To replace a leader whose scandal-tainted tenure ended with his government in disarray, during a time of deepening economic crisis, Britain’s Conservative lawmakers settled on their choices to succeed Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday. They advanced two candidates who worked for Mr. Johnson to replace a leader whose tenure ended with his government in disarray.
After five rounds of voting, the initial field of 11 candidates was narrowed down to two: Rishi Sunak, a former chancellor of the Exchequer, and Liz Truss, the foreign secretary. They will now compete against one another in a vote that will be held by the party’s rank-and-file members, and the results will be disclosed at the beginning of September.
Ms. Truss won the election with a narrow margin of victory against Penny Mordaunt, a little-known junior minister who ran an unexpectedly robust campaign. Ms. Mordaunt promoted herself as a breath of new air after Mr. Johnson’s three stormy years in office. After receiving 105 votes, Ms. Mordaunt was removed from the competition, while Ms. Truss received 113 and Mr. Sunak received 137.
The shocking resignation of Mr. Sunak, which took place around two weeks ago, was a contributing factor in the chain of events that led to the downfall of Mr. Johnson. However, neither he nor Ms. Truss will be much of a departure from the last prime minister in terms of policy or the overall direction of the country.
In spite of its consistency, the race for the leadership of the Conservative Party has managed to expose both the rich variety and the raw fractures that exist inside the party.
If Mr. Sunak, a 42-year-old former investment banker of South Asian origin, were to move into No. 10 Downing Street, he would make history as the first person of colour to do so. In the referendum held in 2016, he cast his ballot in support of Great Britain’s departure from the European Union. Ms. Truss, who is now 46 years old and who started her political career as a Liberal Democrat, initially voted to keep the United Kingdom in the European Union (EU), but she has since become an ardent supporter of leaving the EU.
Given the continued influence that the vote in 2016 has within the Conservative Party, it is likely that these various “Brexit pedigrees” will be discussed at some point during the campaign. Although both candidates will be ready to turn the page and concentrate on the future, there is a possibility that they may be compelled to re-litigate the past, beginning with their connection to the candidate who was defeated in the last election.
It is expected that Ms. Truss would be seen as the choice of “hard-line Brexiteers,” who want to pursue robust discussions with the European Union over trade in Northern Ireland. She is accused of undermining the discussions with Brussels in order to appease the Brexiteer side of the party, and as a result, she runs the danger of starting a trade war, according to her critics.
During the conflict in Ukraine, she will most certainly highlight her hard-power credentials as the foreign secretary as well. Ms. Truss was the only candidate who, during a recent televised debate, stated that she would be willing to meet with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia at a meeting of the Group of 20 industrial countries in November. By doing so, she positioned herself as an opponent who would be tough with the Russian leader for his aggressions.
His tremendous personal fortune may turn off voters at a time when they are under significant strain on their own personal finances. Mr. Sunak is not without his share of problems. Some people believe that since he advocated for higher taxes while serving in the Johnson administration, the United States is at danger of entering a recession. After the government went on a spending binge during the epidemic, he believes that it is essential to have healthy public finances in order to bring inflation under control.
It’s possible that Mr. Sunak may suffer as a result of the part he played in helping to have Mr. Johnson fired. Despite the recent controversies, many members of the party still have sympathy for the Prime Minister and are thankful for the landslide win he delivered in 2019. They could be hesitant to replace him with an ex-ally who once supported them but now opposes them.
Mr. Johnson has said that his own MPs made an unreasonable choice in driving him out, and some of his closest friends have made no secret of their hostility against Mr. Sunak. In addition, Mr. Johnson has suggested that his own lawmakers made an unwise decision in pushing him out. During one of these meetings, one of them, Jacob Rees-Mogg, was asked to deny that he had referred to Mr. Sunak’s tax programme as “socialist.” However, he categorically refused to do so.