Sunak looks set to become Britain’s next prime minister after Johnson quits the race

LONDON, Oct 24 (Reuters) – Rishi Sunak looked set to become Britain’s next prime minister after his rival Boris Johnson quit the race, admitting he could no longer unite their party after one of the most turbulent times in British political history.

Sunak, the 42-year-old former finance minister, could be named chief as early as Monday to replace Liz Truss, becoming Britain’s third prime minister in less than two months.

The multi-millionaire former hedge fund boss will face one of the toughest challenges, tasked with rebuilding Britain’s fiscal reputation through deep spending cuts as it slides into recession, driven by the soaring energy, food and mortgage rates.

Join now for FREE unlimited access to

He will also preside over a party that has bounced from crisis to crisis in recent months, badly divided along ideological lines, and a country that is increasingly angry at the conduct of its politicians.

“The UK is a great country but we are facing a deep economic crisis,” Sunak said in a statement declaring his candidacy on Sunday.

He must first defeat the final contestant, Penny Mordaunt, who is battling to win the support of 100 lawmakers to make it to Monday’s ballot. Mordaunt, who is the leader of the House of Commons of Parliament, has so far received support from around 25 politicians. More than 150 supported Sunak.

If she failed to reach the threshold, Sunak would become prime minister. If she goes to the polls, party members will select the winner on Friday.

“He takes nothing at all for granted,” Home Secretary Grant Shapps, a Sunak supporter, told the BBC. “He talks to colleagues throughout the morning. And of course we hope to attract enough numbers to ensure this can be put to bed.”

Citi economist Benjamin Nabarro said he was skeptical of the government’s legitimacy to handle the current economic challenges. His first task will be to present a budget, expected on October 31, to plug a black hole in public finances.

“The weekend’s political machinations point to a party beset by divisions. With party unity and legitimacy evidently threadbare, we expect a structural credibility gap to remain,” Nabarro said.


Investors have at least been reassured that Johnson will no longer be vying for leadership. The former prime minister – forced out of office by a cabinet rebellion earlier this year following a series of scandals – had returned home from a vacation in the Caribbean to see if he could stand in the polls.

He said on Sunday evening that although he won enough support, he realized he could not govern effectively “unless he had a united party in parliament”.

Johnson dominated British politics for years. He led his party to a landslide election victory in 2019 but was kicked out of Downing Street less than three years later following a series of scandals.

“Boris bottled it up,” the Metro newspaper said on its front page as many lawmakers wondered if he had really won the support of the 100 lawmakers needed. On Sunday, just over 50 people publicly declared they would vote for Johnson.

Many Johnson supporters had previously accused Sunak of treason after he quit as finance minister this summer, sparking the rebellion that forced Johnson out.

Sunak first came to national attention when, aged 39, he became finance minister under Johnson just as the COVID-19 pandemic hit Britain, developing a furlough scheme to support million people across multiple lockdowns.

If chosen, the former Goldman Sachs analyst would be Britain’s first Indian-born prime minister.

His family emigrated to Britain in the 1960s, a time when many people from former British colonies arrived to help rebuild the country after World War II.

After graduating from Oxford University, he then went to Stanford University where he met his wife Akshata Murthy, whose father is Indian billionaire NR Narayana Murthy, founder of outsourcing giant infosys ltd. He also worked at Goldman Sachs as an analyst.

Join now for FREE unlimited access to

Written by Kate Holton, edited by Angus MacSwan

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Leave a Comment

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