Sunak edges closer to UK PM after Johnson balks

LONDON (AP) – Former Treasury chief Rishi Sunak was the heavy favorite on Monday to become Britain’s next prime minister – within days, if not hours – as the ruling Conservative Party sought stability at a time of immense economic challenges and after months of chaos that consumed both last rulers.

Sunak’s position strengthened after former leader Boris Johnson has given up of the Conservative Party leadership race. The party chooses the third British Prime Minister this year after Resignation of Liz Truss after a hectic 45-day tenure.

Sunak lost to Truss in the last Conservative election, but his party and the country now seem keen on having a safe pair of hands to deal with soaring energy and food prices and a looming recession . The politician has steered the economy through the coronavirus pandemic, winning praise for his financial support for laid-off workers and shuttered businesses.

He promised “integrity, professionalism and accountability” if he forms a government – a nod to the growing desire for a leader who can tackle the country’s problems.

The 42-year-old is the only candidate with the confirmed support of more than 100 lawmakers, the number needed to stand for election, with his supporters claiming he has been endorsed by more than half of the 357 Tory lawmakers in Parliament. Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt has far fewer public expressions of support but aims to hit the threshold by the close of nominations on Monday afternoon.

If Sunak crosses the barrier alone, he will automatically become the leader of the Conservative Party and will be instructed by King Charles III to form a government. He would become prime minister in a handover from Truss later on Monday or Tuesday.

If the two make it to the ballot, Tory lawmakers will hold an indicative vote to show their preference. If neither later gives up, the choice will then fall to the party’s 172,000 members across the country, with a result announced on Friday.

Mordaunt will come under intense pressure to step down and not force a member vote if Sunak is the clear frontrunner with lawmakers.

Home Secretary Grant Shapps, a Sunak supporter, said the former Treasury chief did not believe he had the contest “in the bag”.

“He’s talking to colleagues this morning, he’s working very hard to attract supporters who may have been with Boris Johnson before,” Shapps said. “But look, I’ll let Penny handle it, she’s a great colleague.” Let’s see what happens.”

Sunak, who served as Treasury chief from 2020 until this summer, resigned in July in protest at Johnson’s leadership.

Johnson dramatically exited the race on Sunday evening, ending a short-lived and high-profile bid to return to the premiership from which he was ousted just over three months ago. in the midst of ethical scandals.

Johnson spent the weekend trying to drum up support from fellow Conservative lawmakers after returning from vacation in the Caribbean. Late Sunday, he said he had amassed the support of 102 colleagues. But he was far behind Sunak and said he had concluded that “you can’t govern effectively if you don’t have a united party in parliament”.

The prospect of a Johnson return had thrown the already divided Conservative Party into further turmoil. He led the party to a landslide election victory in 2019, but his premiership was clouded by money and ethics scandals that eventually became too much for the party to bear.

In his statement on Sunday, Johnson insisted he was “well positioned to secure a Conservative victory” in the next national election, due by 2024. And he said he would likely have won a poll of members of the Conservative Party against any of its rivals.

“But over the past few days I’ve unfortunately come to the conclusion that it just wouldn’t be the right thing to do,” he said.

He hinted he might be back, however, saying: “I believe I have a lot to offer but I’m afraid it’s just not the right time.”

Truss resigned on Thursday after a turbulent 45 days in office, admitting she could not implement her botched tax-cut economic agenda, which she was forced to abandon after sparking fury within her party and weeks of turmoil in financial markets.

The Conservative Party turmoil is fueling demands for a national election. Under the UK parliamentary system, there is no need for one until the end of 2024, although the government has the power to call one earlier.

Currently, this seems unlikely. Opinion polls indicate an election would spell disaster for the Tories, with the centre-left Labor party winning a large majority.


Follow all AP reporting on British politics at

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *