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Rishi Sunak to become next British prime minister

Rishi Sunak has won the race to be leader of Britain’s Conservative Party and will become the nation’s next prime minister — the third this year. 

Sunak, 42, will become 1st British PM of colour on Tuesday after meeting with King Charles.

Rishi Sunak set to become Britain’s next prime minister

Rishi Sunak is set to become Britain’s first prime minister of colour. But despite making history, he inherits a country and a party plagued by upheaval, scandal and political backstabbing.

Rishi Sunak said Monday he was “humbled and honoured” to be chosen leader of Britain’s Conservative Party, a role that will see him become the third British prime minister this year.

Sunak emerged over former leader Boris Johnson and Penny Mordaunt in the truncated process to replace Liz Truss as leader. He was the only candidate with confirmed support from more than 100 lawmakers, the number needed to run in the election, with his backers claiming he has been endorsed by more than half of the 357 Conservative lawmakers in Parliament.

“I can confirm that we have received one valid nomination, and Rishi Sunak is therefore elected as leader of the Conservative Party,” said party official Graham Brady.

Mordaunt just minutes earlier had released a concession statement.

“Rishi has my full support,” she said.

Rishi Sunak wins race to become Britain’s next prime minister

Former U.K. Treasury chief Rishi Sunak, 42, has won the race to become leader of the Conservative Party and Britain’s next prime minister after his only rival, Penny Mordaunt, conceded and dropped out.

Truss announced her resignation last week. Truss’s short tenure of just over six weeks was marked by shock over the government’s mini-budget, which roiled British markets, and internal party dissension leading to cabinet departures and backbenchers expressing a lack of confidence in Truss.

Sunak in a short speech mentioned the “profound economic challenge” the country faces, which includes soaring energy and food prices, and a looming recession.

“We now need stability and unity, and I will make it my utmost priority to bring our party and our country together,” he said.

Sunak, the former Treasury chief under Johnson, will become Britain’s first leader of colour and the first Hindu to take the top job. At 42, he’ll also be the youngest British prime minister in more than 200 years.

He will be asked by King Charles to form a government and becomes the prime minister in a handover of power from Truss on Tuesday.

Johnson comeback not in the cards

Johnson dramatically quit the race on Sunday night, ending a short-lived, high-profile attempt to return to the prime minister’s job he was ousted from little more than three months ago amid ethics scandals.

Johnson spent the weekend trying to gain support from fellow Conservative lawmakers after flying back from a Caribbean vacation. Late Sunday he said he had amassed the backing of 102 colleagues. But he was far behind Sunak in support, and said he had concluded that “you can’t govern effectively unless you have a united party in Parliament.”

Sunak had helped bring down the Johnson government in the summer with his resignation. In a series of tweets Sunday, he praised Johnson for delivering Brexit, the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and his support of Ukraine as it fights Russia’s invasion.

Sunak vied for the leadership in the summer, but saw Truss finish with more votes, buoyed by support from grass roots party members.

Truss promised her “full support” to Sunak, and Theresa May, Conservative prime minister from 2016-2019, applauded the choice.

The Conservative Party has been in power since 2010 and their turmoil the past several months is fuelling demands from the opposition parties for a national election, led by Opposition Leader Keir Starmer.

Starmer’s Labour Party tweeted a video of Sunak with a terse, “No one voted for this.”

Liberal Democratic Leader Ed Davey said that “Conservative MPs have installed another out-of-touch Prime Minister without giving you a say,” while Scottish National Party Leader Ian Blackford opined that “the Tories cannot be allowed to impose a third Prime Minister without an election.”

Under Britain’s parliamentary system, there does not need to be one until the end of 2024, though the government has the power to call one sooner.

Sunak’s vast wealth criticized

Sunak studied politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford University and then got an MBA at Stanford University.

He worked for the investment bank Goldman Sachs as a hedge fund manager and lived in the U.S., where he met his wife, Akshata Murty. They have two daughters.

Returning to Britain, Sunak was elected to Parliament for the safe Tory seat of Richmond in Yorkshire in 2015. In Britain’s 2016 Brexit referendum, he supported leaving the European Union.

When “Leave” voters prevailed in the referendum, Sunak’s career took off. He served in several junior ministerial posts before being appointed chancellor of the exchequer — head of the Treasury — by Johnson in February 2020, just before the pandemic hit.

Sunak has had his wobbles over the years. Critics said a campaign to get people to eat in restaurants after lockdown restrictions were eased in the summer of 2020 contributed to another wave of COVID-19.

Others have said the vast wealth of Sunak’s family and his Silicon Valley past put him out of touch with the struggles of ordinary people.

He also faced questions about his finances and those of his wife. Murty is the daughter of the billionaire founder of Indian tech giant Infosys, and the couple is worth 730 million pounds ($1.12 billion Cdn), according to the Sunday Times Rich List.

In April 2022, it emerged that Murty did not pay U.K. tax on her overseas income. The practice was legal, but it looked bad at a time when Sunak was raising taxes for millions of Britons. Sunak also was criticized for holding on to his American green card, which signifies an intent to settle in the U.S., for two years after he became Britain’s finance minister.

Sunak was cleared of wrongdoing, but the revelations still hurt. He was fined by police, along with Johnson and dozens of others, for attending a party in the prime minister’s office in 2020 that broke coronavirus lockdown rules.

Outrage over those parties at a time when Britons were forced to stay home contributed to Johnson’s downfall. Sunak has said he attended inadvertently and briefly.

Delight in India over Sunak’s rise

In India, people across the former British colony proudly celebrated his victory on Monday, with social media and TV channels awash with congratulations.

Sunak’s grandparents hailed from Punjab state before the Indian subcontinent was divided into two countries — India and Pakistan — in 1947 after British colonial rule ended. They moved to East Africa in the late 1930s before finally settling in the U.K. in the 1960s.

Elation in India following Rishi Sunak’s appointment as Tory leader

After Rishi Sunak won the leadership of Britain’s Conservative Party Monday and was set to become the next British prime minister, people in India shared their sense of pride in seeing a fellow Indian rise to such a prominent position.

For many Indians, who are celebrating Diwali, one of the most important Hindu festivals, it was a moment to say: He is one of our own.

“It is a thing of pride for Indians when another Indian rises to be the prime minister of England, which is a country that used to rule India at a point in time,” said Sunil Mahajan in Pathankot, Punjab.

On Twitter, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called him a bridge between the two countries.

“As you become UK PM, I look forward to working closely together on global issues, and implementing Roadmap 2030,” Modi said, referring to a plan to boost trade and other ties between the countries.

With files from CBC News and Reuters

Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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