Rishi Sunak is set to be UK Prime Minister after his last remaining rival, Penny Mordaunt, dropped out of the race for 10 Downing Street.
“We all owe it to the country, to each other and to Rishi to come together and work together for the good of the nation,” Mordaunt said in a statement on Twitter. The ruling Conservative Party confirmed that Sunak, who will address rank-and-file MPs at 2:30 pm, has been elected leader.
It’s a remarkable turnaround in Sunak’s political fortunes, after the former Chancellor of the Exchequer left Boris Johnson’s government in July and then lost to Liz Truss in the last Tory leadership contest over the summer. But his repeated warnings that his plans would unleash economic chaos proved correct and put him in the lead when Truss’s premiership collapsed.
Still, Sunak was an underdog given the bitterness and division in the Conservative Party. He is still tarnished in the eyes of many Conservative MPs for his role in bringing down Johnson, and the former prime minister’s flirtation over the weekend with what would have been a scandalous comeback just months after being briefly ousted threatened derail Sunak’s hopes. Play video
The rivals leave
In the end, Johnson withdrew without ever showing that he had the support of the 100 Conservative MPs needed to formally challenge for the leadership. Similarly, Mordaunt withdrew shortly before influential Tory MP Graham Brady announced which candidates had passed that threshold.
It effectively marked a coronation for Sunak, 42, who becomes the UK’s first Hindu prime minister and the country’s youngest in more than 200 years. Grassroots Tory members, who had the final say when Truss defeated Sunak last time, will have no say this time.
But Sunak now faces a daunting task in trying to bring unity to a party that has endured months of turmoil and is still torn apart by fundamental issues like Brexit and the economy.
Some Conservative MPs are even saying the party no longer has a mandate to govern, after a second leadership change since Johnson won the general election in 2019. “It will now be impossible to avoid an EG,” former Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said on Twitter. . .
Truss’s decision to step down followed weeks of turmoil as investors dumped UK assets. His economic plan, including borrowing to pay for massive tax cuts, rattled markets and turned voters even more against the Conservatives in record numbers.
After firing his first finance minister and longtime political ally, Kwasi Kwarteng, Truss brought in Jeremy Hunt, who backed Sunak on Sunday, to try to restore calm.
Hunt managed that to some extent, but he also put the government on the path to imposing another round of austerity at a politically sensitive time when Britons are struggling with rising costs of living.
In a column for the Telegraph newspaper on Sunday night, Hunt indicated that he and Sunak are on the same page on how to tackle the economy. Sunak will “turn the page on what went wrong, make decisions in the national interest, and rebuild the extraordinary potential of our economy,” Hunt said.
Hunt is due to deliver a major statement on the Treasury’s tax and spending plans on Oct. 31, a date chosen to better inform the Bank of England about how quickly to raise interest rates. UK bonds rose at the open on Monday on expectations of a Sunak PM.
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