BY HALEY OTT
London — Rishi Sunak will be the next prime minister of the United Kingdom, following current premier Liz Truss’ announcement last week that she will step down. The 42-year-old former U.K. treasury chief will be the country’s third prime minister in under two months, its youngest prime minister since 1812, and the first person of color to serve in the role. He is of Indian heritage and Hindu faith.
“I pledge that I will service you with integrity and humility,” Sunak said, at the headquarters of Britain’s Conservative Party on Monday. “It is the greatest privilege of my life to be able to serve the party I love and give back to the country I owe so much to.”
Sunak, who used to work in finance, is — alongside his wife, tech heiress Akshata Murty — one of the wealthiest people in the U.K. He served as treasury secretary under Boris Johnson, and many Conservative members of parliament — and many Brits in general — will be hoping that his economic credentials can help to stabilize a falling pound and skyrocketing inflation and interest rates.
He was a vocal critic of the tax-cut-focused economic plan put in place under Truss just a few weeks ago, which sent shockwaves through international markets and eroded investors’ confidence in the U.K. Despite virtually all of that plan being scrapped shortly after it was announced, global confidence in Britain’s economic stability has yet to recover.
With the support of more than 100 of his fellow Conservative Party lawmakers on Monday, Sunak became eligible to run for the party’s leadership after Liz Truss announced her resignation. His main rival, Penny Mordaunt, withdrew from the race just before the deadline of 2 p.m. on Monday to gather the required number of supporters, and Boris Johnson withdrew on Sunday night.
The leaders of the parties with the most seats in parliament typically become prime ministers of the United Kingdom rather than being elected in a direct election. Since the Conservative Party has a majority in parliament, the process of choosing a new leader also included choosing a new premier.
Sunak will only become the prime minister once Truss formally submits her resignation to King Charles III, and the monarch then formally asks Sunak to form a new government. That is expected to happen on Tuesday.
Under U.K. law, there must be another general election, where the public votes for members of parliament, by January 2025. The government — which is still led by the same Conservative Party that has been in power for more than a decade — is tasked with scheduling the next public vote, and it can do that at any point before the deadline. Some, including the opposition Labour party, are calling for a general election to be held immediately.
But with the recent political chaos caused by convulsions within the Conservative Party itself, the “Tories,” as the Conservatives are also known, are polling at historic lows against Labour. The new government may be reluctant to call an election ahead of the deadline, because it could mean the party risks losing its parliamentary majority.
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