Rishi Sunak favourite to become new UK PM, as vote deadline nears

Access to the comments Comments
By David Mac Dougall  & Euronews
Conservative Party leadership candidate Rishi Sunak leaves his campaign office, in London, Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022.
Conservative Party leadership candidate Rishi Sunak leaves his campaign office, in London, Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022.   -   Copyright  AP Photo

Britain's former finance minister Rishi Sunak is favourite to become the country's third prime minister in just seven weeks, on Monday. 

Candidates to replace Liz Truss need to get the support of at least 100 of their fellow Conservative Party MPs by 15:00 CET today, and so far only Sunak has surpassed that target. 

On Sunday evening, former PM Boris Johnson said he would not enter the race, claiming that although he had enough support, now was "not the right time" for a return to frontline politics. A number of Johnson's high profile backers have now switched their support to Sunak instead. 

Another challenger Penny Mordaunt is believed to be far short of the 100 vote threshold, even after gaining some of Johnson's potential votes.

If only one MP - Rishi Sunak - has more than 100 MPs backing him when nominations close, he will become prime minister by the end of the week. 

If Mordaunt also has the support of more than 100 MPs, there would be a possible online poll of Conservative Party members on Thursday. 

Multi-millionaire Sunak, 42, lost the last party leadership vote of members to Liz Truss in August. Truss became Britain's shortest-serving prime minister when she quit last week

Posting on Twitter, Sunak heaped praise on Boris Johnson, saying he lead the country "through some of the toughest challenges we have ever faced" during Brexit and the COVID vaccine roll-out.

"And then took on Putin and his barbaric war in Ukraine. We will always be grateful to him for that," Sunak wrote. 

How have European media reported the latest developments?

The latest political machinations in Britain, with Boris Johnson deciding ultimately not to run again to be prime minister, came late Sunday evening for newspapers across Europe. 

In France, Le Monde said that Johnson "could not overcome the mistrust, even the hostility, of a large section of the Tory MPs." 

Meanwhile in Spain, El Mundo reported that Penny Mordaunt "barely had the support of 32 MPs and was under great pressure to withdraw and avoid new divisions in the party."

German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung highlighted calls from the Scottish National Party for a new general election "without delay." They quote the SNP's Westminster leader Ian Blackford saying "the last thing this country needs is another unelected Tory in Downing Street." 

An editorial in Helsingin Sanomat, Finland's main newspaper and one of Europe's biggest circulation publications, calls British domestic politics "messed up." 

"The British themselves have been the first to flog their leaders and country for political instability," the paper wrote, noting that outsiders don't need to tell the British people what they already know themselves: "that the leadership mill grinds too fast."