Britain’s former finance minister Rishi Sunak has emerged as a candidate to become the country’s next prime minister after Boris Johnson dramatically withdrew from the race to become leader of the Conservative Party.
Current Prime Minister Lisa Truss resigned last week after just six disastrous weeks in office. Graham Brady, the Conservative official in charge of the leadership contest, said a new prime minister would be appointed by Friday.
Candidates to replace Trus have until Monday at 2:00 p.m. (9:00 a.m. ET) to secure the support of 100 Conservative Party lawmakers to enter the race for the new leader of the party and the country.
Johnson’s decision to drop out puts Sunak, a former Chancellor of the Exchequer, in a race against House Speaker Penny Mordaunt.
If both candidates get the support of 100 MPs, around 172,000 members of the Conservative Party will be able to choose the new leader in an online vote.
As of Monday morning, Sunak was the only one of the pair to reach the required 100 nomination threshold.
If Sunak remains the only person to reach this number of supporters, he will automatically become the new leader of the Conservative Party. The party’s parliamentary majority ensures that he will also become the country’s next prime minister.
After days of speculation, Sunak officially announced his bid on Sunday, writing on Twitter: “The UK is a great country but we are facing a deep economic crisis. That is why I am the leader of the Conservative Party and your next Prime Minister. I want to fix our economy, unite our party and provide for our country.
“There will be integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level of government I lead, and I will work day in and day out to get the job done.”
Many of Johnson’s supporters have blamed Sunak for helping to oust Johnson from power in July after a series of scandals, but on Sunday night he paid tribute to the former prime minister after he withdrew from the race.
“Boris Johnson delivered Brexit and the introduction of great vaccines. He led our country through some of the toughest challenges we have ever faced and then took on Putin and his barbaric war in Ukraine. We will always be grateful to him for that,” Sunak tweeted “Although he has decided not to run for Prime Minister again, I sincerely hope that he will continue to contribute to public life both at home and abroad.”
In his announcement announcing his withdrawal from the race, Johnson claimed to have secured 102 congressional nominations, although the number of lawmakers who had publicly announced their support for him was far fewer. And he pulled Sunaka and Rabbit because he couldn’t convince them to support his return.
“There is a very good chance that I will be successful in the election with members of the Conservative Party and that I could indeed be back in Downing Street on Friday,” Johnson said. “But over the last few days, I’ve come to the conclusion, unfortunately, that it just wouldn’t be right. You can’t govern effectively if you don’t have a united party in parliament.
“And while I’ve been in touch with both Rishi (Sunak) and Penny (Mordaunt) because I was hoping we could come together in the national interest, unfortunately we haven’t been able to work out a way to do that,” he added. . “So I’m afraid the best thing is that I don’t let my nomination go forward and pledge to support whoever succeeds. I believe I have a lot to offer, but I’m afraid this just isn’t the right time.
Mordaunt was the first to announce her candidacy on Friday. She promised a “new start” for the UK to “unite our country, keep our promises and win the next general election”. She also runs with a catchy hashtag: “PM4PM”.
She also praised Johnson for his decision to withdraw from the contest, saying the former prime minister was “putting country before party and party before himself”.
“He worked to secure the mandate and majority we now enjoy. We need to put it to good use and I know he will work with us to do that,” she said on Twitter.
Mordaunt came third in the last leadership election, narrowly missing out on a chance to put himself ahead of the members. With 105 votes in the last election, she is expected to break the new threshold and perform well among party members, thanks in part to her military credentials. Mordaunt is a reservist in the Royal Navy and was briefly Secretary of State for Defence.
The last time the Conservatives held a leadership race – after the collapse of the Johnson government – Truss came first, Sunak second and Mordaunt third. Johnson did not run.
The leader of the main opposition Labor Party, Keir Starmer, repeated his call for a general election on Sunday, saying people were “fed up” with the Conservative leadership and the consequences of their government’s decisions.
“A choice has to be made. We need a general election! Let the public decide… Do they want to continue this utter chaos or do they want stability under a Labor government? Starmer asked during an interview with the BBC.