Conservative Party Will "Settle Down" With Rishi Sunak As Leader, Former Minister Hopes
Rishi Sunak will travel to Buckingham Palace and be invited to form a government this morning (Alamy)
Victoria Atkins is optimistic that the Conservative party will “settle down” now that Rishi Sunak is leader as she joined a chorus of senior party figures appealing for an end to arguing following weeks of turmoil.
She lamented a chaotic few weeks, in which Prime Minister Liz Truss was forced to resign after just 45 days having triggered economic turmoil and exacerbated feuds in the party, as “pretty brutal” but was confident that the party could now get behind the new leader.
Former chancellor Sunak will be invited by King Charles to form a government this morning, just seven weeks after Truss traveled to Balmoral to walk through the same procedure with the late Queen after beating Sunak in the summer’s leadership election.
Sunak was appointed the new leader of the Conservative party on Monday, after he became the only leadership candidate with a sufficient number of backers to make it onto the ballot. He won the contest unopposed after Penny Mordaunt dropped out minutes before the deadline to reach 100 nominations, having not gained the support of enough MPs to meet the threshold.
Atkins, a former justice minister who backed Sunak in the leadership contest hoped the conclusion of the contest would allow MPs to return their focus to the needs of the country, rather than the party.
“We know that the last six weeks have been pretty brutal, they’ve been pretty hard for people in politics, let alone people who are not involved in politics," she told LBC.
“We all understand that we’ve now really got to get behind Rishi, and in fairness that’s exactly what the party has done."
She believed that Sunak, who had far exceeded the 100 MPs benchmark in recent days, had won support from though sections of the party to chart a more united course in the coming months.
"I genuinely think we’ve turned a corner, we’re going to settle down, and this period of pretty difficult politics I hope will now come to an end,” she added.
Former party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith also made a plea for a more united front, telling the BBC that there is “a great desire to stop now having an argument in an empty room” and appealed to MPs to focus on getting the economy “back fully on track” before the next election”.
“We have two years before the next election, to try and get the UK economy back fully on track again, which is critical and deliver on the promise of Brexit," he told BBC Breakfast.
“These are big challenges, but we lost the first two and a half years because of Covid, and now we've been facing over the last seven or eight months the war in Ukraine.
“So these are big, big body blows to the world economy and to the UK, but we can pull through this if we get the right decision making.
“There's got to be a balance. Not too heavy handed on the tax side of things and certainly not too heavy handed on the spending side.
“We've got to make sure the poorest in society do manage to keep up that's really important, but these balances are going to be in his in-tray when he arrives but I think he’ll get them right."
Shortly after it was confirmed that he would lead his party and the country, Sunak warned of the “profound economic challenge” he faces, and recongnised that people need to see “stability and unity” from government in the coming months.
Speaking outside the Conservative Campaign Headquarters, the former Chancellor also pledged to lead with “integrity and humility” and “work day in day out to deliver for the British people”.
“The United Kingdom is a great country, but there is no doubt we face a profound economic challenge.
“We now need stability and unity and I will make it my utmost priority to bring our party and our country together.”
Truss will host her final Cabinet meeting this morning, before giving her final speech as Prime Minister in front of No.10 shortly after 10am, and then travel to Buckingham Palace to formally resign to the King.
Sunak will then make the reverse journey. He will travel to the palace, where he will be invited by the King to form a government, before making the short trip to Downing Street, where he is expected to make an address as Prime Minister in front of the world’s media at around 11:30am.
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