As the next British prime minister attempted to resolve the economic crisis, Rishi Sunak urged his divided Conservative Party to unite.
According to a lawmaker at Sunak’s presentation to MPs behind closed doors on Monday, speaking less than an hour after winning the contest to succeed Liz Truss as premier, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer said his party needed to come together after toppling two prime ministers this year.
Sunak urged her party to “unite and work together for the welfare of the nation” in a speech immediately after his final opponent, Penny Mordaunt, withdrew from the contest for 10 Downing Street. Therefore, a runoff vote among party activists was not necessary.
Sunak’s political fortunes have taken a dramatic turn for the better after the former Chancellor of the Exchequer left Boris Johnson’s administration in July and lost to Truss in the final Tory leadership race during the summer. However, his frequent predictions that her policies would cause economic catastrophe turned out to be accurate, giving him the upper hand when Truss’s premiership collapsed.
A Shadow of Johnson
Given the resentment and disagreement within the Conservative Party, Sunak was by no means a lock to win. Many Tory MPs still hold him in low regard for his part in Johnson’s collapse. Sunak’s ambitions were momentarily dashed by the former prime minister’s weekend flirtation with what would have been an astonishing comeback just months later after being dismissed.
Johnson eventually resigned without ever demonstrating that he had the backing of the 100 Conservative MPs required to challenge the leadership formally. Similarly, Mordaunt withdrew just before prominent Tory MP Graham Brady was scheduled to reveal which candidates had reached that mark.
It amounted to a coronation for Sunak, 42, now the youngest prime minister in more than 200 years and the first Hindu prime leader of the UK. This time, the grassroots Tory members who had an ultimate say when Truss defeated Sunak in the previous election would not be involved.
Sunak now has a difficult challenge ahead of him in trying to forge such unity inside a party that has seen months of turmoil and is still fracturing on essential topics like Brexit and the economy
After a second leadership transition since Johnson won the general election in 2019, some Conservative MPs even assert that the party no longer has the mandate to rule. As of the right moment, it will be difficult to avoid a general election, according to former culture secretary Nadine Dorries.
There were indications on Monday that Conservative MPs are ready to support their new leader. It’s time to stop this psychodrama, former Tory leader and Brexit supporter Iain Duncan Smith said to reporters after Sunak’s speech. Additionally, Alex Chalk, a moderate One Nation Remainer, praised Sunak for his “great speech.”
We must advance, Chalk said. He spoke clearly and powerfully, which filled the room to life.”
Following weeks of unrest during which investors dumped UK assets, Truss decided to resign. Her economic strategy, which included borrowing to pay for significant tax cuts, shook the markets and swayed many voters against the Conservatives.
To settle things down after sacking her first finance minister and longtime political friend, Kwasi Kwarteng, Truss brought in Jeremy Hunt, who, on Sunday, supported Sunak.
Hunt partially succeeded in doing that, but he also set the government on the path to enacting another harsh round of austerity at a contentious time when Britons were already struggling with skyrocketing living expenses.
Late Sunday, Hunt wrote in a column for the Telegraph that he and Sunak agreed on how to handle the economy.
According to Hunt, Sunak will “turn the page on what went wrong, make choices in the best interests of the country, and recover the incredible potential of our economy.”
Hunt is scheduled to give a powerful speech on the Treasury’s tax and spending plans on October 31; this date was chosen to provide the Bank of England with more information on when to hike interest rates. On Monday’s opening, UK bonds rose on hopes of a Sunak premiership.