‘Catastrophic illiteracy’: Russia revels in Truss resignation, as Brit opposition demands election

British opposition leader Keir Starmer said the Conservative Party “has shown it no longer has a mandate to govern”. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON - Barely moments after British Prime Minister Liz Truss announced she would be resigning from her post, and as leader of the Conservative Party, opposition leader Keir Starmer on Thursday demanded an immediate general election.

“The Tories cannot respond to their latest shambles by yet again simply clicking their fingers and shuffling the people at the top without the consent of the British people. We need a general election – now,” he said.

The Conservative Party “has shown it no longer has a mandate to govern”, added the Labour Party leader.

“After 12 years of Tory failure, the British people deserve so much better than this revolving door of chaos. Now, they have crashed the economy so badly that people are facing £500 (S$800) a month extra on their mortgages. The damage they have done will take years to fix,” he said.

The pound, which had rallied ahead of the announcement, was last up 0.45 per cent at US$1.127. It also edged 0.2 per cent higher against the euro.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday welcomed the departure of Ms 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,” said Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Maria Zakharova in a social media post.

Ms Truss has been the target of withering comments from Moscow since she visited in February, as part of a fruitless drive by Western politicians to avert a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The claim of illiteracy appears to refer to that trip, when she was British foreign minister. In a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, she appeared to confuse two regions of Russia with Ukraine, triggering widespread mockery in Russian media.

Russian officials took a dim view of Ms Truss’ premiership from the outset and have revelled in her numerous gaffes. Upon Ms Truss’ appointment in September, Mr Lavrov said she did not know how to compromise and questioned how she could say she did not know whether French President Emmanuel Macron was a “friend or foe”.

The French President said on Thursday it was important that Britain find “stability as soon as possible”, as he commented on the resignation.

“We want, above all else, stability,” Mr 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.” 

Ms Zakharova also on Thursday mocked Ms Truss’ high-profile photo shoot in Estonia in 2021, where she donned a flak jacket and helmet to ride in a tank during a visit to British troops stationed in the Baltic country.

Relations between Moscow and London had sunk to their lowest level in decades even before Russia invaded Ukraine, on the back of the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in the British city of Salisbury in 2018. 

The United States will have a close relationship with whoever replaces Ms Truss, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said.

The US and Britain are enduring allies and their strong bond will last, US President Joe Biden said on Thursday after Ms Truss announced her resignation.

“The United States and the United Kingdom are strong allies and enduring friends – and that fact will never change. I thank Prime Minister Liz Truss for her partnership on a range of issues, including holding Russia accountable for its war against Ukraine. We will continue our close cooperation with the UK government as we work together to meet the global challenges our nations face,” said Mr Biden.

“Our country’s always had a special relationship with the United Kingdom without regard to the partisan affiliation of our President or the politics of their Prime Minister,” said Mr Klain. “That’s going to continue no matter who the UK picks as their next prime minister.”

He cited many shared causes, including Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, as areas where the two historic allies would continue to be aligned.

“We’re going to work very, very closely with whoever succeeds Prime Minister Truss,” he said.

But there was little love lost when it came to relations at home for the outgoing Prime Minister.

London Mayor and Labour Party politician Sadiq Khan, who was in Buenos Aires for the C40 climate change summit, said: “This morning, I heard the news that my political opponent, the conservative Prime Minister of the UK, has resigned.

“Had I known that organising the summit could lead to the resignation of the UK PM, I’d have organised it sooner.” REUTERS

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