The contours of Britain’ electoral contest to decide on the next resident of 10 Downing Street became clear on Wednesday. The former treasury chief, Rishi Sunak, will face off against Foreign Secretary Liz Truss in the final round of the Conservative Party’s contest to elect Britain’s next Prime Minister. Conservative party lawmakers have selected the two candidates after several rounds of voting. Mr Sunak and Ms Truss will tour the UK to try to win over the 160,000 rank-and-file members of the Conservative Party. Those wider Conservative members will vote for the new head of their party, who will automatically become the Prime Minister. The result is expected on September 5.
The current head of government, who was ousted by his own party following a string of scandals, will officially leave office the next day. Ms Truss is the oddsmakers’ favourite to become the next PM. However, these polls have moved wildly in recent weeks, and the members don’t appear to be deeply committed to any individual. Mr Sunak got 137 Tory lawmakers to back him on Wednesday.
Ms Truss won 113 votes. Penny Mordaunt, the trade minister, was reduced to the category of an also-ran. The contest pitches two politicians who are promising to break with Mr Johnson’s turbulent style to steer the nation through a period of economic uncertainty, marked by the biggest fall in real wages over two decades. Incidentally, the change of guard will coincide with Britain’s key role in forging Western unity against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Ms Truss (46) has portrayed herself as the candidate of the right of the party, championing a small state, a hawkish foreign policy and rapid tax cuts. The 42-year-old Mr Sunak, a millionaire former financier, has projected himself as the candidate of economic realism.
The former Chancellor, who was once with Goldman Sachs, says taxes can’t be cut until inflation, running at a 40-year high, is brought under control. He claims that Ms Truss’s economic plan relies on borrowing, which could hurt the country in the long term. Both have a major flaw, however. They are generally seen as “continuity candidates” from Boris Johnson’s three-year stint at 10 Downing Street, during which time the Tories were dragged down in the polls following several scandals. Both will try to exploit each other’s background. Neither candidate is particularly popular with voters at large. The constitutional history of Britain has reached an extraordinary phase. Sunak is clearly the choice of the Conservative parliamentary party. But everything will now be thrown against him by his adversaries, including certain rabid media commentators who see the colour of his skin, to bring him down.