LONDON – Britain’s Conservative lawmakers on Wednesday settled on their choice to succeed Prime Minister Boris Johnson, putting forward two candidates who worked for Mr Johnson to replace a leader whose economic crisis deepens. His tenure with the government was over. ,
Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss emerged as finalists after five rounds of voting. , with the results announced in early September.
Ms Truss ousted a little-known junior minister, Penny Mordant, who after three turbulent years under Mr Johnson launched an unexpectedly vigorous campaign, promoting herself as a breath of fresh air. Ms Mordount was eliminated, winning 105 votes, while Ms Truss got 113 and Mr Sunak got 137 votes.
Both are likely to face questions from a conservative electorate who once disregarded Mr Johnson’s faltering style and gleeful defiance of rules, but has recently been dismayed by his zigzagging policies and the endless parade of scandals in his government.
Despite its continuance, the leadership contest has managed to capture both the Conservative Party’s rich diversity and its crude divisions.
Mr Sunak, a 42-year-old former investment banker of South Asian descent, will become the first person to occupy 10 Downing Street. He voted in favor of Britain leaving the European Union in the 2016 referendum. Ms Truss, a 46-year-old who once worked for Shell and began her political career as a Liberal Democrat, voted to remain in the European Union but has since become an ardent convert to Brexit.
These different Brexit pedigrees are likely to factor into the campaign, given that the 2016 vote still plays out in the Conservative Party. While both candidates will be eager to turn the page and focus on the future, they may be forced to revisit the past, starting with their relationship with their disgraced predecessor.
Mr Johnson made a defiant, self-congratulatory final appearance in parliament on Wednesday, taking credit for winning the largest Conservative majority since Margaret Thatcher in 1987, leading to Brexit, and his war with Russia. For continued support of Ukraine.
“Hasta la vista baby!” He told lawmakers, borrowing a familiar farewell from Arnold Schwarzenegger, who famously said, “I’ll be back.”
How successfully Mr Sunak and Mr Truss escaped from Mr Johnson’s shadow could determine their success in the next six weeks of campaigning. It could be a major challenge for Ms Truss, who sat with Mr Johnson in the House of Commons on Wednesday and remained in his cabinet when Mr Sunak stepped down, including several others.
Mr. Sunak will present himself as a responsible manager of the country’s finances, during periods of extreme stress, with the specter of rising inflation and recession. His victory marked a remarkable comeback from last spring, when his political career came to an end following revelations that his wife, Akshata Murthy, the daughter of an Indian billionaire, did not pay taxes on all her income in Britain.
So far, analysts said, Mr. Sunak has run a smooth, disciplined campaign, refusing to delve into policy details and giving journalists few opportunities to investigate them. Ms Truss’s campaign has had a weak start, though she has gained momentum. On Wednesday, after her win, she posted on Twitter that she was “ready to hit the ground from day one”, forgetting to add “running”.
Ms Truss will be seen as a candidate for hard-line Brexiters, who are negotiating aggressively with the EU over trade in Northern Ireland. Critics say he undermined negotiations with Brussels to advance the party’s Brexite wing, and now risks starting a trade war.
She will also carry on her strong power credentials as foreign secretary during the war in Ukraine. In a recent televised debate, Ms Truss was the only candidate to say she would be in favor of Russian President Vladimir V. Putin – positioning herself as an adversary who slams the Russian leader for her aggression.
“It is very important that we have the voices of the free world in front of Vladimir Putin,” Ms Truss said. “I was ready to face Sergei Lavrov,” she said, referring to the Russian foreign minister. She said she would call Mr Putin “in front of very important swing countries like India and Indonesia”.
Ms Truss, some analysts say, has been running a very subtle campaign for Mr Johnson’s job for months, despite public opposition to her loyalty. During a visit to British troops in Estonia last November, he posed in military gear atop a tank. Commentators said she sounded like she was channeling Mrs Thatcher was never a bad idea in the race for Tory leadership.
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Despite Sunak’s significant lead among Conservative lawmakers in Wednesday’s vote, Truss remains the oddsmakers’ favorite to win the next stage of the contest, when two contenders will battle for the votes of party members, who number around 160,000. is considered. People.
Ms Sunak has her share of liabilities: Her highly personal wealth could alienate voters at a time of increasing pressure on their own finances. Critics claim that the tax hike he introduced in the Johnson government risks plunging the country into a recession. They argue that sound public finance is critical to controlling inflation following a boom in government spending during the pandemic.
His role in helping Mr Sunak oust Mr Johnson may also have hurt. Despite the recent scandals, many party members maintain affection for the Prime Minister and are grateful for the resounding victory he delivered in 2019. They may be reluctant to replace them with a former colleague who turned against them.
Mr Johnson has suggested that his own lawmakers have made an irrational decision in ousting him, and some of his closest aides have made no secret of their animosity towards Mr Sunak. One of them, Jacob Rees-Mogg, flatly refused to deny that he had described Mr Sunak’s tax policy as “socialist” during a cabinet meeting.
Speaking for the opposition Labor Party, a senior lawmaker, Conor McGinn, described the contenders as “two continuance candidates” and said, “Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak are both puppets of the Johnson administration, whose fingerprints have been blown across the country.” I am in. Only today.”