The successive bouts of voting for the selection of the next Prime Minister of Britain have reached a rather uncertain phase with Rishi Sunak, the outgoing Chancellor of the Exchequer, topping the poll in the first round of voting in the Tory leadership contest. Going by the constitutional certitudes, the incumbent Chancellor, Nadhim Zahawi, and the former health and foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, have been eliminated. Both are now in the alsoran category as they received 25 and 18 votes respectively. The calibration points to a lower figure than the 36 required to stay in the fray. Those who drop out, in addition to their supporters, will now have to decide who they will pick in the next round of voting. The intra-party bickering is already palpable. Ahead of Wednesday’s first round, the Right wing of the Conservative party initiated a campaign to “stop Rishi at any cost”.
Ergo, despite topping the first round, he cannot be absolutely certain of stepping into the hallowed portals of 10 Downing Street. Jacob Rees-Mogg, a leading light of the Rightist fringe, has not denied that he called Sunak a “socialist Chancellor” because of the latter’s decision to raise some taxes in order to balance the books. Rees-Mogg, whose father, William Rees-Mogg, was once the editor of The Times, London, has served under Boris Johnson as leader of the Commons and is currently the cabinet minister for what they call “Brexit opportunities”. He has already ruled out serving in a Sunak government. “No, of course I wouln’t. I believe his behaviour towards Boris Johnson, his disloyalty, means that I cannot possibly support him and he wouldn’t want me in his cabinet anyway”.
There is a measure of support in the British media for Penny Mordaunt. A member of the Right-wing, culture secretary Nadine Dorris, has accused the Sunak team of engaging in “dirty tricks”. She has even alleged that MPs supporting Sunak had lent their votes to Jeremy Hunt to get him through the early rounds of voting. There is speculation in London that he would be easier to beat in the run-off than either Mordaunt or Truss. The Tory infighting can be contextualized with Ms Dorris’s tweet: “This is dirty tricks/a stitch up/dark arts. Take your pick.” Mr Johnson, who apparently feels badly let down by Mr Sunak, has said he will not endorse any candidate.
And then with tongue firmly in cheek, he has added ~ “I wouldn’t want to damage anyone’s chances with my support.” It has been alleged that “close allies of the former Prime Minister have underlined the huge anger in Downing Street over Sunak’s resignation”. A senior Number 10 official called Mr Sunak a “treacherous bastard”. Beyond the invectives, the fact of the matter must be that the Conservative party is a house that is thoroughly divided at a critical juncture, specifically when it ought to have put up a united effort to elect the next resident of 10 Downing Street. The plot thickens. Unsaid but undeniable is the race factor that will ultimately decide Mr Sunak’s fate ~ is the United Kingdom, especially its Conservative right-wing, ready for a brown leader?