Foreign secretary Liz Truss has defeated Indian-origin former chancellor Rishi Sunak in Conservative Party leadership race to become the new British Prime Minister, the party announced on Monday, ending weeks of high political drama.
Truss polled 81,326 votes, compared to Sunak's 60,399 in an election with a high turnout of 82.6 per cent, with 654 rejected ballots from a total of 172,437 eligible Tory voters.
"We will deliver, we will deliver and we will deliver," declared Truss in her acceptance speech.
"I am honoured to be elected Leader of the Conservative Party. Thank you for putting your trust in me to lead and deliver for our great country. I will take bold action to get all of us through these tough times, grow our economy, and unleash the United Kingdom’s potential," she said in a tweet.
The result was formally announced by the returning officer of the leadership contest and chair of the Conservative Party’s powerful 1922 Committee of backbench MPs, Sir Graham Brady, at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre near Downing Street in London. Truss had been the frontrunner to beat 42-year-old Sunak in pre-poll surveys and bookmaker odds on the race.
A combination of the Tory membership base’s lingering loyalty towards outgoing Prime Minister Johnson, whom they see as being betrayed by former close ally Sunak, and Truss’ pledge to cut taxes are among the key factors behind the British Indian MP failing to clinch the race.
While the over 1.5-million-strong Indian diaspora stood firmly behind the UK-born MP for Richmond in Yorkshire, other sections of the Conservative Party including those who trace their roots to other parts of the sub-continent were expected to be more divided.
Truss’ campaign pledge to reverse Sunak’s tax hike plans while he was Chancellor to tackle the cost-of-living crisis facing the country seems to have worked in favour. While Sunak’s approach of wanting to focus on fighting soaring inflation and using targeted measures to offer support to those most in need did connect with audiences at the nearly dozen party hustings, that clearly wasn't enough to turn the tide in his favour.
She is the third female Prime Minister in Britain, after Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May.