Rishi Sunak was the clear frontrunner for the UK PM and Conservative leadership race. This was until towards the end of July when Penny Mordaunt dropped out and Liz Truss’ campaign started gaining momentum.
Even Kemi Badenoch and Suella Braverman showed promise but it was Rishi Sunak who topped the polls and was bookmaker’s favourite to enter the 10, Downing Street.
It was, however, evident that support for Truss was inching up but by mid-August, she was the pollster’s favourite and many preferred her over Sunak. Some experts speaking to news agencies said that while many saw Sunak as an electable leader, they chose to stick with the current foreign secretary since she was a better politician.
The Telegraph in a report cited that Sunak may have made promises he would have made to the UK public had he won the election and competed once more in the upcoming elections in 2025 and in that process missed out on impressing the older, white men who form the majority of the 200,000 Conservative Party members who will or have already cast their votes.
There was also coverage that portrayed Sunak as someone who believes in fiscal orthodoxy to tackle runaway inflation. Sunak has called Truss’ plans to revive the economy a fairytale and suggesting more borrowing will not help an economy in crisis.
“Borrowing your way out of inflation isn’t a plan, it’s a fairytale,” he once told Liz Truss during a debate.
But, many in the Conservative party also view him as a wealthy technocrat and feel he is out of touch. There was also a section of Tory members who saw Sunak as a member who backstabbed outgoing prime minister Boris Johnson.
The Telegraph report cited above also mentions a moment from a hustings event in UK’s Eastbourne where Sunak reportedly said California thrice which led a section of attendees to perceive that he was not connecting with the room.
“He kept talking about California and tech. It became an open secret within the campaign that he wasn’t going to win. That hustings were the point things really took a turn as everyone started to realise that,” a person associated with the Ready For Rishi campaign told the Telegraph.
Some also said that he took some U-turns on the pledges he had made during his campaign. He pledged to cut VAT on energy bills on July 27 but he ruled out the same when he was the chancellor for the exchequer. To some it indicated that despite casting himself as ‘fiscally hawkish’, in face of electoral pressure he was losing his narrative.
There were several other occasions where Sunak’s team – planned – to make announcements but took a U-turn in the final moment. A planned speech pledging a review of the Equality Act and raising the national speed limit to 80mph were dropped putting his campaign team in disarray, revealing communication gaps.
According to another report in the Guardian, a Tory MP who backed neither said Rishi Sunak should have been more consistent in his messaging.
The next UK prime minister will be announced on September 5.
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