Who is the new UK Prime Minister? Rishi Sunak is new PM after Penny Mordaunt pulls out of Tory leadership race

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Rishi Sunak has become the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom after Penny Mordaunt withdrew from the leadership contest.

Rishi Sunak will be the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, after leadership rival Penny Mordaunt pulled out at the last minute.

He is the first ever politician from an ethnic minority to hold the country’s top job, and in addition to being the fifth consecutive Prime Minister from the Conservative Party - he has also become the third Prime Minister of 2022.

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It comes after his most recent predecessors were forced to resign following mass controversy. Liz Truss announced her resignation on Thursday (20 October) in the wake of huge backlash to her administration’s disastrous mini budget, while Boris Johnson was effectively ousted from office in July when more than a third of his government ministers quit their jobs over the Partygate and Chris Pincher scandals.

Sunak’s main opponent for the role was Penny Mordaunt, but just before 2pm today (24 October) she withdrew from the contest before a Tory leadership race could even begin. She reportedly failed to secure the 100 MP supporters that candidates needed to run, whereas the UK’s new Prime Minister had the backing of more than half of his party.

In a short statement at the Conservative Party’s HQ, Sunak said he is “humbled” and “honoured” to have been elected as Prime Minister, and that the opportunity to “serve the party [he] love[s] and give back to the country [he] owe[s] so much to” will be “the greatest privilege of [his] life”.

Rishi Sunak is elected leader of the Conservative Party and next Prime Minister. Credit: Mark HallRishi Sunak is elected leader of the Conservative Party and next Prime Minister. Credit: Mark Hall
Rishi Sunak is elected leader of the Conservative Party and next Prime Minister. Credit: Mark Hall | Mark Hall

Speaking on the issues the country faces, he admitted there is a “profound economic challenge” ahead. He said: “We now need stability, and unity, and I will make it my utmost priority to bring our party and our country together. Because that is the only way we will overcome the challenges we face and build a better, more prosperous future for our children and our grandchildren.”

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He paid tribute to his predecessor at the beginning of his speech, and thanked Truss for “her dedicated public service to the country.” The MP concluded his short statement by pledging to serve with “integrity and humility” and promising to “work day in, day out to deliver for the British people.”

The Richmond MP has been in Parliament since 2015, and previously held the roles of Parliamentary Under-Secretary in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and Chancellor of the Exchequer. This was not his first bid for the top government job, as he was also one of the candidates in the Tory leadership contest over the summer. While he made it to the final vote amongst Conservative Party members, he was ultimately beaten to the post by Truss - but has now managed to clasp hold of the keys to Number 10.

Penny Mordaunt said Sunak has her “full support” as she dropped out of the contest to become the next Prime Minister.

She said: “These are unprecedented times. Despite the compressed timetable for the leadership contest it is clear that colleagues feel we need certainty today. They have taken this decision in good faith for the good of the country. Members should know that this proposition has been fairly and thoroughly tested by the agreed 1922 process. As a result, we have now chosen our next prime minister.”

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When announcing his leadership bid, Sunak wrote on Twitter: “The United Kingdom is a great country but we face a profound economic crisis. That’s why I am standing to be Leader of the Conservative Party and your next Prime Minister. I want to fix our economy, unite our Party and deliver for our country.”

What happens next?

In the coming days, Sunak will be invited to visit King Charles III where he will be officially invited to form a government. He will also be expected to announce his Cabinet.

Given the current state of the UK’s economy, Sunak’s first focus will likely be the next Budget announcement - which is due on 31 October. Other key issues the new Prime Minister will need to address include the cost of living crisis and spiralling energy bills, in addition to an increasingly divided Conservative Party - and mounting calls for a general election.

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