Members of the Conservative Party, the majority in the British Parliament, are currently choosing whether Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak will become their new leader, after the resignation of Boris Johnson. Under the rules, the winner of the vote, which will be known on Monday September 5, will automatically become head of government.
How does the method of appointing the future British Prime Minister work? Who are the two candidates to succeed Boris Johnson? What are the hot issues awaiting the future tenant of 10 Downing Street? The world make the point.
What is the designation method?
After five rounds of voting in a fortnight and a particularly fierce internal campaign, the result finally came down on July 20: Liz Truss, the current Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Rishi Sunak, the former Minister of Finance, were appointed by Conservative Party MPs as the finalists to replace British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. This last decided to resignJuly 7, pushed out by his own Tory MPs following the partygate scandal.
The two competitors will be decided after a postal and online vote of some 200,000 party members, organized from 1er August to September 2. This method of designation, in a country with 46 million registered voters, raises questions. According a study carried out by Queen Mary University in London, the members of the party are 70% men, rather old (around fifty on average), and do not represent the ethnic diversity of the United Kingdom. In addition, they are more right-wing overall than the average Conservative voter. They are, for example, very supportive of tax cuts and are more worried about immigration than climate change.
According to the polls, M.me Truss is ultra-favorite to win this election: according to a YouGov survey published on July 21, 62% of party members questioned preferred it, against 38% saying they were ready to choose Mr. Sunak (a difference of twenty-four points). Whatever happens, the name of the new tenant of 10 Downing Street will be announced on Monday 5 September. He or she will then be officially received by Queen Elizabeth II on Tuesday, before a likely government appointment on Wednesday.
The Queen will receive the new Prime Minister at her Scottish residence, a first
Elizabeth II will shake up tradition. The Queen, 96, will stay at her Scottish residence in Balmoral, where she usually spends the end of the summer, to receive the new Prime Minister on Tuesday. Beforehand, Boris Johnson will also travel to Scotland on Tuesday to officially present his resignation to Elizabeth II.
Given her growing difficulties in getting around, the press wondered about the Queen’s return to London to formalize, at Buckingham Palace, the entry into office of her fifteenth head of government in seventy years of reign. The palace confirmed, on Wednesday, the modification of the very codified “ballet” which surrounds the change of prime minister. This decision will somewhat complicate the transition: the journey of a few hundred meters between Downing Street and Buckingham will be replaced by an 800 kilometer trip, potentially delaying the laborious process of forming the new government.
Who is Liz Truss?
Given largely winning the ballot, Liz Truss, 47, is head of diplomacy in a government that manages current affairs. MP for Norfolk (east of England) since 2010, she has chained various ministerial positions under three prime ministers since 2012 (environment, justice, treasury, gender equality, etc.). In her youth, she was an activist with the Liberal Democrats (center) before joining the Conservatives.
She is now positioned very to the right within her party. In 2016, Mr.me Truss voted against Brexit, before changing his mind and becoming adamant on the issue. She also fiercely defended the Northern Ireland Protocol Billthis bill unraveling crucial parts of the Brexit treaty, which Brussels considers a breach of the UK’s international commitments. In the end, she managed to pass for the continuity candidate, overplaying loyalty to Mr Johnson.
Resolutely liberal, M.me Truss campaigned on a single proposition: tax cuts. However, she did not specify how she would help the British to cope with inflation, nor how she would finance public services in serious lack of means. If elected, Ms.me Truss will become the third woman to lead the UK government, after Margaret Thatcher (1979-1990) and Theresa May (2016-2019).
Who is Rishi Sunak?
Former Chancellor of the Exchequer (in charge of finance), Rishi Sunak, 42, campaigned on his skill in economics. Son of Indian immigrants and natives of Southampton (south of England), he went through the University of Oxford. Mr. Sunak made a fortune in finance before embarking on a whirlwind political career: he has only been an MP for Yorkshire (north of England) since 2015. He has put the fight against inflation (more than 10% over a year in July) at the top of its priorities, deeming unrealistic the promises of tax cuts of Mme Truss.
Mr. Sunak also suffered from a traitor image that precipitated the downfall of Mr. Johnson, still very popular with party members. Beginning of July, he had resigned of his position as Minister of Finance, followed by about sixty members of the government tired of the escapades of the Prime Minister. Mme Truss had stayed.
Over the summer, the “BoJo” faithful have repeatedly branded Mr. Sunak as a moderate. Yet he voted to divorce the European Union in 2016, and refuses to challenge Mr Johnson’s most controversial legacy: his policy of deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda and his attempt to rewrite the northern protocol -Irish.
What are the main issues awaiting the future Prime Minister?
The future head of the British government will inherit a particularly difficult economic situation. Inflation at more than 10% is likely to rise further, reaching 22% in 2023, according to Goldman Sachs’ worst-case scenario. The social context is no less explosive: railway workers, dockers, lawyers… the rise in the cost of living is causing unprecedented strikes in the country since the 1980s.
The British are particularly worried about soaring energy prices. On 26th August the national regulator of the gas and electricity market announced that the average annual household bill was going to drop in October from 1,971 to 3,549 pounds sterling (from 2,279 to 4,104 euros). It could even reach 6,000 pounds sterling in 2023. At these levels, 25% of Britons will no longer be able to pay their bills, as will tens of thousands of schools, hospitals or SMEs. Faced with these prospects, Mr.me Truss and Mr. Sunak have accused each other of responding to the crisis with unsuitable proposals – tax cuts for her, direct aid for him.
If he fails to address the concerns of the British, the Conservative Party could pay dearly in the next general election (scheduled no later than January 2025). According to the polls, the Labor Party, the main opposition party, already enjoys a large lead over the Tories.