Indian-origin former chancellor Rishi Sunak on Sunday formally declared his candidacy to contest the Conservative Party leadership election to replace Liz Truss as British Prime Minister and fix the economy.
The 42-year-old is the clear frontrunner as he raced ahead with the backing of at least 128 Tory members of Parliament, even as loyalists of his former boss Boris Johnson claimed he has the necessary 100 MPs needed to make it to the shortlist.
While the former Tory leader and prime minister is yet to officially declare his candidacy, the contest is shaping up as a three-way fight including third-placed Leader of the Commons Penny Mordaunt.
The United Kingdom is a great country but we face a profound economic crisis, Sunak tweeted in his campaign pitch.
That’s why I am standing to be Leader of the Conservative Party and your next Prime Minister. I want to fix our economy, unite our party and deliver for our country, he said.
In an accompanying vision statement, the former finance minister highlighted his track record of serving in the Cabinet, helping to steer the economy through the toughest of times with the COVID pandemic.
The challenges we face now are even greater. But the opportunities if we make the right choice are phenomenal. I have the track record of delivery, a clear plan to fix the biggest problems we face and I will deliver on the promise of the 2019 manifesto, he writes.
There will be integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level of the government I lead and I will work day in and day out to get the job done. I am asking you for the opportunity to help fix our problems, he said.
The much-anticipated declaration came following reports of so-called power-sharing talks between Sunak and Johnson, which supporters say sought to find common ground within a deeply divided Tory party.
I don’t think there’s any issue around deals here and that’s not the right way to proceed, former deputy prime minister and Sunak supporter Dominic Raab told the BBC.
What they [Sunak and Johnson] did have is a very good conversation around the need for unity and the momentum and growing number and also range for Rishi, that he is the best placed because he has got the breadth of support, he said, adding that support for Sunak from within the party was growing by the hour.
Candidates have until 2pm local time on Monday to be included on the ballot paper, with successful candidates requiring the support of at least 100 Conservative MPs.
The United Kingdom is a great country but we face a profound economic crisis.
That’s why I am standing to be Leader of the Conservative Party and your next Prime Minister.
I want to fix our economy, unite our Party and deliver for our country. pic.twitter.com/BppG9CytAK
— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) October 23, 2022
If any one candidate crosses the 156-MPs mark before then, the shortlist would automatically shorten to two candidates given the Tory House of Commons tally of 357 MPs.
If there is a three-way clash, MPs will hold an indicative ballot on Monday to put forward the final two shortlisted candidates for an expedited online vote by around 170,000 Tory members, with the new leader elected by next Friday.
In case the party can internally unite behind one candidate, then the new leader and Prime Minister could be in place by Monday evening.
A number of Tory ministers, including former leadership contenders Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch and Security Minister Tom Tugendhat who had backed Truss in the last race, have come out in support of Sunak.
It is reflective of the overwhelming support he received from his colleagues back in July, soon after Boris Johnson resigned in the wake of the COVID lockdown law-breaking partygate scandal.
Sunak, the son-in-law of Infosys co-founder Narayan Murthy, recently adopted a low-key stance after losing out in the wider party membership vote to Truss last month.
But his allies, analysts and media reports have been very vocal in pointing out how his campaign forewarnings of much of the economic chaos that followed Truss’ tax-cutting mini-budget had come to pass.
During the previous Tory leadership contest which ran between July and early September, Sunak called the tax cuts proposed by Truss as “immoral” and warned about the need for fiscal responsibility as opposed to fairytale economics.
Meanwhile, the Opposition parties have been clamouring for a general election in order to give the electorate a say in the wake of the governing party’s shambles.
All those that are going to literally go along with this chaos, rather than allowing us to transition to a stable Labour government, are putting party first not country first, and that’s the wrong way around, said Labour Party Leader Keir Starmer.
The Scottish National Party (SNP) have called on Labour to call a vote of no confidence in the Conservative government and force a general election.
However, the governing party insists it has the electoral mandate from the 2019 general election, won by Boris Johnson, and any vote on an early poll is unlikely to be forced through given the Tory majority in the House of Commons.
Prime Minister Truss on Thursday announced her resignation after an open revolt against her leadership in the Conservative Party.
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