How Strong Is Rishi Sunak's Claim To UK Top Job?

How Strong Is Rishi Sunak's Claim To UK Top Job?

by Nishtha Anushree - Jul 14, 2022 12:05 PM +05:30 IST
How Strong Is Rishi Sunak's Claim To UK Top Job?Rishi Sunak

As Rishi Sunak wins the first round of the Conservative Party leadership vote, here's a look at the process and his prospects.

The vote: Those who didn't get the support of 30 MPs were eliminated, which narrowed down the race from eight to six candidates:

  • Rishi Sunak: 88 votes

  • Penny Mordaunt: 67 votes

  • Liz Truss: 50 votes

  • Kemi Badenoch: 40 votes

  • Tom Tugendhat: 37 votes

  • Suella Braverman: 32 votes

Future course: More rounds of voting will take place over the next few days, which will whittle the number of candidates down to two.

  • The two candidates will face off to become Britain's next prime minister. The winner will be chosen by the Conservative party membership, not the MPs.

  • If Mordaunt makes it to the final stage against Sunak, he will have a problem. The card-carrying members of the Conservative party are more activist in nature.

The background: Sunak's campaign video suggests that despite being rich, he comes from a humble background. His mother was a pharmacist and his father was a GP.

  • Sunak's wife is the daughter of Narayana Murthy, Infosys co-founder. Reports suggest that Sunak is the wealthiest man in the British parliament.

  • If Sunak becomes the PM, his fortune, many fear, will be used against him by the Labour party. Questions will be raised such as "Isn't he too rich to rule? Too out of touch with the struggles of an ordinary Briton?"

Political career: He is relatively new to politics. He was first elected in 2015 to his seat in Richmond, North Yorkshire, succeeding Lord Hague of Richmond.

  • He has had three ministerial jobs — local government minister from 2018, chief secretary to the treasury from 2019, and then chancellor of the exchequer from February 2020, stepping in weeks before the pandemic struck the UK.

  • Sunak was the chancellor of the exchequer in the Johnson government until he resigned from the cabinet.

The campaign: Sunak's resignation was perceived as a betrayal by his critics in the party. He attempted to heal the rift by praising Johnson at the campaign launch.

  • He talked about 'restoring trust' in the office, but questions were raised as he himself attended Boris' party.

  • Sunak's backers claim that Sunak ended up attending the party by mistake; he had a meeting scheduled, to which he turned up early.

  • To make things more complicated, Sunak isn't promising tax cuts like his rivals, who are contending with him for the top job. 'Fairytale economics', he calls it.

  • On defence spending, Sunak's rivals have pledged a 2.5 per cent, or even 3 per cent, increase. He has not put a number and said he will respond to threats.

Challenges: The danger is that in the general elections, with Sunak as the Tory candidate, the Tories will lose most of the gains they made by winning the 'red wall' seats during Johnson's administration. The 'red wall' seats are Labour strongholds.

  • The right wing of the Tory party is backing other candidates. Critics of Sunak, such as Jacob Rees Mogg, have called him the “socialist chancellor” who set the tax burden on a trajectory to hit a 70-year high, and spending, a 50-year high.

  • Sunak's wife's non-domicile status has also been scrutinised, as has been his fortune.

Nishtha Anushree is Senior Sub-editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @nishthaanushree.
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