Picture: Jessica Taylor /UK Parliament/AFP – Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak at the House of Commons in London. Sunak and Liz Truss were named as the two finalists who are next in line to Conservative Party leader and prime minister of Britain.
By Shifaan Ryklief
With Boris Johnson keeping the British prime minister’s seat warm as he awaits confirmation on his replacement, the race for a new leader is hotting up after Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss were named as the two finalists who are next in line to Conservative Party leader and prime minister of Britain.
Johnson was forced to step down as leader of the Conservative Party earlier this month after he lost the support of more than 50 ministers who resigned and called for his departure.
Now as he performs the role of caretaker prime minister, Johnson’s exit has left the UK in limbo, while his downfall also gives the nation an opportunity for a fresh start.
Having been elected in 2019 in a landslide victory, the happy-go-lucky Johnson was said to be headed for a long career in office. However, his lack of focus, ideas and continuous scandals, such as the “bring your own booze” party at his official 10 Downing Street residence during Britain’s Covid-19 lockdowns, led to the situation he now finds himself in.
In the race for a new leader, on Wednesday Sunak and Truss were announced as the two finalists from the initial eight candidates, with the other campaigners being eliminated throughout the week following five ballots, of which Sunak had been in the lead in every round of voting.
As it stands, the former finance minister Sunak is tipped by Conservative lawmakers to replace Johnson and has already promised to reduce taxes before the end of the next parliament.
Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Truss added that she aims to reverse the increase in National Insurance that recently came into effect and to suspend the “green levy” part of the energy bill which pays for social and green projects.
The duo now face a vote of the broader Conservative Party membership who will select a winner to be announced by September 5. Johnson will then be expected to leave office the following day, with his spokesperson saying he would go to Buckingham Palace to tender his resignation to Queen Elizabeth.
On Wednesday, the House of Commons was packed as Johnson stood in the prime minister’s spot for what could be his last speech, where he said: “Focus on the road ahead but always remember to check the rear-view mirror.”
He noted that whoever was next in line needed to cut taxes and deregulate where they could to make the UK “the greatest place to live and invest”.
“Stay close to the Americans, stick up for the Ukrainians, stick up for freedom and democracy everywhere,” said Johnson.
In the meantime, Truss and Sunak will meet with Tory party members from around the country before the 200 000 Conservative Party members will select Johnson’s successor.
With Sunak tipped as the early favourite to win the race to succeed Johnson, many outside the UK may be wondering, who is Rishi Sunak?
Sunak is the child of immigrants. His grandparents moved to the UK from Punjab and were raised in Hampshire.
Before making his move into politics, Sunak studied at Oxford and Stanford before spending some time at Goldman Sachs investment bank as an analyst and later as a hedge fund manager.
Sunak is married to Akshata Murthy, who is the daughter of an Indian billionaire Narayana Murthy.
While in office alongside Johnson, Sunak established his profile while facing the test of the coronavirus pandemic and later became more popular with the public for his decisions to continue wage payments, vouchers for restaurant visits and loans for ailing companies.
However, he also faced criticism due to his wife’s wealth and her tax affairs.
And despite being the front-runner for the prime minister’s position, bookmakers in the UK are predicting Truss to beat Sunak to the top spot.
Ryklief is a multi-media journalist