Big changes for ousted leaders Boris Johnson and Liz Truss at Tory party Conference

One former PM has stepped away from Parliament while the other is trying to resurrect her career

Boris Johnson is no longer an MP and appears to be taking a back seat from public life. AP
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Two former prime ministers are facing up to the Conservative party conference in vastly different positions from a year ago after a brutal time in British politics.

Liz Truss, who began her term, destined to become the country’s shortest-serving prime minister, 26 days before conference opened, will attend the Manchester conference but Boris Johnson appears to be taking a back seat this year with no known conference events or speeches planned.

Mr Johnson was forced out as mounting controversies, including Covid gatherings and the conduct of his MPs, tipped the balance from being a vote winner to losing support among his Cabinet and Parliamentary members.

Ms Truss won the race to replace him but her policies sent the economy into a tailspin that is still being talked about, and she was soon ousted.

Last year Ms Truss said she would “get us through the tempest” and “get Britain moving” in her first – and only – Tory conference speech as party leader.

She set out to reassure the party that she had an aspirational plan to grow the economy, breaking the country out of a high tax, low growth cycle.

She said her three priorities were “growth, growth, growth” and despite the turbulent weeks since taking control, pledged to keep an “iron grip” on the economy.

In the days after Ms Truss and her chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng unveiled their spending plans, which included £45 billion worth of unfunded budget cuts, the British pound plunged, the cost of government borrowing rose, and there was a knock-on effect on the UK mortgage market.

Rishi Sunak, who lost in the first leadership contest to Ms Truss, won the second one – and promised a return to stability.

Ms Truss has only recently put her head above the parapet again, defending her policies and warning of threats from China.

Ms Truss has since defended her decisions and blamed institutions including the Bank of England for their failure. In September, she admitted trying to move the pocilies too quickly but not that the policies were wrong.

"Trying to deliver what I believed people had voted for, there was a lot of institutional bureaucracy in the way.

"And even during the leadership election campaign, and maybe this did not make me popular with the Office for Budget Responsibility and the Bank of England, I pointed out that there was an orthodoxy in Britain about economic policy and I tried to challenge that orthodoxy. And I didn't find a massive level of support, frankly, from those institutions."

She also visited Taiwan, as she tried to revive her image, where she warned China was a threat to British security.

At conference she will be with the party members, who when given the choice, voted overwhelmingly for her and not Mr Sunak.

Ms Truss has said she will be in Manchester where she would be “saying more”, but did not reveal details.

Former Bank of England governor Mark Carney in September accused her of turning Britain into “Argentina on the Channel” – a reference to the South American country’s reputation for financial instability.

Mr Johnson, who loved throwing a florid turn-of-phrase into his speeches, has resigned as an MP and there is no indication that he will be in Manchester.

Mr Johnson announced his resignation as an MP in June after the Privileges Committee recommended a 10-day suspension from the House of Commons for misleading parliament over “Partygate” during the coronavirus pandemic.

Truss unrepentant in final speech as UK prime minister

Truss unrepentant in final speech as UK prime minister

He laid out a series of political criticisms of the current Prime Minister, including a supposed failure to seal a free trade deal with Washington.

Mr Johnson was forced out after 59 resignations from his government in two days – despite a reputation for surviving scandals that would cost others their careers.

When Mr Johnson admitted he knew about a sexual allegation made against Chris Pincher before appointing him to his government it was the final straw.

Mr Johnson has spoken out on Ukraine, net zero goals, and the under-construction HS2 railway, policies he championed while in power.

His parliamentary constituency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip now has Steven Tuckwell as MP with a majority of 495, a huge reduction on Mt Johnson's 5,000-majority.

Mr Tuckwell's by-election win was the only Conservative success in May when three by elections were held for departing Tory MPs.

Updated: September 27, 2023, 12:33 PM