AAs Britain’s next Prime Minister appeared before a cheering party crowd at Tory headquarters, he began with an odd-looking tribute to Liz Truss. Of course it is appropriate in a party, especially when there are bridges to be built, that the predecessor is thanked for his service to the nation. But the only one who owes Truss anything is probably Sunak himself. Without her resignation after less than 50 days in office, during which little more than economic damage was done to the country, he would not have ended up at the head of the party.
Sunak was quieter than usual, less boastful. With “integrity and humility” he will lead the country, which is facing “fundamental economic challenges”. Governing Britain is “the privilege of my life,” he said, citing restoring “unity and stability” as his top priority. Before his short speech, in a conversation with members of parliament, he is said to have expressed himself more clearly: The Tories are “faced with the choice: agree or die”.
In the end, the successor decision was made very quickly. By midday, Sunak had more than half the Tory MPs on his side. At this point in time, Penny Mordaunt’s camp continued to claim that her own candidate would also reach the necessary 100 nominations in time for the application deadline. But when the first prominent supporter called on Mordaunt to drop out in the interest of the party and the country, she was smitten. She resigned, and Graham Brady, the great perennial organizer of party leadership changes, announced just five minutes later in the 1922 Committee room: “I can confirm that we have received a nomination. Rishi Sunak is the new elected leader of the Conservative Party.”
Why Johnson retired
Bringing the party back together and stabilizing the economic situation – these are the two tasks that the parliamentary group is also placing on the new head of government. But can he master them? After four agonizing succession battles in just six and a half years, the long-established Conservative Party is being described by many as “ungovernable”. The internal party struggles have left too many wounds, too much bad blood flows in the veins of the party.
In the end, Johnson probably saw that too when he announced his retirement on Sunday evening. Of course, his opponents assume that he did not give up out of insight, but because he lacked the necessary support to even be able to compete. It is disputed whether he was actually nominated by 102 MPs, as his camp says. A bluff can never be ruled out with Johnson, even if MP Michael Fabricant assured that the number had been confirmed to him in the “1922 Committee”. In any case, there is much to suggest that Johnson has recognized the impossibility of a successful mission.
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