Rishi Sunak tells Tories to 'unite or die' as he prepares to become PM

New Tory leader says he will end party psychodrama and focus on 'policy not personality'

Rishi Sunak warned the Conservatives that it was time to "unite or die" as he prepared to enter No. 10 as the first person of color to become British prime minister.

He said he would end Conservative psychodrama and vowed to prioritize "policy over personality", starting with a cabinet reshuffle on Tuesday. His allies tell him he will reach out to the entire party, in stark contrast to the divisive purges of Liz Truss or Boris Johnson.

Less than seven weeks after losing the summer leadership contest to Truss, Sunak on Monday won the Tory leadership contest without a vote. Her win was confirmed shortly before 2pm when her only remaining rival, Penny Mordaunt, narrowly missed drawing the required 100 nominations from Conservative lawmakers. The former chancellor, who stepped down dramatically from the Johnson government in July, will become the third Conservative prime minister in less than two months and the fifth in six years. He will also make history as the first Hindu to lead the country and, at 42, the youngest prime minister in more than 200 years.

Sunak takes on the role at a time of deep economic crisis and with tough decisions on taxation and public spending that may threaten the fragile unity within the party - although in his brief remarks to lawmakers on Monday he stressed a commitment to leveling up, to a net zero policy on Monday. climate crisis and support to Ukraine.

He will become prime minister before noon on Tuesday, after Truss holds his final cabinet and then travels to Buckingham Palace to meet King Charles. Sunak has made no public promises during the brief contest since Truss' resignation last Thursday and has drawn criticism for his "submarine" approach to his campaign.

Tory lawmakers voted for Rishi Sunak - but don't assume they will vote for his policies MPs who spoke to Sunak over the weekend said he was not prepared to make any spending commitments - including on defense, which his predecessor had promised to increase. His first speech as leader was held privately without cameras, with only Tory MPs in attendance.

Angela Rayner, deputy leader of the Labor Party, made it clear that Sunak "has no mandate" and renewed calls for a general election. "The Tories have crowned Rishi Sunak as prime minister without him saying a word about how he will run the country and without anyone having the chance to vote," he said.

Mordaunt has told allies he expects a "big job" - potentially becoming secretary of state. Two minutes before the nomination process closed at 2 p.m., Mordaunt tweeted that he had resigned and Sunak had "full support" - although his team said pledges had been received from 90 MPs.

Johnson walked out on Sunday evening, despite claiming he had the support of 102 lawmakers, and was blamed by Mordaunt's supporters for handing Sunak the coronation, with lawmakers fearful of letting Johnson return.

Jeremy Hunt is expected to remain as chancellor although Sunak has yet to make an immediate commitment. Hunt backed Sunak and briefed him over the weekend about the planned fiscal event on October 31 – the first major test of the prime minister's post.

Others who will return to cabinet include Sunak's closest ally, Oliver Dowden, the former party chairman, and former interior minister Suella Braverman, who became an influential Sunak supporter over the weekend. One well-placed source said Dominic Raab could become Sunak's house secretary. Michael Gove, who made a series of faltering calls to lawmakers for Sunak over the weekend, is also expected to return.

Anxious business leaders cautiously welcomed Sunak amid signs the UK economy is heading into recession after a sharp drop in confidence among company bosses during Truss' brief inaugural term.

The latest picture of the economy showing optimism among business leaders collapsed in October to its lowest level since April 2020, during the early stages of the Covid pandemic, as intense inflationary pressures, rising political uncertainty and rising borrowing costs weighed on growth.

In a very brief statement about his election, Sunak said the country would “face great economic challenges… We now need stability and unity. And I will make it my top priority to unite our party and our country."

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