London: UK Prime Minister Liz Truss has vowed to lead Britain’s Conservatives into the next election, which is due in two years, but after a disastrous six weeks in Downing Street, many doubt she will last.
Here are the main contenders for the position.
Truss easily defeated the former chancellor of the exchequer in this summer’s Tory leadership election, wooing party members with promises to cut taxes and regulations while increasing government spending.
Sunak, 42, has repeatedly warned that her plans to fund the proposals through additional borrowing are reckless and risk worsening the UK’s decades-long high inflation as well as market confidence.
Some believe he is the best-placed Conservative MP to replace Truss now that he has been proven completely correct – and Truss has scrapped her plans and replaced her previous finance minister with Sunak-supporting Jeremy Hunt.
Sunak received the most votes from Tory lawmakers in the early rounds of the recent leadership election and is still thought to have significant support within the parliamentary party.
According to a new YouGov poll released on Tuesday, he has the best ratings of the touted alternatives to Truss, albeit with an overall net favorability rating of -18.
However, he is now regarded as a divisive figure. Many party members, who have the final say on who leads the party, are refusing to forgive him for his role in the ouster of former Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The former premier resigned early last month following a revolt among his cabinet and Tory MPs sparked by Sunak’s and others’ resignations from his faltering government following months of controversies.
Encouraged by several strong hints from Johnson, speculation has swirled ever since that he would attempt an eventual comeback – though few thought it was possible this soon.
The ever-ebullient Brexit figurehead remains popular among Conservative MPs and the party, but his reputation among the general public has been severely harmed by his scandal-plagued three-year tenure.
According to a YouGov poll released on Tuesday, the 58-year-old is far more popular than Truss. Nonetheless, roughly two-thirds of those polled had a negative opinion of him.
Johnson has kept a low profile since resigning, giving a paid speech in the United States last week but no indications of his thoughts on the UK’s current crises.
His former top aide-turned-arch-critic Dominic Cummings argued that he favoured Truss in the summer leadership race because he expected her tenure to be disastrous and short-lived, paving the way for his return.
Truss’s new finance minister ran in the Conservative Party’s previous two leadership elections. He finished last in the first ballot of MPs this year after losing in the final run-off to Johnson in 2019.
However, his appointment to the second most powerful position in government has brought the former foreign secretary back into the spotlight, and his assured performance thus far has bolstered his standing.
As Conservative MPs plot Truss’s demise, some speculate that Hunt, an ex-entrepreneur who has the most support from the party’s centrists, could emerge as a competent unity candidate.
However, the 55-year-old would have even less of a democratic mandate than most of the rival candidates, likely heightening calls for a general election, which the Tories would lose by a landslide based on current polling.
The current cabinet member was a pre-election favorite to succeed Johnson, coming within eight votes of defeating Truss in the run-off against Sunak.
The former defense and trade minister, who is well-liked among Conservative supporters, was a staunch Brexit supporter and a key figure in the 2016 “Leave” campaign.
However, she faced criticism from Conservative colleagues during the recent leadership race, with some accusing her of being ineffective in previous government roles.
Mordaunt’s profile rose this week after she was sent out in place of Truss on Monday to answer an urgent question from the Labour opposition in parliament about the recent economic turmoil.
Despite having to explain that the prime minister was “not under a desk” in response to accusations that Truss was hiding, Mordaunt was seen to have handled a tense House of Commons well.
According to reports on Tuesday, the 49-year-senior old’s ally held private talks with Sunak last week about forming a unity ticket, but the ex-finance minister declined the offer because he does not want to be the junior partner.
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