LONDON, Oct 23 – Boris Johnson was struggling on Sunday to garner enough support to become Britain’s prime minister again, after leading figures from the right-wing of the Conservative Party rallied around the man who once was accused of betraying him, Rishi Sunak.
Sunak, the country’s 42-year-old former finance minister, confirmed Sunday that he will run to replace Liz Truss, promising to tackle the country’s “deep economic crisis” with “integrity, professionalism and responsibility.”
“I want to fix our economy, unite our party and serve our country,” said Sunak, the man Johnson supporters accuse of ending his three-year term.
Sunak left the cabinet in July, sparking an unprecedented ministerial rebellion against Johnson.
The declaration of the clear favorite throws the gauntlet at Johnson, who returned from a vacation in the Caribbean to try to secure the support of 100 lawmakers to enter the vote on Monday.
During his previous time at Downing Street he had the support of many of the party’s different factions, including those on the right who spearheaded the UK’s exit from the European Union.
This time, however, many of his former supporters have told Johnson he should step aside, saying the country needs stability after Truss’s chaotic six weeks in office triggered major turmoil in financial markets. , hitting the value of the British pound.
Johnson is also facing an investigation in the Privileges Committee into whether he misled Parliament about Downing Street parties during the COVID-19 lockdowns. He could be forced to resign or be suspended from office if he is found guilty.
“This is not the time for Boris’ style,” Steve Baker, an influential lawmaker from the party’s right, told Sky News. “I’m afraid the problem is that because of the Privileges vote, Boris would be a guaranteed disaster.”
Britain has been plunged into a new leadership battle after Truss was forced to resign when her radical economic policies pushed up the cost of borrowing and mortgage interest rates at a time of rising bills. of energy and food.
Sunak, Johnson and former Defense Minister Penny Mordaunt are in the running to become the country’s fifth prime minister in six years.
The prospect of Johnson becoming prime minister again is a polarizing issue for many in a divided Conservative Party, while his popularity with voters had also fallen before he was forced out of office.
To some lawmakers, he is a vote magnet, capable of attracting the entire country with his celebrity image and his brand of energetic optimism. To others, he is a toxic figure who would fail to unite the party and could undermine efforts to build a stable leadership to calm tumultuous financial markets.
Sunak has a big lead in the race for lawmakers’ backing, with the BBC putting his support at 133 statements, and Johnson at 55.
If elected, Sunak would be the first Prime Minister of Indian origin in the UK. His family immigrated to Britain in the 1960s, a period when many people from former British colonies came to help rebuild the country after World War II.
After graduating from Oxford University, he studied at Stanford University, where he met his wife Akshata Murthy, whose father is Indian billionaire N. R. Narayana Murthy, founder of Indian outsourcing giant Infosys Ltd.
Sunak first came to national attention when, aged 39, he became Chancellor of the Exchequer under Johnson just as the COVID-19 pandemic hit the UK, developing a furlough scheme to help millions of people. during multiple closures.
“I served as his finance minister, helping steer our economy through the most difficult of times,” Sunak said in a statement on Sunday. “The challenges we face now are even greater. But the opportunities – if we make the right choice – are phenomenal.”
Despite polls showing Sunak more popular in the country, he remains deeply unpopular with much of the party’s membership after he was blamed for Johnson’s downfall.
Under the rules of the fast-paced contest, if a single candidate wins the backing of 100 Conservative lawmakers out of more than 350 in Parliament, he will be appointed prime minister on Monday. If two candidates win that level of support, they will go to a vote among party members, with the winner to be announced on Friday.
Johnson’s supporters say he has secured the support of more than 100 lawmakers, but many are keeping quiet because they still hold government positions.