Former finance minister Sunak consolidates his lead in the race for British prime minister

  • Truss says her experience makes her the best
  • She faces criticism that she did not resign because of Johnson
  • The race is getting more and more bitter

LONDON, July 14 (Reuters) – Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak on Thursday consolidated his lead over rivals to become Britain’s next prime minister in an increasingly heated race to replace Boris Johnson.

Sunak, whose departure from the Treasury last week was one of the first in a series of resignations that forced Johnson to resign, was a front-runner among Conservative MPs despite some blaming him for his role in Johnson’s downfall.

She faces competition from Penny Mordaunt, the junior trade secretary, and foreign secretary Liz Truss, who earlier launched her official campaign claiming she was the only candidate with the experience to make the “tough decisions” needed.

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There are now five candidates, after Brexit-supporting Attorney General Suella Braverman dropped out of the race on Thursday after failing to reach the 30-vote threshold in the second round.

Whoever gets the job will accept rising inflation and low economic growth, as well as a lack of public confidence in politics after Johnson’s scandal in office.

After maintaining his leadership, Sunak thanked his supporters and wrote on Twitter: “I am ready to give everything I have in the service of our nation. Together we can restore trust, rebuild our economy and reunite the country.”

He previously spoke out and said his first economic priority would be tackling high inflation, not the tax cuts promised by his rivals. read more

Truss, the last hope to launch her official campaign, is the latest to also promise to restore confidence in politics, trying to distance herself from increasingly personal and bitter briefings and counter-briefings from opposing camps.

“I will campaign as a Conservative and I will govern as a Conservative. I can lead, I can make the tough decisions and I can get things done. I am ready to be prime minister from day one,” Truss said. read more

Asked why she did not resign when support for Johnson faded, leading to last week’s resignation, she said: “I’m a loyal person. I’m loyal to Boris Johnson.”


Those remaining — which include former equalities minister Kemi Badenoch and Tom Tugendhat, chairman of parliament’s foreign affairs committee — will face a third round of voting by Conservative MPs on Monday.

If all candidates reach the barrier of 30 votes, the one with the lowest number of votes will be eliminated from the competition. The next vote will eliminate the candidate with the fewest votes each time, so that by July 21 the field will be reduced to the last two.

The new leader will then be chosen from the two by the country’s 200,000 Conservative Party members, and will be announced on September 5.

Sunak may be the most popular candidate with his peers, but a YouGov poll of almost 900 party members showed Mordaunt as the favourite, beating everyone else in the run-off. She had a huge advantage over Sunak, who has fared poorly against almost all of his rivals, and is now the bookies’ favorite.

Britain’s economy is beset by rising inflation, high debt and low growth, which have seen people struggle with the biggest strain on their finances in decades. Fuel prices have soared amid an energy crisis exacerbated by the war in Ukraine.

The leadership campaign offers an insight into the difficulties the new prime minister could face, as well as the divisions within the party. Mordaunt defended himself against criticism from former Brexit negotiator David Frost that she was not tough enough on the EU.

Tugendhat, who came fifth in the second round of voting, said: “It is fair that we (candidates) receive criticism… I am seeking the confidence of the British people for the highest job in the country,” he told reporters.

“When you’re asking a big question, you should be probing and expect to present yourself to answer the questions.”

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Reporting by Elizabeth Piper and Kylie MacLellan Additional reporting by Alistair Smout, William James, Andrew MacAskill and Muvia M Editing by Alexandra Hudson and Frances Kerry

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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