- Rishi Sunak is set to become Britain's new prime minister, succeeding Liz Truss who resigned Thursday.
- The 42-year-old takes over as leader of the Conservative Party just seven weeks after placing second to Truss in this summer's leadership race.
- Sunak does not automatically become prime minister on Monday, as ritual dictates that the outgoing prime minister, in this case Liz Truss, first has to tender their resignation to King Charles III.
LONDON — Rishi Sunak will be named the U.K.'s new prime minister, following a fast-tracked Conservative Party leadership race initiated to fill the void left by Liz Truss' resignation.
Sunak — who will be the country's first prime minister of color — won the role of Conservative Party leader after his sole competitor, Penny Mordaunt, dropped out of the race moments before votes from members of Parliament (MPs) were due to be announced Monday afternoon.
It follows the withdrawal of former Prime Minister Boris Johnson from the leadership race Sunday.
Sunak does not automatically become prime minister on Monday, as ritual dictates that the outgoing prime minister, in this case Truss, first has to tender their resignation to King Charles III. The king will then appoint Sunak in the coming days.
The 42-year-old takes over just seven weeks after placing second to Truss, who stepped down Thursday, bringing to a swift close her 44 days in office — the shortest tenure of any U.K. prime minister.
"I am humbled and honored to have the support of my parliamentary colleagues and to be elected as leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party," Sunak said Monday in his first public comments since becoming the prime minister-elect.
A steady pair of fiscal hands
The former finance minister steps into the role as the country grapples with a worsening economic picture following the chaotic fallout from Truss' September mini-budget.
Stock markets were roiled, sterling plunged and the Bank of England was forced to intervene with an emergency bond-buying operation after Truss and then-Finance Minister Kwasi Kwarteng announced a raft of unfunded tax cuts seen to disproportionately benefit the wealthy, even as the country faces a worsening cost-of-living crisis.
Sunak, who is credited with steering the U.K. economy through the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, is broadly seen as a safe pair of fiscal hands. Indeed, after being berated by Truss during the race as a voice of Treasury orthodoxy, his critique of the PM's "unfunded tax cuts" appears to have been vindicated.
Sterling rose to $1.1326 against the dollar shortly after the announcement of Sunak's win.
"There is no doubt we face a profound economic challenge," Sunak said at the Conservative Campaign headquarters in London.
"We now need stability and unity, and I will make it my utmost priority to bring our party together because that is the only way we will overcome the challenges we face and build a better, more prosperous future for our children and our grandchildren."
A uniting force?
As prime minister, Sunak is expected to keep in place the U.K.'s newly installed Finance Minister Jeremy Hunt, signaling some continuity following a turbulent few months for the U.K. government.
However, some have questioned his ability to reunite the splintered Conservative Party, with many MPs considering him culpable for the downfall of Boris Johnson, who was ousted from office in scandal three months ago.
Johnson, who pulled out of the leadership race Sunday, said in a statement that he had attempted to form a unity ticket with both Sunak and Mordaunt for the sake of the "national interest," but both had resisted his offer.
Meantime, Sunak — an Oxford educated former investment banker — has been criticized as unrelatable, particularly following controversy over his wife's tax status, with some questioning his ability to lead the country through its cost-of-living crisis.