Indian-origin British politician and former chancellor Rishi Sunak lost the race to become the next prime minister of the United Kingdom to fellow Conservative leader Liz Truss.
Sunak, who was leading the race in the initial phase of campaigning, reportedly lost out on his PM bid due to his growing unpopularity within and outside the Conservative Party.
On Monday, Liz Truss became the third woman to become the prime minister of Britain after defeating Rishi Sunak with 81,326 votes to 60,399 among party members.
After the result was announced, Rishi Sunak called the Conservatives as “one family” and gave a call to unite behind Liz Truss as “she steers the country through difficult times”.
Even as his post-election message shows Conservative unity and optimism, reports suggest that Rishi Sunak might not even feature in the new cabinet under Liz Truss.
LOSING SUPPORT OF CONSERVATIVES
Hours after Boris Johnson resigned as the prime minister on July 8, Rishi Sunak threw his hat into the ring to become his successor. Even as this move put him ahead in the race to the PM post, he started losing support of top Conservatives.
Conservative leader Sajid Javid, once a close ally of Sunak, openly endorsed Liz Truss’s candidature, warning that Sunak’s economic prescription would mean “sleepwalking into a high-tax, low-growth” economy.
Nadhim Zahawi, another minister in the Boris Johnson cabinet, had backed Liz Truss, saying that the UK needs a ‘booster’ attitude to the economy, not a ‘doomster’ one.
IMAGE OF A BACKSTABBER
One of the major reasons why Rishi Sunak fell out with the Conservatives was his perceived betrayal of Boris Johnson. After Boris Johnson resigned facing a series of scandals, Rishi Sunak too quit the government, saying that the “public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously”.
Soon after he quit the government, Rishi Sunak uploaded his campaign video ‘Ready for Rishi’, which purportedly made some quarters of the Tory leaders believe that he brought down the Boris Johnson-led government for his personal ambitions.
There were also reports that Rishi Sunak had been planning his campaign for the Conservative top post for a long time — even before the Boris Johnson government ran into controversies.
According to a report in Daily Mail, the domain name of Rishi Sunak’s leadership campaign website, readyforrishi.com, was registered on December 23, 2021.
— Rhys Morgan (@rhysmorgan) July 8, 2022
According to a YouGov poll, one in five Tory members held an unfavourable view of Rishi Sunak, specifically because he helped depose Boris Johnson.
While his resignation as chancellor found initial support from the Tories (57 per cent), a poll conducted at the start of August suggested that at least 51 per cent of Conservative members thought his decision to quit was wrong.
A week before the leadership results were to be announced, Rishi Sunak’s favourability among the Conservatives fell to 51 per cent, falling far behind Liz Truss who had the backing of 73 per cent of the Conservatives, according to a YouGov survey.
Even when Rishi Sunak was the chancellor, his approval rating among the public was declining. As of August 8, 2022, only 22 per cent of the people thought that Rishi Sunak was doing a good job as a chancellor, as against his rating two years ago — 48 per cent, according to a YouGov survey.
RISHI SUNAK AND CONTROVERSIES
Rishi Sunak also found himself at the centre of some controversies. In August, a video went viral where Rishi Sunak was seen admitting that he diverted money from deprived urban areas to other parts of the country.
“We inherited a bunch of formulas from Labour that shoved all the funding into deprived urban areas and that needed to be undone. I started the work of undoing that,” Rishi Sunak was heard saying in the video.
EXCLUSIVE: In a leaked video, Rishi Sunak boasted to Conservative Party members that he was prepared to take public money out of “deprived urban areas” to help wealthy towns.@REWearmouth reports: https://t.co/uZMpjKm6rG pic.twitter.com/07sSzDksMT
— The New Statesman (@NewStatesman) August 5, 2022
Rishi Sunak’s wealthy status also brought him under question. Sunak is married to Akshata Murthy, daughter of Infosys founder Narayana Murthy, who owns 0.93 per cent stake worth £690 million in the tech company. In May this year, Rishi Sunak and his wife featured in The Sunday Times UK Rich List of the top 250 wealthiest people in the UK.
Rishi Sunak’s prime ministerial ambitions took a hit in April after reports came out revealing that his wife holds a non-domiciled status in the UK, and hence does not pay British taxes on her foreign earnings.
Sunak also criticised the handling of Covid-19 pandemic by the Boris Johnson government, saying it had been a mistake to “empower” scientists and that the downsides of lockdowns were suppressed.
WHAT NEXT FOR RISHI SUNAK
After losing to Liz Truss in the Conservative Party leadership race, reports suggest that Rishi Sunak might not even get a job in the new cabinet.
A report by The Guardian suggests that Liz Truss’s team has decided on which Tory leaders will be awarded key cabinet posts. Rishi Sunak’s name has reportedly not made the list, the report states.
If Rishi Sunak is not offered a post in the Liz Truss cabinet, it would be a break from the tradition, whereby most unsuccessful leadership contenders have been offered posts.
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