Rishi Sunak has issued a plea for unity in the face of a “profound economic challenge” after winning the race to be the next prime minister.
He won the Tory leadership contest after rival Penny Mordaunt failed to secure enough backing from MPs. In his first speech, Mr Sunak said bringing his party and the UK together would be his “utmost priority”.
Mr Sunak will become the UK’s first British Asian prime minister and the youngest for more than 200 years. Mr Sunak – a 42-year-old practising Hindu – is expected to take office on Tuesday after being formally appointed by the King.
He replaces Liz Truss, following her resignation just 45 days into her tumultuous premiership last week.
After chairing her final cabinet meeting at 09:00 BST, the outgoing prime minister will make a statement outside No 10 before travelling to Buckingham Palace for her final audience with the King.
This will be followed by Mr Sunak’s first audience with the monarch, during which he will be invited to form a government. He will then travel to Downing Street to make a statement at about 11:35, before entering No 10.
Labour has led calls for a general election before Mr Sunak takes office as the third Conservative prime minister since the party won the last one in 2019.
Mr Sunak addressed Tory MPs after the result was announced by Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 committee of backbench Conservatives.
In the speech – which took place behind closed doors – Mr Sunak told them this was going to be a tough period and ruled out an early general election, MP Simon Hoare said.
The former chancellor said the Conservative Party, trailing Labour in the polls by huge margins, was facing an “existential threat”, but could win the next election by uniting.
In a TV address that lasted less than two minutes, Mr Sunak promised to serve with “integrity” and thanked outgoing Prime Minister Liz Truss for leading the country during “exceptionally difficult circumstances”.
“The United Kingdom is a great country but there is no doubt we face a profound economic challenge,” he said. “We now need stability and unity and I will make it my utmost priority to bring our party and our country together.”
Mr Sunak’s coronation, in effect, as Tory leader caps a rapid political comeback by the former chancellor after he lost out to Ms Truss in the last leadership contest during the summer.
Ms Truss – whose tax-cutting agenda Mr Sunak dismissed as “fairytale economics” – tweeted to congratulate him and offer her “full support”.
Her successor will take office at a time of economic crisis and pressure on public finances, exacerbated by Ms Truss’s mini-budget, most of which has been scrapped. (BBC)