Rishi Sunak will be the next Prime Minister of the UK after the resignation of Liz Truss
LONDON — Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak won the race to become the leader of the Conservative Party on Monday and will become Britain’s next prime minister – his third this year.
The former head of the Ministry of Finance will become the first leader of color in the UK, he will be tasked with stabilizing the party and the country in a period of economic and political turbulence.
His only rival, Penny Mordaunt, relented and withdrew.
As leader of the ruling party, he will take over as Prime Minister from Liz Truss, who quit last week after 45 tumultuous days in office.
Sunak was a strong favorite as the ruling Conservative Party sought stability amid huge economic problems and after months of chaos that engulfed the last two leaders.
Sunak’s position has been strengthened since former leader Boris Johnson dropped out of the race for the leadership of the Conservative Party. The party is electing Britain’s third prime minister this year following the resignation of Liz Truss after a turbulent 45-day term.
MORE: British Prime Minister Liz Truss resigns, ending 6-week term after policy sparks economic turmoil
Sunak lost to Truss in the last Conservative election, but now his party and country appear to be desperate for a safe pair of hands to deal with soaring energy and food prices and a looming recession. The politician has steered the economy through the coronavirus pandemic, winning praise for providing financial support to laid-off workers and shuttered businesses.
He promised “integrity, professionalism and accountability” if he forms a government – a sign of the growing desire for a leader who can solve the country’s problems.
Earlier in the day, the 42-year-old was the only candidate with the confirmed support of more than 100 lawmakers, the number needed to contest the election, and his supporters claimed he had the support of more than half of the 357 Conservative lawmakers in Parliament. Mardaunt had hoped to reach the threshold by the time nominations closed, but she declined.
This means that Sunak is now the leader of the Conservative Party and will be asked by King Charles III to form a government. He will become prime minister after handing over power from the Trustees later on Monday or Tuesday.
Sunak, who served as Treasury chief from 2020 until this summer, resigned in July in protest at Johnson’s leadership.
Johnson abruptly left the race on Sunday night, ending a short-lived, high-profile bid to return to the prime ministership from which he was ousted just over three months ago amid ethics scandals.
Johnson spent the weekend trying to drum up support from fellow Conservatives after flying back from a Caribbean vacation. Late Sunday, he said he had the support of 102 colleagues. But he was far behind Sunak in support and said he had concluded that “you cannot govern effectively if you don’t have a single party in parliament”.
The prospect of Johnson’s return has thrown the already divided Conservative Party into further turmoil. He led the party to a stunning victory in the 2019 election, but his premiership was marred by money and ethics scandals that eventually became too much for the party.
In a statement on Sunday, Johnson insisted he was “well placed to deliver a Conservative victory” at the next national election, due in 2024. And he said he would probably have won the vote of Conservative Party members against any of his rivals.
“But in recent days, I have unfortunately come to the conclusion that it would just be wrong,” he said.
However, he hinted that he could return, saying: “I believe I have something to offer, but I’m afraid it’s just not the right time.”
Truss resigned on Thursday after a turbulent 45 days in office, admitting she had failed to deliver on her failed economic package of tax cuts, which she was forced to abandon after it sparked fury in her party and weeks of upheaval on financial markets.
The unrest in the Conservative Party is fueling demands for a national election. Under the British parliamentary system, it does not have to be created until the end of 2024, although the government has the right to convene it earlier.
At present, this looks unlikely. Opinion polls show the election would spell disaster for the Conservatives, with the centre-left Labor Party winning a large majority.
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