Rishi Sunak, a former member of Boris Johnson’s Cabinet, is set to become the U.K.’s next prime minister after rival Penny Mordaunt dropped out of the race just minutes before the deadline.
Just six weeks ago, Sunak had lost out against Liz Truss in the running for prime minister. But after several economic disasters that caused the pound to collapse and an intervention from the Central Bank, Truss resigned. She had taken over from Johnson, who himself resigned amid ethics scandals. All are members of the Conservative Party.
Sunak, 42, is set to be Britain's first nonwhite prime minister; his parents, of Indian descent, were both born in East Africa. He served as Johnson’s chancellor of the Exchequer, or treasury chief.
Sunak's was a short campaign for the job. He declared on Sunday that he would be entering the contest, stating that he wanted to “fix our economy.” By Monday morning, he had gained the support of 194 Conservatives.
A source from Mordaunt’s team told Sky News two hours before the deadline that she had received 90 votes. “For the sake of the party, it’s important our members have their say,” the source said. However, only 25 politicians publicly backed Mordaunt.
Sunak’s win comes hours after Johnson withdrew from his attempt to regain the prime minister position, saying that although he had the support needed to advance to the vote, it wasn’t “the right thing to do.”
Sunak, whose resignation from Johnson’s Cabinet delivered a major blow at the time, responded to his former boss’s withdrawal from the race by thanking him on Twitter. “Although he has decided not to run for PM again, I truly hope he continues to contribute to public life at home and abroad,” he said.
Mordaunt said that Johnson had put “country before party, and party before self."
Since Thursday, Conservative members of Parliament have been nominating candidates to be the next leader of the party and therefore the prime minister. While Sunak won the necessary 100 nominations in less than three days, Mordaunt had been trailing behind with 25 votes by Monday afternoon. Sunak is expected to be sworn in as prime minister by Friday.
Having been part of Johnson’s Cabinet while he was in office, Sunak has seen his political career marred by scandals. He was most notably involved in “Partygate,” in which he and Johnson were fined by police for attending a party in June 2020 during the COVID lockdown.
Before that, Sunak's popularity took a hit when the Independent newspaper revealed that his wife had claimed nondomicile status on her tax forms. This meant she saved millions of pounds on tax dividends she had collected from her family’s multimillion-pound IT business in India.