The two rivals who will compete for the leadership of Britain’s Conservative Party are precisely the two ministers who did most to define Boris Johnson’s brief tenure at Downing Street. That Doctor Jekyll Y Mr Hyde a prime minister who wanted to be responsible and lavish in economic affairs; moderate and aggressive towards the EU; committed and reticent to the challenge of climate change; open and liberal, but also reactionary and morose in the face of societal change. Former Economy Minister Rishi Sunak and still-Secretary of State Liz Truss managed to emerge victorious from the first phase of the primaries. This Wednesday, her fellow MPs voted her into first place with 137 votes: “Sunak; Truss, in second position, with 113½ to face each other in the second phase.
Both will tour the country throughout August and will be announced among the 200,000 voting members of the Conservative Party. Ballots will gradually arrive in the mail at the 1922 Committee (the body that brings MPs together). tories without a government position responsible for organizing the primary elections and electing the new leader). On September 5, the name of the formation’s new – or new – leader, and thus Prime Minister, will be officially announced.
Penny Mordaunt, the surprise of the primaries from day one, has seen her candidacy slowly dwindle. In part because of the ambiguity and confusion of their messages. Partly because he not only symbolized a certain provincial normalcy in Central England which initially seduced affiliates, but also had many enemies within the group who doubted his viability or the soundness of his speech and who maneuvered them to the last to undo theirs aspirations.
Pragmatism versus ideology
It is paradoxical that Sunak, a supporter of Brexit from the very beginning and a staunch supporter of Margaret Thatcher’s conservative tax orthodoxy, has become the symbol of the moderate, soothing, pragmatic candidate. And while Truss, in her time a defender of the UK remaining in the EU, is now the champion of Eurosceptics, the hard wing and the most ideologically right-sector tories
If Sunak tried to the end to defend responsible discourse, avoiding talking about tax cuts, in the face of runaway inflation – 9.4% in June according to data published this Wednesday – and a looming recession, until the situation it is controlled, Truss flies the flag of an immediate tax cut and proposes treating the immense debt accumulated during the pandemic as a longer-term war debt. “The fact is that raising taxes at this point will stifle the growth of the economy and prevent us from generating the revenue we need to pay off the debt,” Truss said in last Sunday’s televised debate of the candidates, a maneuver Sunak directly to blame for the coming recession.
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“See you then,” Johnson
Capable of endlessly reinventing his personality and state of mind, Boris Johnson seems to be the happiest Conservative MP of all these days. On Tuesday, during a visit to the Farnborough Air Festival, south west of London, he defined himself as the top gun of the UK – at least until early September, when he will be replaced as Prime Minister – and posted a selfie in the cockpit of the Royal Air Force’s Typhoon fighter jet.
In his last scrutiny session of the House of Commons, on Wednesday, Johnson confronted the Labor opposition with the impression that he was a prime minister with a long term ahead of him and joked with his bank’s Conservative MPs. His final parting words were advice to his future successor, but also thinly veiled taunts at Rishi Sunak, the finance minister whose resignation was seen by Johnson and his team as the fatal stab that hastened the prime minister’s ouster.
“Always stay close to the Americans, stand up for Ukraine and defend democracy and freedom everywhere,” she proclaimed. “Reduce taxes and deregulate whenever you can so this country continues to be the best place to live and invest,” he defended against the idea put forward by his rivals that Sunak opposed tax cuts. “Mission more than accomplished (Mission largely accomplishedin the original in English), goodbye, infant‘ Johnson concluded, using the Spanish words of the Arnold Schwarzenegger character terminator 2 Conservative MPs have risen to bid Johnson farewell to applause, with a mixture of sincere affection but also relief at the departure of the politician who has most upset the Conservative Party in the past three years.