Rishi Sunak will become Britain’s first prime minister of colour on Tuesday, 25 October, after he won the race to lead the Conservative Party, tasked with steering a deeply divided country through an economic downturn set to leave millions of people poorer
One of the wealthiest politicians in Westminster, Sunak, 42, will become the country’s youngest leader in modern times — and its third in less than two months — as he takes over during one of the most turbulent eras in British political history.
He replaces Liz Truss — who only lasted 44 days before she said she would resign — needing to restore stability to a country reeling from years of political and economic turmoil and seeking to lead a party that has fractured along ideological lines.
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He told his lawmakers in parliament on Monday that they faced an “existential crisis” and must “unite or die”
He told the country it faced a “profound economic challenge”.
“We now need stability and unity, and I will make it my utmost priority to bring our party and our country together,” he said.
The multi-millionaire former hedge fund boss will be expected to make deep spending cuts to try to rebuild Britain’s fiscal reputation, just as the country slides into one of the toughest downturns in decades, hit by the surging cost of energy and food.
A recent mini budget by Truss, which triggered her downfall, pushed up borrowing costs and mortgage rates, and sent investors fleeing.
British government bonds rallied aggressively in the run-up to Sunak’s victory, and extended their gains on Monday, 24 October.
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Sunak will be appointed prime minister by King Charles on Tuesday
He will also have to work hard to hold Britain’s dominant political party together after some accused him of treachery earlier this year when he resigned from the cabinet of former leader Boris Johnson, triggering his downfall too.
Other Conservatives say he is too rich to understand the day-to-day economic pressures building in Britain, and worry whether he could ever win an election for a party that has been in power for 12 years.
“I think this decision sinks us as a party for the next election,” one Conservative lawmaker told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
Economists and investors welcomed Sunak’s appointment, but questioned whether he can tackle the country’s finances while holding the party’s warring factions together
Many Conservative lawmakers appeared relieved that the party had at least selected a new leader quickly.
Penny Mordaunt, who lost out to Sunak, said his election was an “historic one and shows, once again, the diversity and talent of our party,” she said. “Rishi has my full support.”
Veteran lawmaker Crispin Blunt told Reuters after Sunak met lawmakers in a room in parliament: “The party will remain united, not least because we don’t have a choice. In there, he showed a capacity to marshal the whole party.”
Sunak’s appointment is another first for Britain — he will become the country’s first prime minister of Indian origin
Image via @rishisunakmp (Instagram)
His family migrated to Britain in the 1960s, a period when many people from Britain’s former colonies moved to the country to help it rebuild after World War II.
Sunak attended Oxford University and Stanford University where he met his wife Akshata Murthy, whose father is Indian billionaire Narayana Murthy, founder of outsourcing giant Infosys Ltd.