Rishi Sunak enters race to replace Liz Truss as UK PM

His candidacy comes as reports suggest former PM Boris Johnson could be joining the race.

Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak walks in London
Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak has amassed enough support from Conservative legislators to stand for the party's leadership contest [Toby Melville/Reuters]

Rishi Sunak has confirmed he will join the contest to replace Liz Truss as British prime minister and Conservative Party leader after economic turmoil forced Truss to resign after serving just 44 days in office.

“The United Kingdom is a great country, but we face a profound economic crisis. That’s why I am standing to be Leader of the Conservative Party and your next Prime Minister,” the former finance minister said in a statement published on Sunday, setting up a potentially bruising battle with his former boss, Boris Johnson.

“I want to fix our economy, unite our Party and deliver for our country,” he said a day after he had amassed enough support to stand for the contest.

Truss became the shortest-serving prime minister in the UK’s history after she resigned on Thursday following her disastrous tax cuts plans and policy U-turns plunged the markets into chaos, with the pound plunging to its lowest value. The unprecedented economic crisis drew a rare intervention from the Bank of England.

The market turmoil forced Truss to sack her then-Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng and replace him with Jeremy Hunt, who swiftly scrapped all of Kwarteng’s economic agenda.

Truss became prime minister after her predecessor Boris Johnson was forced to step down in July following a wave of scandals linked to gatherings that broke coronavirus lockdown rules.

Reports suggest that Johnson may also run to become prime minister, but he has not officially declared it. He reportedly held talks late on Saturday with Sunak, according to British media, shortly after cutting a Caribbean holiday short and returning to London.

The only other leader to have formally declared her candidacy is Penny Mordaunt, leader of the House of Commons and former defence minister. It would be her second contest for the party’s leadership after she lost out to Truss.

To enter the Conservative Party leadership race, each potential candidate needs to secure the support of at least 100 Conservative MPs before 13:00 GMT on Monday.

Political website Guido Fawkes, which is running a rolling spreadsheet of Conservative MPs’ declared support, showed Sunak with the support of 140 legislators, Johnson with 75 and Mordaunt with 27.

Under the rules, only three candidates will be able to reach the first ballot on Monday afternoon, with the final two put to a vote on Friday, which is limited to about 170,000 signed-up members of the Conservative Party.

Johnson’s allies say he is “up for it”, but many in the deeply divided Conservative Party do not want the 58-year-old Brexit architect back after they saw off four prime ministers in six years.

Johnson had left Downing Street shrouded in scandal following a government revolt over a slew of crises. He is currently under investigation by parliament’s Privileges Committee over whether he knowingly misled parliament over breaching lockdown rules. Ministers found to have knowingly misled parliament are expected to resign.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies