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UK gets Liz Truss as new PM, why did Rishi Sunak lose?

Liz Truss (right) becomes the new Prime Minister, winning over Rishi Sunak (Photo: @Mike_Fabricant/Twitter)

Liz Truss is the new British Prime Minister after a close contest with Indian-origin Rishi Sunak. She takes over from Boris Johnson who had resigned earlier in July after a series of scandals and an alleged toxic work environment under his stewardship as the prime minister.

Polls had predicted that Truss, who was the Foreign Secretary till now, was ahead in the Conservative leadership race.

Sunak had led the party race till the time the Conservative Party MPs were voting for a candidate of their choice. Once the hustings reached the grassroots Conservative members, Truss began gaining an edge over Sunak.

The prime ministerial race had been keenly watched as the UK faced its worst-ever inflation and cost-of-living crisis.

Truss polled 81,326 votes while Sunak polled 60,399, gaining a lead of around 20,000.

Rishi had led a spectacular grassroots campaign to persuade the Conservative party membership at the local level that he was best suited to pull the UK out of the economic crisis that the country is facing. He was also seen as capable and one with clear ideas about taking the UK ahead on the Brexit path by forging new global alliances.

One of the reasons for his failing popularity was the Johnson-run campaign–‘anyone but Rishi’ that sought to portray him as a party member who had betrayed Johnson over the ‘partygate’ series of scandals, and eventually led to the collapse of his government by resigning from his ministerial position.

There are whispers that Sunak was rejected because of his ethnicity. A member of the Conservative Party told India Narrative that Sunak has been rejected only because of the race factor. “He is highly educated. Only he has a clear plan on how to deal with rising inflation, the cost of energy-crisis and also how to support small businesses. There is no comparison between him and Truss”, the Conservative Party member said.

Giving an example, the Indian-origin Tory added that it was Sunak who had supported the individual on the street, the small businessman as well as the National Health Service (NHS) when he was the chancellor of the exchequer during the dreaded Covid-19 crisis.

Another reason for loss of party leadership was a campaign that focused on his wife Akshata Murthy’s wealth and his personal lifestyle. The media focused considerably on the cost of his loafers, shoes and suits, displaying prices wherever possible. Also, there were allegations that Murthy was not paying taxes in the UK on her considerable wealth that had been generated in India.

Truss’ win with a margin of 20,000 votes is not being considered as the massive victory that some had predicted.

Now that Truss is in the driver’s seat in the party and the country, she has work cut out for her.

Besides forging a path to pull out the country from a deepening economic crisis and the cost-of-living issues, she also has to ensure that the highly-fractured Conservative Party appears united and is prepared for the next challenge – facing elections in three years time.

The prime ministerial contest results came at a time when the British pound has been keeping low against the dollar and gas prices have been shooting through the roof.

Also Read: Is the UK ready for an Asian Prime Minister?