London October 23 2022: Rishi Sunak gained momentum in his bid to become UK prime minister, securing the public backing of senior Conservative Party lawmakers ahead of an initial leadership vote on Monday.
“I want to fix our economy, unite our party and deliver for our country,” Sunak said in a tweet on Sunday. His announcement was followed by another high-profile endorsement from Suella Braverman, whose resignation as home secretary last week helped to trigger the contest to replace Liz Truss as head of the Tory party and prime minister.
“We, as a party, need to change,” Braverman wrote in the Telegaph. “We need to provide leadership, stability and confidence to the British people.”
Truss’s resignation Thursday launched a swift leadership contest that will make her the shortest-ruling prime minister in British history. Ex-chancellor Sunak, who lost his bid for leadership against Truss just last month, has at least 120 MPs behind him, compared to Boris Johnson’s 51 named backers according to Bloomberg’s tally. The former prime minister hasn’t announced his candidacy but has been seeking support from lawmakers to get the 100 needed to get on the ballot.
The only other candidate so far is leader of the Commons, Penny Mordaunt. She has 22 confirmed backers in Bloomberg’s tally but told Sky News that she was “confident of our numbers.” She confirmed that she would keep the current chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, in his role and that she had sat down with him in the Treasury and been briefed on the state of the country’s finances.
Investors are likely to sell the pound and gilts in the event of a Johnson or Mordaunt victory, while a Sunak coronation would probably support UK assets for a while. The race will conclude either by Monday evening or, if put to an online vote with the wider Tory party, by Friday.
Johnson also garnered support on Sunday, including from Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and Nadhim Zahawi, a short-lived chancellor for Johnson.
“He got the big calls right, whether it was ordering more vaccines ahead of more waves of Covid, arming Ukraine early against the advice of some, or stepping down for the sake of unity. But now, Britain needs him back,” Zahawi wrote on Twitter.
Steve Baker, a Northern Ireland minister and leading Brexiteer who backed Johnson in the 2019 general election, said another Johnson premiership would be a “guaranteed disaster.” Baker told Sky News that the country needs “stability and professionalism” and said Johnson would be distracted by an ethics inquiry into issues including parties during coronavirus lockdowns.
Johnson and Sunak met last night amid speculation of a deal between the two, despite the bitterness left by Sunak’s role in Johnson’s downfall as prime minister. There was no apparent outcome from those discussions and no mention of Johnson in Sunak’s announcement.
Grant Shapps, Braverman’s successor as home secretary, was also among prominent Tories to come out in support of Sunak on Sunday, following cabinet minister Kemi Badenoch on Saturday.