Leadership race: Sunak, Truss, Mordaunt face first vote
London: Conservative MPs on Wednesday began the formal process of choosing Britain’s next prime minister as they whittled down a field of eight candidates.
The frontrunners Rishi Sunak, Penny Mordaunt and Liz Truss are joined on the first ballot by the outsider candidates Tom Tugendhat, Kemi Badenoch, Nadhim Zahawi, Jeremy Hunt and Suella Braverman.
Sunak, the Indian origin contender, has said he will run the British economy like former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, if he wins. In his first campaign interview to The Daily Telegraph, the pro-ruling Conservative party daily broadsheet, he remarked, “We will cut taxes and we will do it responsibly.” He added, “That’s my economic approach. I would describe it as commonsense Thatcherism. I believe that’s what she would have done.”
He continued, “If you read her speeches -- and I've quoted her and Nigel Lawson (an erstwhile Conservative chancellor of the exchequer) in other lectures I've given -- her approach to these things was to make sure that as a nation you have to earn what you spend.”
Sunak was speaking in the context of a serious cost of living crisis gripping Britain, with a recession feared by economists. This has catapulted the UK's economy as the main issue in the ballots to determine who will be the next leader of the ruling Conservative party and therefore the prime minister.
Thatcher was a shrill right-wing, pro-market leader, who served as Britain’s prime minister between 1979 and 1990. She is a revered figure in Conservatives circles; but generally reviled in the now opposition Labour and Liberal Democrat parties.
As chancellor of the exchequer in the government, Prime Minister Boris Johnson – until he resigned a little over a week ago to signal the beginning of Johnson’s end – he raised taxes after borrowing heavily to protect lives, livelihoods and businesses in the face of the Covid-19 challenge. Unlike his rivals in the leadership contest that is underway, he has refused to cut taxes until national debt is brought down.
In the newspaper interview, published on Wednesday morning, he likened his upbringing to Thatcher's. He cited that akin to her upbringing above her father's grocery shop, in his childhood he helped out at his mother's pharmacy.
“My mum was a small businesswoman, she was a chemist,” Sunak stated, “I worked in my mum’s small chemist shop in Southampton. I did my mum's books -- that was part of my job. I also did payroll and accounts every week and every month.”
On Tuesday, four potential runners either dropped out after entering the race or desisted from doing so, because of a failure to muster support from fellow MPs, who will vote to whittle down the contestants to two, before the entire Conservative party membership indicate their preference. The quartet, who pulled out, were home secretary Priti Patel, transport secretary Grant Shapps, former health secretary Sajid Javid and junior minister in the Foreign Office Rehman Chishti.