- His experience in managing the economy might force the conservative party to take a second look at the man who "knifed" Boris Johnson and make him the first Hindu Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
Indian-origin former British Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak is back in contention for the leadership of the conservative party after Prime Minister Liz Truss resigned on Thursday. The 42-year-old Sunak, who was trounced by Truss in the leadership election six weeks ago, appears to be the frontrunner, even in the unlikely event of former Prime Minister Boris Johnson attempting a comeback.
The new prime minister is expected to be elected by Friday next week, if not earlier.
Even though a YouGov poll earlier in the week found 32% favored Johnson as their top candidate, ahead of Sunak at 23%, there is likely to be a pushback against a Johnson candidacy.
The Guardian quoted a former minister, who is backing Sunak, saying he believed it was highly unlikely Johnson would run. “I cannot see him getting more than 60 votes so … he’s done. He will say he is grandly not putting himself forward for the good of the nation because he knows he’ll get stuffed,” he said.
Another former cabinet minister David Davis, appearing on television, told Johnson to “Go back to the beach.” Johnson is reportedly cutting short his vacation following the news of the resignation.
The bleak chances of Johnson returning to 10 Downing Street became obvious by the response of veteran Tory MP Sir Roger Gale who reminded the BBC in an interview that Johnson is still under investigation by the privileges committee for potentially misleading the House. “Until that investigation is complete and he is found guilty or cleared, there should be no possibility of him returning to government,” he said.
More pertinently, what augers well for Oxford-Stanford-educated Sunak is not only his experience in managing the economy but his opposition to Truss’s policies that culminated in her shortest stint as Prime Minister in British history. Sunak called Truss’s proposed economic reforms “fairy tale” economics. And the turmoil surrounding their implementation, the Washington Post said, has lent credence to his characterization.
Sunak’s appeal for the embattled Tory party is obvious considering that he is seen as competent for having calmly navigated the post-Brexit British economy through dire straits, unlike Truss who brought it to the brink by biting more than she could chew.
While there is no doubt that Johnson remains popular among the conservative electorate — after all, he was responsible for Tories winning the largest number of seats in the House of Commons — the party is expected to take a second look at Sunak who “knifed” Boris and had his own brush with the scandals that led to the fall of Johnson government.
The question is given the desperate condition of the British economy, will the rank and file forgive Sunak’s elite credentials and his affluence, particularly that of his billionaire wife Akshata Narayan Murthy who was accused of “tax evasion,” despite being “richer than the Queen.” And then there is that small matter of Sunak retaining the U.S. Green Card even as he was seeking to rule Britainia, as it were.
The going may not be easy, but the United Kingdom has never been this close to being led by a Hindu Prime Minister.