Rishi Sunak has emerged as new UK Prime Minister

Rishi Sunak was declared the next leader of Britain’s Conservative Party by the head of the 1922 Committee of Conservative lawmakers on Monday, placing him on course to be the country’s next prime minister.

The committee sets the rules for selecting and changing the party’s leader.

Sunak defeated centrist politician Penny Mordaunt, who failed to get enough backing from lawmakers to enter the ballot, while his rival, the former prime minister Boris Johnson, withdrew from the contest saying he could no longer unite the party.

“This decision is a historic one and shows, once again, the diversity and talent of our party. Rishi has my full support,” Mordaunt said in a statement as she withdrew from the race just minutes before the winner was due to be announced.

The pound and British government bond prices jumped briefly on news of Mordaunt’s withdrawal but soon returned to their previous levels.

It is a remarkable return for Sunak who lost a leadership bid to Liz Truss less than two months ago when he was accused by some in the Conservative Party of bringing down their hero, Boris Johnson.

Elected for the first time to parliament in 2015, Rishi Sunak became Britain’s youngest prime minister in more than 200 years, tasked with steering the country through an economic crisis and mounting anger among some voters.

One of the wealthiest politicians in Westminster, he enters Downing Street facing a need to make deep public spending cuts to stem a fiscal crisis, as well as tackling a cost-of-living crunch, a winter of strikes and Russia’s war in Ukraine.

His backers say the former finance minister is a safe pair of hands who can restore Britain’s credibility with investors who sold the country’s bonds and sterling after Truss’s mini-budget offered tax cuts with little on how to fund them.

But the former Goldman Sachs analyst and hedge fund partner also faces challenges within the governing Conservative Party, where some lawmakers blame him for his role in ousting Johnson and are concerned he has not got what it takes to win elections.

The opposition Labour Party is likely to paint him as a member of the uber-rich elite, out of touch with the pressures faced by millions as Britain slides towards a recession, dragged down by the surging cost of food and energy.

Some fear he cannot reunite a party that is deeply divided and getting used to quickly dispensing with leaders they do not like.

“He couldn’t beat Liz Truss last month; he’s not turned into an election winner less than two months later,” one senior Conservative lawmaker said on condition of anonymity after supporting Johnson in his failed bid to run again.

Sunak replaces Truss, who said she would resign four days ago but who defeated him on Sept. 5 with 57% of the vote from Conservative members. Then, the former finance minister repeatedly described his predecessor’s ideas as “fairytale” economics that would spook the markets.

He was proved right, but after a fast-track leadership race, some Conservatives say they doubt his commitment to a Margaret Thatcher-style small state vision to spur growth after he put Britain on course for the highest tax burden since the 1950s with emergency pandemic spending on saving jobs and welfare.

When declaring his candidacy, Sunak, 42, said he had a track record that showed he could “fix our economy, unite out party and deliver for our country”.

“There will be integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level of the government I lead and I will work day in and day out to get the job done,” he said in veiled criticism of Johnson, forced out over a scandal-ridden premiership.


Born in Southampton in 1980 to Hindu parents of Punjabi Indian descent, Sunak repeatedly during the last leadership campaign spoke of helping his mum, who ran a pharmacy, with the books, doing payroll and accounts.

He had a privileged education – he went to an elite fee-paying school and is the latest prime minister to have studied politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford University, following David Cameron and his predecessor, Truss.

During the last leadership campaign, he supported the creation of more selective grammar schools after new ones were banned by the opposition Labour Party, but repeatedly said “a world-class education” should be a birthright.

He will also be the first person of colour to become Britain’s prime minister. Ravi Kumar, 38, a Conservative Party member working at a finance company in the central English city of Nottingham, described the appointment as a “watershed moment”.

“I grew up in the 80s and 90s, and I could not even imagine a non-white prime minister in my lifetime… So to see a British Indian leader is phenomenal,” he told Reuters.

But Sunak’s marriage to the daughter of an Indian billionaire has raised concerns in the party that he is too far removed from the concerns of everyday voters, some of whom are being forced by spiralling inflation to decide whether to spend their money on food or heating.

It didn’t help that in April Sunak’s wife was forced to confirm reports that her non-domiciled status meant she did not pay tax on all her international earnings, something she agreed to end.

“Rishi never had a overdraft so he is used to having a Treasury (finance ministry) account and a current account,” said one Conservative insider who had backed Johnson.

“Rishi has good PR but an inability to be brave and be the Brexit Chancellor the UK needs,” the insider said on condition of anonymity.

Sunak’s supporters say he is just the man who is needed to steady the ship financially after Truss’s so-called mini-budget roiled financial markets, raising government borrowing and increasing mortgages and fears pensions funds could go bust.

“We need someone who can provide stability and proven economic competence in these challenging times, and Rishi Sunak is that person,” said Grant Shapps, brought in as Britain’s interior minister after Truss sacked his predecessor.

Shapps was just one of several ministers to back Sunak after Johnson pulled out late on Sunday, surprising and even angering his own supporters. Johnson has not made public who he backed.

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