Votes cast, polls closed, what are Rishi Sunak’s chances of becoming UK PM?


The ballots have now closed for the Tory leadership battle. The votes have been cast.

It is estimated that there are about 180,000 to 200,000 Tory party members who were eligible to and responsible for choosing the leader of their party, and thereby, the next prime minister of Britain. This constitutes about 0.3 per cent of the entire population. Such a miniscule number choosing the PM of the country have many frowning, but such are the rules.

It falls upon the MPs and the members of the party in power if their leader, who is also the PM, resigns mid-term for some reason. Exactly what outgoing PM Boris Johnson did. It has thus fallen upon the MPs and the members of the Tory party to choose a leader of their party and the premier of Britain.

The Mile End Institute at Queen Mary University of London has found in their research that of these 180,000 to 200,000 members, 44 per cent are over 65 and 97 per cent are white.

Why Rishi Sunak is lagging behind Liz Truss?

MP for Richmond (Yorks) and the former chancellor of exchequers Rishi Sunak has the odds of as low as 8 to 5 in some polls as against his rival Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who is at 92 to 95. This is the same man who left Truss miles behind just a few weeks back in the multiple rounds of voting by Tory members of Parliament.

There are three main reasons why Rishi seems to be lagging:

Rishi’s wealth:

Rishi Sunak along with wife Akshata Murthy are estimated to be richer than the Queen. Many believe that for a wealthy man like Rishi, it would be hard to really come to grips with the issues that common people grapple with. Cost of living being the biggest concern has not helped the situation.

It is worth noting that from Liz Truss to former PM David Cameron and current PM Boris Johnson all are millionaires. In fact, Leader of Opposition Keir Starmer, who is touted to be the next PM come general elections, is also a millionaire.

Rishi is Brutus to Boris:

Michael Haseltine, a famous British politician and businessman had said a while back, “One who wields the crown never wears the crown.” This reigns heavily on the minds of British people. Rishi is seen as someone who back-stabbed Boris Johnson, the man who brought him into his cabinet, by resigning. Rishi resigning was followed by the resignation of around 50 other MPs resulting in Boris finally stepping down.

Some believe people have not forgotten this and won’t forgive Rishi for it. Rishi Sunak has always denied doing so. Though in one recent interview, he did admit that Boris Johnson has not replied to his text messages since he resigned.

Though Boris never supported any of the candidates openly, it is widely believed he put his might behind Liz Truss. A recent survey estimated that even today about 46 per cent Tories would prefer Boris over any of the two candidates.

Rishi’s economic plan:

Not offering any tax cuts unlike his opponent, Rishi minced no words to spell out that coming times could be tough, where tough decisions would be needed in order to tackle inflation. Rishi insisted further borrowing at this juncture to support any tax cut would be “really risky.”

Truss, on the other hand, is of the opinion that high taxes are “choking off growth” resulting in businesses hesitating to invest. Reducing taxes is Truss’ answer o tackling inflation, unlike Rishi’s.

To a typical Tory voter who “conventionally” believes in “lower tax and spending,” this straight talk has not gone down well. A recent YouGov poll suggested the same.

Company director of a medium to small property business, Darren Jones said, “Rishi is losing the leadership election because Liz Truss has said whatever she needs to say to please the Conservative Party membership. She’s talking about cutting taxes, not introducing new taxes, not rationing energy and not providing support for businesses and the poorest in ‘handouts’.”

Jones, who also happens to be a Tory party member and has voted for Rishi Sunak, further added, “Rishi has told the truth that it’s impossible to rule out anything in a time of unprecedented crises in rising prices in the shops and of fuel and electricity in the homes. I supported Rishi because his plans are deliverable but tough and stand the best chance of steering us through the next few years.”

What are the chances of Rishi Sunak being the PM and why?

Going by every possible poll and betting sites, chances of Rishi Sunak being the next British PM are very bleak.

Rishi Sunak’s furlough scheme that supported people through the pandemic is seen by many as his greatest achievement in the toughest of times. Now, when the cost of living and energy crisis looms large in Britain, Sunak’s honest and straightforward approach coupled with strong economic background might just be what the country needs, some believe.

“He is best suited economist to rebuild the country, which is the need of the hour. We are heading to recession, but Rishi has the skills to take the country out of it. That’s why my vote goes to him,” said Nimit Shishodia, a telecom consultant.

While the Tory party is looking for a PM now, but the eye really is on the next elections. “Rishi has the most appeal in the whole country and could win the next general election. I feel that my fellow Conservative Party members who have supported Liz Truss will soon have buyer’s remorse as she is forced to u-turn on all of her pledges and certainly at the next general election which she is almost certain to lose,” said Jones to India Today.

The Ready for Rishi team is thus still holding on to hope.

Lord Dolar Popat, a life peer of the Tory party who has been standing by Rishi Sunak through thick and thin, said to India Today, “Polling is a good indication of how a vote might go but in a contest that is unlike anything we have seen before, it is difficult to know how accurate they are. Many people will be big supporters of Rishi but have been a bit more reserved in their support due to his policies not being as popular amongst many members.”

Lord Popat believes that we could be in for a surprise come Monday.

“Rishi has a strong track record and he has demonstrated his ability to deal with the difficulties our country faces. He has been honest about the challenges and is unashamed to do things differently in order to ensure people are helped through this time,” he said.

By mid-day on September 5, it will be known who the next PM of Britain will be. The very next day, on September 6, outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson will give his final speech from 10 Downing Street and the new PM will take over the top job.

Either way, it is historic. If it’s Rishi Sunak, he will be the first ever non-white, Indian-origin PM of Britain. If it’s Liz Truss, then Britain would have chosen its third female premier.

— ENDS —

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