By Alexander Zhang
Former Chancellor Rishi Sunak is set to become Britain’s next prime minister after both his rivals dropped out of the Conservative Party leadership race.
Penny Mordaunt, leader of the House of Commons, wrote on Twitter minutes before nomination closed at 2 p.m. that she had decided to pull out and Sunak now had her “full support.”
The only other contender, former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, had dropped out of the race on Sunday evening, admitting he could not unite the party.
In a televised address to the nation, Sunak said he was “humbled and honored” to be elected as leader of the Conservative Party.
“It is the greatest privilege of my life to be able to serve the party I live and to give back to the country I owe so much to,” he said.
Sunak warned that the UK faces a “profound economic challenge.”
“We now need stability and unity and I will make it my utmost priority to bring our party and our country together,” he said.
‘Integrity’ and ‘Professionalism’
Sunak, who lost to Prime Minister Liz Truss in the last Tory leadership contest just six weeks ago, got overwhelming support from Conservative MPs.
In his statement announcing his renewed leadership bid on Sunday, he stressed that he would lead with “integrity, professionalism, and accountability,” in an apparent attempt to contrast himself with the past two prime ministers, both of whom exited 10 Downing Street in disgrace.
Truss had no choice but to step down after her entire economic programme, based on massive unfunded tax cuts, was scrapped following negative reactions from the financial markets, which saw the pound fall sharply against the U.S. dollar and borrowing costs rise significantly for both the government and British households.
Truss’s economic woes had been largely predicted by Sunak in the last leadership campaign, during which he called her economic vision “comforting fairy tales” and said her promise of unfunded tax cuts at a time of worsening inflation was irresponsible, dangerous, and un-conservative. Sunak predicted that the tax cuts would lead to surging mortgage rates—a prediction that was later confirmed by the markets.
Johnson was forced to step down as prime minister after the resignation of more than 50 government ministers, following a string of scandals, including getting fined by police for attending illegal gatherings at 10 Downing Street during the COVID-19 lockdowns. Sunak’s resignation as chancellor was believed to have been instrumental in triggering the unravelling of Johnson’s government.
But Sunak’s own integrity isn’t untarnished. His reputation was sullied earlier this year following disclosures that his wife, Akshata Murty, who is the daughter of an Indian billionaire, had a nondomiciled status for tax purposes.
He was also implicated in the “Partygate” scandal and was fined, along with Johnson and his wife, Carrie, by the Metropolitan Police for attending the prime minister’s birthday party, which was held in violation of lockdown regulations.
PA Media contributed to this report.