Britons will find out later Monday who will be their new prime minister as the nation confronts an impending economic and humanitarian catastrophe, nearly two months after Boris Johnson departed in the aftermath of a series of scandals.
The governing Conservative Party will disclose the results of its leadership election at roughly 12:30 p.m. local time (7:30 a.m. ET), in which the two candidates in the last round, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and former finance minister Rishi Sunak, fiercely attacked each other’s ideas.
Truss, a low-tax evangelist and poster child for the British Conservative right, is the heavy favorite to defeat Sunak, the former chancellor of the exchequer who voted for Brexit but has since adopted a softer stance on how the United Kingdom should interact with the European Union.
As head of the biggest party in the House of Commons, the victor will serve as prime minister until the next general election, which must take place by December 2024.
Whoever wins will most likely see Queen Elizabeth II on Tuesday to get an invitation to form a government. The event is traditionally held at Buckingham Palace, but the 96-year-old queen is at her Scottish house Balmoral, and she will greet Johnson and his successor there for the first time in her reign.
However, the next prime minister’s celebrations are likely to be short-lived, as a growing cost-of-living problem — average annual energy bills are expected to increase 80% to £3,549 (roughly $4,180) in October — threatens to overwhelm the majority of the nation. On Sunday, appearing on a BBC political programme, Truss declined to outline her ideas to curb growing costs, but said, “what I want to reassure people is, I would act if elected as prime minister within one week.”
Truss is the overwhelming favourite to get the most votes from regular Conservative Party members in the next leadership election. Despite voting to stay in the European Union in 2016, Truss is the chosen choice of the overwhelming majority of Brexiteers within her party.
Critics have accused her of playing politics with Brexit by taking a harsh posture to attract votes. They noted that over her adult life, Truss’s ideas had moved from anti-monarchist and pro-drug legalisation in her teens to the epitome of the Conservative Party’s right wing. Truss’s campaign platform had a plenty of red meat for the Conservative membership, including a harsh stance against the EU on Brexit and tax cuts as her primary response to the cost-of-living problem.
Unlike Truss, Sunak did vote to leave the EU in 2016 and has made repeated vows to get rid of EU legislation. Early in his campaign, he criticised Truss’s promises for tax cuts, but he has since followed in her footsteps.
Early on in the coronavirus epidemic, Sunak was praised for utilising government funds to aid those who lost their employment or were unable to operate their enterprises. Later, he was fined for attending a party with Johnson during a lockdown, and the tax arrangements of his wife, the daughter of an Indian millionaire, came under examination.