View all newsletters
Sign up to our newsletters

Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. Conservatives
24 October 2022

Rishi Sunak won’t be celebrating long if he becomes prime minister

The former chancellor will inherit an economy in crisis and enfeebled public services.

By Rachel Wearmouth

Could Britain have a new prime minister as early as this afternoon?

Rishi Sunak has, at the time of writing, more than 160 MPs supporting his bid to succeed Liz Truss as Tory leader, while his rival, Penny Mordaunt, is yet to break 30. With the threshold for the members’ ballot set at 100, the former chancellor is strongly favoured to win, after Boris Johnson pulled out of the race last night.

Watching Johnson’s desperate efforts to get his old job back has been fascinating. The interest rate demanded by investors buying government gilts rose sharply as he became the bookies’ favourite on his dash back from the Caribbean; the markets panicked over the return of his chaotic leadership.

Johnson’s campaign made a highly dubious claim on Saturday that he had 100 backers, but few were prepared to go on record (in the end Team Boris declared they had 102, admitting that, despite 24 hours of phone-banking, briefing and bigging up Johnson myths, they had signed up a maximum of two additional allies).

Attempts at striking deals with Mordaunt and Sunak were roundly rejected amid reports some MPs would resign the whip if Johnson was returned to No 10. And finally, Johnson convinced James Cleverly and Nadhim Zahawi to go public with their endorsements just before he exited the contest, leaving his two closest allies facing ridicule and contempt.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team. The best way to sign up for The Green Transition is via spotlightonpolicy.substack.com
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

But what would be a bracing experience for most politicians does not seem to have deterred the man who would be “world king”. Johnson blithely signed off his statement confirming he was out: “I believe I have much to offer but I am afraid that this is simply not the right time.”

If Sunak is the only candidate to meet the 100-MP target, today will effectively be a coronation. However, there could be a final twist to the tale. Mordaunt backers told the BBC this morning they were “very confident” she had 100 and that “Penny will be on the ballot”.

It remains to be seen whether pressure from Sunak-backers will cause Mordaunt to drop out this morning, with or without the numbers, or whether she will push for a members’ vote.

Whoever becomes prime minister will not be celebrating long. Truss’s disastrous mini-Budget has created a £40bn hole in the public finances, meaning there will be tax rises and spending cuts. There are more than 60,000 cases in the court backlog and the new Metropolitan Police chief, Mark Rowley, has said a growing number of criminals are pleading not guilty in the hope their trial is delayed or dropped. The NHS is braced for its toughest ever winter, with Covid resurgent, waiting lists and A&E delays at record highs, and 100,000 staff vacancies.

Strikingly, none of the candidates have faced scrutiny over what they plan to do with power. Would Sunak look to, say, the defence budget (due to rise to 3 per cent of GDP by 2030), levelling-up projects or foreign aid for savings? If he plans to break the promise he made as chancellor to raise benefits in line with inflation, there is no way for the public to hold him accountable. MPs have been thrashing out these all-important arguments behind closed doors.

[See also: Rishi Sunak won’t be celebrating long if he becomes prime minister]

Content from our partners
Where do we get the money to fix the world's biggest problems? – with ONE
Labour's health reforms can put patients first
Data science can help developers design future-proof infrastructure

Topics in this article : , ,
Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team. The best way to sign up for The Green Transition is via spotlightonpolicy.substack.com
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU