conservatives ejected Boris Johnson from power amid concerns that their party was falling behind in the polls.

As the nights draw in for October, the Tories have found themselves out of the frying pan and into the fire with his replacement Liz Truss also facing calls to go.

Her hard-line free market budget that prioritised tax cuts for the wealthy sent markets reeling and put the party 33 points behind Labour in the polls.

The disastrous economic plan prompted Mr Truss to sack her chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng in a bid to deflect the blame, and there are already murmurings that she may not be in post for much longer with a number of Tory MPs openly calling for her to go.

But what would Conservatives have to do to get rid of her, and is it even possible?

Here we go again

The most conventional way for the Conservative party to ditch its leader is for MPs to write letters of no confidence to the party's ruling 1922 committee.

Under Tory rules, if 15 per cent of the parliamentary party – currently 54 MPs – send a letter, then a no-confidence vote of all MPs is triggered.

This happened to Mr Johnson, who initially survived the vote, which requires a majority of MPs to oust someone as leader.

Multiple MPs have already called for Liz Truss to go with suggestions up to 100 could have sent letters to the committee's chair Sir Graham Brady.

The fun thing about this mechanism is that the only person who knows how many letters have gone in is Sir Graham because the figure is private until the threshold has reached. As such, there is much room for speculation and zero hard evidence.

Safe for now?

Under existing procedures, no Tory leader who has survived a leadership challenge can be challenged for another year.

It has been claimed by some Tories that this rule applies to new leaders who have only just been elected – a fact reported and confirmed by Sir Graham.

So is Truss safe? Not necessarily, even if this is the case. Shortly after Mr Johnson survived his no-confidence vote, things went from bad to worse for him and many MPs changed their mind and decided they wanted to get rid.

This chart, created by Statista for The Independent, shows the voting intentions of UK adults this year. The Conservative Party’s popularity has nosedived in September (Statista)
This chart, created by Statista for The Independent, shows the voting intentions of UK adults this year. The Conservative Party’s popularity has nosedived in September (Statista)

MPs effectively threatened to change the rules on Mr Johnson to allow another challenge: and the same threat applies to his successor.

To amend the rules would require MPs on the 1922 committee's executive to agree that the situation merited such a course of action.

Could the rules be changed?

Senior members of the 1922 committee are said to have held secret talks to discuss the possibility that the threshold could be reached - and whether rules should be changed.

But there may also be a delay because of the need to fill two spaces on the committee’s executive.

These spaces were created by the appointment of Aaron Bell and Nus Ghani to government posts by Ms Truss. They are unlikely to be filled until Wednesday 19 October at the earliest.

Meanwhile, Sir Graham has returned from holiday this week and is expected to count the letters he has received.

Are there any other ways?

Barring a rule change, Truss could be ejected the way Mr Johnson was. He was hit by cabinet resignations and left isolated.

Eventually, allies convinced him that it was time to leave for the good of the party and that he could not do anything productive in office.

Liz Truss has yet to be hit by any cabinet resignations, so the situation is somewhat different. But if she slips further behind in the polls, you can expect the informal pressure on her to continue to mount. She might then choose to depart of her own free will and resign.

What about the public?

The public has fewer options. We must wait for a general election, and the timing of this election is controlled by Truss herself and unlikely to be any time soon. The longest she can wait is until early 2025, though she has previously said she expects to face the public in 2024.