Things aren't going well for Liz Truss. Barely five weeks in office, the British Prime Minister must fear for her place at the top. The conservative Tory politician had taken over the wheel in a difficult situation. After Boris Johnson officially announced his resignation in early July, political London was frozen over the summer. Ironically, at a time when the country desperately needed leadership in the face of double-digit inflation, the energy crisis and skyrocketing cost of living.
Confident of victory, Truss moved into Downing Street in early September promising "growth, growth, growth". But with the announcement of massive tax breaks - without any plans for counter-financing - her government promptly triggered a crisis on the financial markets. The pound sterling plummeted, terrified investors retreated and the central bank had to intervene.
Five weeks and two fiscal U-turns later, Britain is no longer in stormy waters. The ship is in much greater danger of capsizing.
On Friday, the Prime Minister then pulled the emergency brake. First, she fired her Treasury Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, and brought on board former Secretary of State and Health Jeremy Hunt, an experienced Chancellor of the Exchequer. Truss then backtracked on the corporate tax cut, thereby taking away the heart of her heavily criticized tax plans. But there was not much evidence of insight at the press conference, which lasted only eight minutes. Instead, the head of government insisted that she was on the right track. Parts of her so-called mini-budget were simply "more extensive" and came "quicker" than the markets had expected, she claimed.
Several political observers specifically interpret the sudden ouster of their Treasury Secretary as an attempt to buy time -- and to save their own political survival. Whether getting her head out of the noose will help her in the end remains to be seen. One thing is certain: the question of how long the prime minister can remain in office has long dominated the headlines of the British press.
"Will Liz Truss last longer than this salad?" the tabloid "Daily Star" asked spitefully on Friday - and started a YouTube live stream showing a photo of the head of government next to a head of lettuce with a blonde wig and glued-on eyes. Previously, the "Economist" had certified Truss to have the shelf life of a salad.
The Guardian speaks of a "day of chaos" and notes that Truss' press conference consisted of "eight minutes, four questions and no apologies". The fact that the prime minister dismissed her finance minister after only 38 days in office and had to backtrack on her tax policy again is described as a "humiliating" about-face.
The Telegraph headlines: "Truss clings to power after sawing off Kwarteng". The newspaper reports "an extraordinary day of U-turns in Westminster, sending Tory MPs into despair and hastening the conspiracy among some rebels who were trying to remove Truss".
"Truss is fighting for survival," the Times put it in a nutshell on its front page. The article says Kwarteng believes the prime minister's moves bought her "just a couple of weeks."
The "Financial Times" also focuses on the victim of the finance minister: "Truss fires Kwarteng to save the office of prime minister," it says. Renowned political commentator Robert Shrimsley questions "what's the point of Liz Truss anymore" given her many political U-turns.
"How much more can she (and the rest of us) take?" asks the Daily Mail accusingly. The paper writes that Truss' recent moves have "torn the heart out of their plans to spur growth." Now some ministers would discuss the possibility of installing a new leadership.
For the "Daily Mirror" the matter has apparently already been decided. The newspaper sees no future in Liz Truss and headlines "Your time is up" in white capital letters. The newspaper reports on growing calls for general elections and Labor leader Keir Starmer's desire for a change of government.
If Liz Truss is really asked the vote of confidence, Britain will soon have its fifth prime minister in six years. Since Truss himself has no mandate, an early election would be almost inevitable. For the Conservatives, however, a new election could end bitterly: in some polls, the opposition Labor Party leads by more than 30 percentage points.
Their party leader Keir Starmer described the dismissal of Kwarteng on Saturday as "grotesque chaos". The current situation is historically unprecedented, he said at a regional party conference in Barnsley. "This administration has been wreaking havoc on our economy for 12 years, and because the kamikaze budget has wreaked even more havoc, we are naturally concerned." What is needed is not a change at the top of the Tories, but a change in government.