Rishi Sunak will become the United Kingdom’s new prime minister after winning the ruling Conservative Party’s leadership contest, which was triggered by the resignation of Liz Truss last week.
Sunak’s win on Monday came days after Truss’s resignation after her disastrous tax cuts plans and policy U-turns plunged the markets into chaos. The unprecedented economic crisis drew a rare intervention from the Bank of England.
Britain faces serious economic challenges and needs stability and unity, Sunak said on Monday in his first public speech since winning the contest.
“There is no doubt we face a profound economic challenge,” Sunak said. “We now need stability and unity, and I will make it my utmost priority to bring our party and our country together.”
Sunak, a former finance minister, has been left with the task of steering a deeply divided country through an economic downturn set to make millions of people poorer.
Sunak’s only challenger, Penny Mordaunt, leader of the House of Commons and former defence minister, was reportedly backed by 30 MPs compared with nearly 150 supporting Sunak.
“This decision is an historic one and shows, once again, the diversity and talent of our party,” Mordaunt said in a statement as she withdrew from the race just minutes before the winner was due to be announced. “Rishi has my full support.”
Sunak and Mordaunt had lost to Truss last month in the race to appoint a successor to then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson. He was forced to announce his resignation in July after a wave of scandals linked to parties held during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Sunak will be the UK’s first leader of colour and the first Hindu to take the top job. At 42, he will also be the youngest prime minister in more than 200 years.
The multimillionaire former hedge fund boss will be expected to impose deep spending cuts to try to rebuild the UK’s fiscal reputation, just as the country slides into a recession, dragged down by the surging costs of energy and food.