Billionaire Rishi Sunak was appointed by Britain’s Conservative Party on Monday as its new leader and next prime minister, succeeding Liz Truss, making him the country’s first ethnic minority leader.
Two months after failing in his first attempt to lead the Conservative Party and lead the government, Sunak, 42, of Indian origin, emerged as the only candidate with sufficient support.
“Rishi Sunak has been elected leader of the Conservative Party,” announced the head of the parliamentary group Graham Brady.
His only rival, the Minister for Parliamentary Relations, Penny Mordaunt, failed to reach the minimum of 100 supports, among the 357 Conservative deputies, necessary to present her candidacy, despite having defined herself until the end as “the best positioned to unify the party with “all-wings backing” of the formation.
Mordaunt, 49, had remained Sunak’s only potential rival after former Prime Minister Boris Johnson ruled out the possibility of a controversial return on Sunday night, announcing that he would not run to succeed the resigning Truss, who had replaced himself on September 6.
Sunak was due to appear shortly afterward, Brady said.
It remains to be determined when he and Truss will go to see King Charles III to formalize the appointment of the third British prime minister in two months.
Johnson, 58, whose eventual candidacy deeply divided the Conservative Party, assured on Sunday that he had the necessary 100 supports, but preferred not to run.
“It wouldn’t be the right thing to do,” he said. “You cannot govern effectively if there is not a united party in Parliament,” added the controversial former leader, forced by his formation to resign in July as a result of an accumulation of scandals.
Johnson was vacationing with his family in the Dominican Republic when Truss announced his resignation on Thursday, plunged by the financial chaos he caused with his controversial fiscal policies after just a month and a half in power. On Saturday, Johnson advanced his return to London to test the waters for a possible political comeback.
He claimed to be “well placed to achieve a Conservative victory in 2024”, the date of the next legislative elections, and to have “many chances of success in the election with members of the Conservative Party”, but stated that he was giving up due to the inability to unite the formation.
His decision opened the door for Sunak, his former finance minister whom many blame for triggering Johnson’s downfall with his resignation in July, to become the first politician from an ethnic minority to lead the UK.
This billionaire ex-banker, the grandson of Indian immigrants who studied in the schools of the British elite, will also become the first head of government of the Hindu religion at the time of Diwali, an important Hindu festival very popular among the British Indian community.
After an intense weekend of negotiations, Sunak had made his candidacy official on Sunday. “I want to straighten out our economy, unite our party and take action for our country,” he declared on Twitter, promising “integrity, professionalism and responsibility.”
Mordaunt, 49, said then that she was persisting in her bid to become the country’s fourth prime minister, after the short-lived Truss, and applauded Johnson’s resignation: “By making this difficult decision, he put the country ahead of the party, and the game ahead of himself,” he tweeted on Monday.
But on Monday he had to concede defeat, giving Sunak his “full support” on Twitter.
A defender of budgetary orthodoxy, he appears in the eyes of many Conservative MPs as the right person to reassure the markets and pull the UK out of the economic and social crisis aggravated by Truss’s ultra-liberal plans at a time of high inflation.
Meanwhile, the opposition Labor Party, with an overwhelming lead in the polls, insists on calling for early general elections. An option already supported by a majority of British.