Rishi Sunak to be UK’s next prime minister as Penny Mordaunt pulls out of Tory race

Rishi Sunak will be the next prime minister after winning the Tory leadership race by default.

Sunak will become Tory leader after his only rival in the leadership race, Penny Mordaunt, pulled out of the race Monday (24 October).

It appears that she failed to collect the necessary 100 endorsement from MPs, leaving Sunak as the only candidate.

He will become prime minister after visiting King Charles III – Downing Street is yet to confirm when this will happen, but he will likely be in No 10 by tomorrow.

The Tory party organised a lightning-fast leadership race after the resignation of Liz Truss just 45 days into her premiership.

Truss was forced to resign after the mini-budget fiasco prompted a wave of letters from MPs to Sir Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 Committee which oversees leadership challenges, as well as public calls by MPs for her to step down.

Almost immediately, it became apparent that the race would be between Commons leader Penny Mordaunt, former chancellor Rishi Sunak and ex-prime minister Boris Johnson.

Johnson cut short a Caribbean holiday to race back to the UK. He didn’t officially declare his candidacy, but spent the weekend trying to rally support.

By most counts, Johnson had about 60 publicly declared supporters – as well as many detractors who warned his return would further undermine, if not destroy completely, the Tory Party.

Johnson pulled out of the race Sunday night (24 October), insisting he had passed the required threshold of 100 MP endoresements and arguing he would likely win a vote among members.

However, he said, he had been unable to reach a consensus with Sunak and Mordaunt to unite the party.

“I hoped that we could come together in the national interest – we have sadly not been able to work out a way of doing this,” Johnson said.

Therefore I am afraid the best thing is that I do not allow my nomination to go forward and commit my support to whoever succeeds. I believe I have much to offer, but I am afraid that this is simply not the right time.”

Penny Mordaunt was the first to officially declare her candidacy, but lagged behind Sunak and Johnson in support.

Last Tory leadership contest was engulfed by anti-trans rhetoric

The leadership contest comes just seven weeks after the previous one saw Liz Truss named prime minister, with Rishi Sunak as runner-up. Mordaunt placed third in that race, failing to make it to the vote of Tory members.

Throughout the summer leadership race, all three candidates leveraged anti-trans rhetoric to win favour among the right of the party.

Mordaunt, previously considered by many to be an ally to LGBTQ+ rights, began her campaign with an unprompted statement answering the question ‘what is a woman?’.

She spoke about her opposition to what she described as the “trans orthodoxy”, and said that while trans women can be considered “legally female…. that DOES NOT mean they are biological women, like me”.

She later claimed that she had never supported self-ID for trans people during her spell as equalities minister.

Sunak also took aim at trans rights, denying that trans women are women.

Paradoxically, in an interview with LGBT+ Conservatives, he spoke against transphobia, saying “prejudice against trans people is wrong”, and said that he would make the UK “the safest and greatest country in the world to be LGBT+”.

He also drew attention to efforts to end new HIV cases by 2030.