It feels like last month a new prime minister was imposed on British citizens promising to unite their party and country after the humiliating resignation of their predecessor.
And, in fact, it does. Liz Truss is the new owner of 10 Downing Street when he was elected leader of the Conservative Party on September 6 after Boris Johnson was forced to suspend his scandal-ridden premiership . But Truss’ disastrous term came to an end in just six weeks, and the wounded Conservatives were once again looking for a new leader, while an unmoved country waited and watched.
Rishi Sunak is the front-runner to become Britain’s third prime minister in the autumn, and fifth in six years. He was second only to Truss in the last race, but his repeated warnings about her economic plans proved accurate in record time, and he gained a sizable number of supporters in the party.
A fast-track process could see the winner crowned on Monday. Contestants must have the support of 100 Conservative MPs to get on the ballot, and Sunak has passed that hurdle with ease. If two people cross the threshold, MPs will take an indicative vote and then later in the week members of the Conservative Party will have their say.
Sunak’s only rival is cabinet member Penny Mourdant, who came third in the summer. But Mourdant has failed to gain much momentum in the race, and if she can’t find some today, she could be forced out before or after MPs vote.
In a whirlwind of days of political maneuvering, Sunak has beaten the competition of his political rival Boris Johnson, who attempted a high-profile political comeback just weeks after his resignation. After days of speculation, Johnson withdrew from the race on Sunday, insisting he had enough MPs to back him to keep running, but saying he did not want to lead a divided party.
The task will fall to whoever wins this week. But the next prime minister will also have to take control of a country mired in an economic downturn and resist growing calls to seek a new mandate through a general election.
Truss’ fiscal agenda has spooked markets and damaged the value of the pound, while the cost of living crisis has widened inequality and left households unable to make ends meet. Arguably, the endless drama at the top of the Conservative Party has kept voters on their toes and threatened Britain’s global reputation.
The country’s next leader will promise to end the chaos – but it won’t be easy.