Rishi Sunak set to be UK’s next prime minister
Explainer3 British prime ministers in 7 weeks – how did that happen?
- Rishi Sunak will become Britain’s next prime minister, replacing Liz Truss, who only lasted a chaotic 44 days before she resigned
- Truss had taken over from Boris Johnson, who led his party to a landslide victory in 2019, but was driven out of office after a series of scandals
His victory in the race to replace Liz Truss also comes little more than a month since he lost out to her in the contest to replace Johnson.
Here is a timeline of the recent political crises which engulfed both prime minister’s leadership and what ultimately led to their downfall.
November 30, 2021
The first story of what would become “partygate” broke, with reports that Downing Street staff had held three gatherings almost a year earlier, when London was under lockdown restrictions.
A video of then-Downing Street press secretary Allegra Stratton joking about parties during a press conference rehearsal leaked. She resigned a day later.
December 9 brought a £17,800 (US$20,000) fine from the Electoral Commission, which found the Conservatives had improperly declared donations from Lord Brownlow towards the refurbishment of Johnson’s Downing Street flat.
The Electoral Commission investigation uncovered WhatsApp messages that raised further questions about what the Prime Minister knew about the source of the donations.
Photographs surfaced of Johnson at a Christmas quiz and sitting in the garden of Number 10 while staff apparently drank wine and chatted.
Almost 100 of his backbenchers rebelled against new Covid-19 restrictions.
January 10, 2022
An email from Johnson’s private secretary Martin Reynolds inviting 100 people to a party in Downing Street while the country was still in lockdown was leaked.
Johnson once again apologised and admitted attending the party, which he said he believed was a “work event”.
Sue Gray published a censored version of her report into partygate that included several strong criticisms of Downing Street’s culture.
Johnson attracted further criticism by falsely accusing Labour leader Keir Starmer of failing to prosecute Jimmy Savile while director of public prosecutions. Johnson later “clarified” his remarks.
The remarks prompted the resignation of long-time aide Munira Mirza and a public rebuke from Sunak.
Johnson and Sunak were fined for attending the prime minister’s birthday bash in Downing Street in June 2020, as part of a Metropolitan Police probe into partygate.
The prime minister offered a “full apology” as opposition parties characterised him as the first prime minister to have been found to be in breach of the law.
Johnson faced the prospect of a parliamentary investigation after MPs agreed to refer him over claims he lied to Parliament about Downing Street parties during lockdowns.
Gray published her full report into lockdown-busting parties in No 10 and Whitehall, detailing events at which officials drank so much they were sick, sang karaoke, became involved in altercations and abused security and cleaning staff.
The prime minister said he took “full responsibility” for the scandal.
The Government’s anti-corruption tsar resigned from his post and called on the prime minister to do the same, accusing him of breaking the Ministerial Code.
Chris Pincher dramatically resigned as deputy chief whip after allegedly assaulting two fellow guests the evening before at the Carlton Club, a Tory private members’ club in London.
Downing Street said Johnson was not aware of any “specific allegations” about Pincher when he appointed him to the whips office, but it later emerged he was told about allegations against him as far back as 2019.
Johnson was forced to apologise over his handling of the row after it emerged he had forgotten about being told of previous allegations of “inappropriate” conduct.
Sunak then quit as chancellor and Mr Javid stepped down as health secretary, both writing incendiary resignation letters.
Boris Johnson resigns after almost 60 MPs quit government or party posts.
Liz Truss becomes prime minister.
Kwasi Kwarteng is appointed chancellor of the exchequer.
Kwarteng announces the biggest raft of tax cuts for half a century.
He sets out a package which includes abolishing the top rate of income tax for the highest earners and axing the cap on bankers’ bonuses while adding restrictions to the welfare system.
The pound falls to a fresh 37-year low as “spooked” traders swallow the cost of the spree.
Truss acknowledges mistakes over the mini-budget but says she is standing by her tax-cutting plan as she refuses to rule out public spending cuts.
In a dramatic U-turn, Truss and Kwarteng abandon their plan to abolish the 45 per cent rate of income tax for top earners.
Truss insists she will not cut spending to balance the books, despite economists and the financial markets continuing to question her plans.
Kwarteng is sacked and replaced by Jeremy Hunt, who backed the PM’s rival Rishi Sunak in the Tory leadership contest.
Truss announces she is abandoning Kwarteng’s commitment to drop the planned rise in corporation tax from 19 per cent to 25 per cent – even though it was a central plank of her leadership campaign.
Hunt criticises the “mistakes” of the Truss administration and warns of “difficult decisions” to come on tax and spending.
Former minister Crispin Blunt becomes the first Tory MP to publicly call for Truss to quit.
Hunt ditches the bulk of the PM’s economic strategy in an emergency statement designed to calm the markets.
In a sit-down interview with the BBC’s Chris Mason, she apologises for her “mistakes” and pledges to lead the Tories into the next general election.
Tory MPs are told a Labour vote in the Commons seeking to ban fracking is being treated as a “confidence motion” in Ms Truss’ embattled government.
Confusion ensues when climate minister Graham Stuart tells the Commons: “Quite clearly this is not a confidence vote”.
Suella Braverman quits as home secretary, citing a “technical infringement” of the ministerial rules, and criticising Truss’ “tumultuous” premiership.
Labour’s motion is defeated by 230 votes to 326, majority 96, but there is speculation that Chief Whip Wendy Morton and her deputy, Craig Whittaker, have resigned in fury at the handling of the affair.
More than two hours after the vote – No 10 issues a statement saying both remain in post.
A Downing Street spokesman says the whips will speak to the Tories who failed to support the Government, and those without a “reasonable excuse” will face “proportionate disciplinary action”.
More backbenchers publicly demand Truss’ resignation.
At 1.30pm, the prime minister says she has told the king she is resigning as leader of the Conservative Party.
In a brief speech, she tells the country she recognises she “cannot deliver the mandate” which Tory members gave her a little over six weeks ago.
Sunak is named Tory leader as Penny Mordaunt drops out just moments before Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee, announces only one valid nomination.