LONDON — Former finance minister Rishi Sunak has won the race to become the next British Prime Minister on Monday, the first British Asian to assume the role and the third leader in seven weeks of a country in upheaval by political and economic chaos.
Sunak, 42, will become the latest leader of the ruling Conservative Party to enter the revolving door of 10 Downing St., after Resignation of Liz Truss only 44 days after taking office. His scandal-ridden predecessor, Boris Johnsondropped his offer to return on Sunday.
Sunak’s victory was confirmed on Monday after his only other challenger, Penny Mordaunt, failed to win the support of enough of her fellow lawmakers before the deadline.
“Rishi Sunak is therefore elected leader of the Conservative Party,” Graham Brady, the Conservative lawmaker who oversees the party’s leadership elections, told his colleagues, who banged the tables and applauded the announcement.
Sunak will now be asked to form a government by King Charles IIIa ceremonial duty that the country’s new monarch will perform for the first time.
A former multimillionaire banker, Sunak was not elected by the UK’s 67 million people, but rather nominated by lawmakers from the Conservative Party, which records historical lows in the polls after a decade of austerity and 18 months of controversy and division.
This is the party’s second leadership contest in two months. In the first, Sunak was the big favorite until Truss’ Late Push saw her elected by the party’s roughly 200,000 paying members, who are mostly white, wealthy and male, and tend to lean to the right of the British political centre.
This time, those members had no say as Sunak was the only candidate to win the required support from 100 lawmakers to reach a potential runoff.
Johnson claimed he could have reached that threshold and might have won a larger vote among members. But that would have strained a bitterly divided party to breaking point, so unpopular is Johnson in Parliament. Sunak’s other challenger, Mordaunt, announced minutes before the 9 a.m. ET deadline that she, too, had failed to muster enough support. “Rishi has my full support,” she said in a statement.
The son of Hindus of Indian descent of African descent, Sunak will be the country’s second ethnic minority leader, after Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli in the 1800s, who was of Jewish origin but practicing Christian. Sunak has won the leadership race for Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights.
Born in the southern port town of Southampton, Sunak became MP for Richmond in the North Yorkshire region in 2015. His rapid rise through the ranks saw him build your own personal brand with a shrewd social media operation and grassroots measures to ease economic pressure during the pandemic.
“The UK is a great country but we are facing a deep economic crisis,” Sunak said. said on Twitter Sunday, his only public comments in the last leadership race. “I want to fix our economy, unite our party and deliver for our country.”
It will be a Herculean effort, as he takes the helm during a domestic economic crisis and as Britain anxiously tries to find its place in the world after leaving the European Union.