It feels like just last month that a new prime minister was thrust upon British citizens, promising to bring their party and the country together following the humiliating resignation of their predecessor.
And, in fact, it was. Liz Truss was chosen as the Conservative Party leader — and therefore the new occupant of 10 Downing Street — on September 6, after Boris Johnson was forced to call time on his scandal-plagued premiership. But Truss’s catastrophic tenure ended in just six weeks, and the wounded Conservatives are searching once again for a new leader while an unimpressed nation watches on.
Rishi Sunak is the frontrunner to become the UK’s third prime minister of the fall, and its fifth in six years. He came second to Truss during the previous contest, but his repeated warnings about her economic plan were proven accurate in record time and he has collected a healthy number of backers within the party.
A fast-tracked process could see a winner crowned on Monday. Entrants must secure the backing of 100 Conservative MPs to be placed on the ballot, a hurdle that Sunak has easily passed already. If two people cross the threshold, there will be an indicative vote by MPs and then, later this week, Tory members will have their say.
Sunak’s only competition is Cabinet member Penny Mordaunt, who came third during the summer. But Mourdant has failed to seize much momentum in the contest and could be pressured to pull out, either before the MPs vote or after, if she is unable to find some today.
In a whirlwind few days of political maneuvering, Sunak has already seen off the competition of his political rival Boris Johnson, who had been attempting to stage a remarkable political comeback mere weeks after his resignation. After days of speculation Johnson pulled out of the race on Sunday, insisting he had enough MPs behind him to proceed but saying he did not wish to lead a divided party.
That task will instead fall to whoever wins this week. But the next prime minister must also take control a country mired in economic gloom, and resist growing calls to seek a fresh mandate by calling a general election.
Truss’s fiscal agenda spooked markets and damaged the value of the pound, while a cost-of-living crisis has left widened inequality and left families unable to make ends meet. It’s fair to say that the unending drama at the top of the Conservative Party has left voters wary and threatened Britain’s reputation around the world.
The country’s next leader will promise to end that chaos — but it won’t be easy.