Only 200,000 members of the Conservative party will decide the immediate future of the United Kingdom. The name of Boris Johnson’s successor will be announced on September 5 and he will take office on September 6.
The political ambitions of both former Finance Minister Rishi Sunak and current Foreign Minister Liz Truss were well known. So much so that in Boris Johnson’s inner circle they believe it was Sunak who ‘conspired’ to force the weak Johnson to resign.
Johnson’s discomfort with his former minister is so great that he would have barred other cabinet ministers from supporting him in his race for being a finalist in the ‘Tory’ MPs’ vote.
Johnson lost again. Rishi was proclaimed the favorite, which gave him the ticket for the final that has him today in a vote to be ‘premier’.
But Sunak, who a few months ago was emerging as Johnson’s natural successor, may be unseated by Liz Truss. The polls and the conservative media do not doubt that she will be the new tenant of Downing Street.
The former finance minister’s recent controversies may have kept him from fulfilling his ambition, even though it triggered the political earthquake that gave Johnson a departure date.
Truss, the certainty of the right ‘tory’
Mary Elizabeth Truss, 47, is not a traditional member of the Conservative party. In her youth she was a member of the Liberal Democrats, and today she is the representative of the right within the ‘tories’.
She has been an MP since 2010 for South West Norfolk, holding various government positions since the David Cameron Government.
The one who outlined her as a possible prime minister, there is no doubt, is the foreign secretary. She came to put out the fire that her predecessor caused with the withdrawal of Western troops from Afghanistan.
And the war in Ukraine and the sanctions against Russia have given her the image of a strong hand, almost reminiscent of Margaret Thatcher, which has made her highly popular within the party, at home and internationally.
Although she voted against Brexit, in the 2016 referendum, today, she is also the negotiator with Brussels of the Northern Ireland Protocol that the British Government intends to alter through internal legislation.
“She has a more conservative image and party members are more to the right and they want someone strong, who believes in Brexit,” explains Tim Durrant, associate director of the Institute for Government.
During the internal votes of the ‘tories’ deputies, Truss was not the favorite. She placed third in every round except the final. Her allies conquered the undecided.
Sunak, first ‘premier’ of Indian origin?
He defines himself as the heir to Margaret Thatcher, or the ‘Iron Lady’, the prime minister who transformed the United Kingdom and its economy in the 1980s.
In a column in ‘The Telegraph’, Sunak says he is ready to make all the reforms the country needs to give the economy a shot.
If he were the winner, he would break paradigms within the ‘Tory’ ranks: he would be both the first ‘premier’ of Indian origin and, at the same time, one of the richest politicians to reach Downing Street, thanks to his career as a banker and his wife’s wealth.
He and his wife, Akshata Narayan Murty, appear on the list of the richest people in the United Kingdom.
Although his wife’s finances are a personal matter, they have come under scrutiny as she, the daughter of India’s fourth-richest businessman, was not paying UK tax on her overseas earnings.
For that scandal he began to pay them. It was also learned that Sunak had an American Green Card, from when he studied for a postgraduate degree at Stanford University, California.
He has been a deputy since 2015 and has also held various positions within the government. But the one that has him about to reach Downing Street is that of finance minister that he held from February 13, 2020 until the first week of July.
His great achievement, which can also be his great enemy, is his management during the pandemic. To service that million-dollar debt, he had to raise taxes in April, increasing the pressure on the personal finances of every household in the country.
This is a huge stone that you can walk through on your way to 10 Downing Street.
“Sunak is also on the right, but he has the image that he has spent a lot during the pandemic and has raised taxes, and party members don’t like that. He has his reputation ruined,” states Durrant.
Another scandal that will haunt him is the ‘partygate’. Like Johnson, he was fined for attending the surprise premiere party during the pandemic.
Similar proposals on the conservative agenda
The management of the country’s fiscal policy is one of the great differences between the proposals of the two candidates.
Truss has promised to cut taxes immediately, while Sunak said he will only lower them when inflation is under control.
Analyst Tim Durrant says neither candidate has “solutions to the country’s biggest problems like inflation and cost of living.”
He added that “to be a good prime minister you have to have solutions to the biggest problems. Whoever wins will see that the problems are bigger than expected.”
Both Sunak and Truss will have a frenetic summer campaign with 12 meetings across the country in which they will seek to convince the ‘Tory’ bases that they are the solution and not a continuation.