Rishi Sunak Speech: Incoming Prime Minister calls for unity after Penny Mordaunt drops out of leadership race
The former Chancellor takes office after Penny Mordaunt announced earlier this afternoon that she was dropping out of the race to replace Liz Truss, meaning Mr Sunak was the only candidate. In a televised address to the nation, Mr Sunak said: "I would like to pay tribute to Liz Truss for her dedicated public service to the country.
"She has led with dignity and grace through a time of great change and under exceptionally difficult circumstances both at home and a abroad. I am humbled and honoured to have the support of my parliamentary colleagues and to be elected as leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party. It is the greatest privilege of my life to be able to serve the party I live and to give back to the country I owe so much to."
Earlier Mr Sunak sought to hit the ground running by addressing Conservative MPs behind closed doors in the House of Commons half an hour after his victory was announced. Three MPs in the room said his message to the party was they must "unite or die", as they focus on delivering on the public's priorities during a cost-of-living crisis.
Labour has led calls for a new general election as the Tories move onto their third prime minister on the mandate won by Mr Johnson in 2019. A senior Tory said that Mr Sunak told the party he would not give in to the opposition's demand.
The MP told reporters: "He is actually going to hit the ground running. We have no time to lose. Certainly, he said that there will be no early general election."
Mr Sunak won the support of Conservative MPs to succeed Liz Truss as Tory leader on Monday and will enter Downing Street less than two months after he lost the last race. Mr Sunak will be the UK’s first Hindu prime minister, the first of Asian heritage, and the youngest for more than 200 years at the age of 42.
British Future director Sunder Katwala described Rishi Sunak’s appointment as a “historic moment”.
In a statement, he said: “Rishi Sunak becoming the first British Indian prime minister is an historic moment. This simply would not have been possible even a decade or two ago. It shows that public service in the highest office in Britain can be open to those of all faiths and ethnic backgrounds. This will be a source of pride to many British Asians – including many who do not share Rishi Sunak’s Conservative politics.”
He added: “Most people in Britain now rightly say the ethnicity and faith of the prime minister should not matter. They will judge Sunak on whether he can get a grip on the chaos in Westminster, sort out the public finances, and restore integrity to politics. But we should not underestimate this important social change. When Sunak was born in Southampton in 1980, there had been no Asian or black MPs at all in the post-war era. There were still no black or Asian Conservative MPs when he graduated from university in 2001.
“Sunak reaching 10 Downing Street does not make Britain a perfect meritocracy. While there is more to do, this is a hopeful sign of progress against the prejudices of the past. National politics has set the pace and business, public services and charities should accept the challenge to reflect modern Britain too.”
London’s Labour mayor Sadiq Khan said: “Politics aside, I want to congratulate Rishi Sunak on making history today as Conservative leader and soon to be prime minister.”
Former prime minister David Cameron said on Twitter: “Huge congratulations @RishiSunak on becoming PM to lead us through challenging times.
“I predicted a decade ago that @Conservatives would select our first Brit Indian PM & proud today that comes to be. I wish Rishi the v best, he has my wholehearted support.”