Will Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss Be Britain’s Next Prime Minister?
Today, Conservative lawmakers in Britain selected the final two candidates in the race to become the next prime minister of the United Kingdom: former finance minister Rishi Sunak and current foreign minister Liz Truss.
Following the resignation of Boris Johnson earlier this month, the past three weeks have seen a broad cross-section of candidates from within the party battle it out to become leader, with eight candidates announced on July 12. Since then, multiple rounds of voting, heated television debates, and plenty of behind-the-scenes lobbying have seen the pool whittled down to just two candidates, after the final remaining frontrunner, Penny Mordaunt, was eliminated earlier today.
Over the next six weeks, a final vote will be cast from a wider ballot of 180,000 rank-and-file Conservative members, with the results announced on September 5. Until then, here’s everything you need to know about the two contenders—and who looks most likely to enter Downing Street in the fall.
Initially perceived as a natural successor for Johnson, Sunak’s path to the leadership seemed a little more rocky after he resigned from his post as chancellor of the exchequer in early July—one of the highest-ranking positions in U.K. government, it involves overseeing all economic and financial affairs—before many of his other colleagues took the plunge. (Sunak’s exit, alongside former health secretary Sajid Javid’s, was widely seen as a major turning point in Johnson’s demise.)
If Sunak were to win the vote, he would become both the country’s first South Asian leader and the youngest in over 200 years, at the age of 42. However, much has been made of his privileged background, with Sunak having studied at the elite all-boys boarding school Winchester College and later Oxford University, before completing an MBA at Stanford University. Sunak then went on to have a lucrative first career as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs, among other firms, while his wife, heiress Akshata Murty, is one of the wealthiest women in Britain.
Elected as the member of parliament for Richmond, Yorkshire, in 2015, Sunak first served in a number of junior ministerial positions. When Johnson was elected as prime minister in 2019, as a vocal supporter of the leader, Sunak was appointed chief secretary to the treasury, and later chancellor in February 2020. Despite his firm belief in low taxes, the challenges of the pandemic saw his popularity rise after he launched a number of schemes and furlough packages for businesses and workers to help keep the economy afloat. And while Sunak was implicated in the “partygate” scandal that contributed to Johnson’s downfall, his relatively minor involvement helped him emerge unscathed in the public eye; more perilous to his public image was the scandal that erupted earlier this year when it was revealed that Murty did not pay U.K. tax on her overseas income.