Battle on for second place to beat Rishi Sunak in U.K. PM race

Mr. Sunak’s camp has, meanwhile, played down suggestions that his strong support does not extend beyond the Tory MPs.

Updated - July 15, 2022 06:56 pm IST

Published - July 15, 2022 05:53 pm IST - London

File photo of British Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak.

File photo of British Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak. | Photo Credit: Reuters

With Rishi Sunak now firmly placed as the candidate to beat, the battle lines are drawn for second place in the race to replace Boris Johnson as Conservative Party leader and British Prime Minister, with the remaining five contenders set for their first public clash on Friday.

Mr. Sunak, who was the winner of the first two rounds of voting by Tory members of Parliament, will appear for a series of televised debates over the weekend with his remaining opponents – Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, former minister Kemi Badenoch and Tory backbencher Tom Tugendhat.

Suella Braverman, the Indian-origin Attorney General who was knocked out of the race in round two, has thrown her support behind Truss – boosting the third-placed candidate’s chances.

"Liz is the best person to unleash the opportunities of Brexit, and deliver much-needed tax cuts,” said Braverman, in a statement after the second round of voting on Thursday.

All eyes are now on who between Truss and Mordaunt will clinch the No. 2 spot to go head-to-head with Sunak when the final two candidates have to campaign for votes among the Conservative Party membership around the UK from later next week.

According to ‘The Times’, caretaker Prime Minister Johnson and his camp are running an “anyone but Rishi” hidden campaign after feeling betrayed over the former Chancellor’s resignation which precipitated his exit from 10 Downing Street.

While Johnson has said he would not publicly endorse any of the contenders in the race to succeed him, behind the scenes it is believed that he is in favour of either Truss or Mordaunt.

“The whole No.10 [Downing Street] team hates Rishi. It’s personal. It’s vitriolic. They don’t blame Saj [Sajid Javid] for bringing him down. They blame Rishi. They think he was planning this for months,” the newspaper quoted a source as saying.

Pakistani-origin Javid resigned from Johnson’s Cabinet as Health Secretary just minutes before Sunak’s resignation as finance minister last week, in a move both have denied was coordinated in any way and was the result of a number of scandals, including partygate, that had plagued the Johnson-led administration.

An ally of Johnson rejected the claim that he wants “anyone but Rishi” to win but admitted that the outgoing Prime Minister harboured resentment over Sunak’s “betrayal”.

Also Read: Who will be the next British Prime Minister? All you need to know

Meanwhile, there is intense lobbying at work in an effort to bolster the chances of the top three candidates. Under the latest votes tally, Sunak has 101, Mordaunt 83, Truss 64, Badenoch 49 and Tugendhat 32. Both Badenoch and Tugendhat – the fourth and fifth placed candidates – have refused to withdraw before the next few rounds of voting starting Monday, which will whittle down the list to the final two by Thursday’s deadline.

"People obviously are trying to stop me getting into the final because they don't want to run against me," said Mordaunt, who is currently the bookie’s favourite in the race with her perceived support among the Tory party membership base.

Mr. Sunak’s camp has, meanwhile, played down suggestions that his strong support does not extend beyond the Tory MPs.

"I think he really will start to connect and hopefully we can move away and offer a positive vision rather than this Conservative-on-Conservative attacks, which I really don't like," said Richard Holden, a Tory backbench MP backing Mr. Sunak.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.