Rishi Sunak Warns Of "Profound Economic Challenge" In Brief First Speech Since Winning Tory Leadership
Rishi Sunak said the country needs “stability and unity” in the face of “a profound economic challenge” in his first speech since being announced as leader of the Conservative Party.
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”.
He opened by paying tribute to his predecessor Liz Truss, praising her “dedicated public service to the country” and claiming she has “led with dignity and grace” during her 45 days in office, which Sunak described as a time of “great change and under exceptionally difficult circumstances”.
“I am humbled and honoured to have the support of my parliamentary colleagues and to be elected as leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party,” he said.
“It is the greatest privilege of my life, to be able to serve the party I love and give back to the country I owe so much to.
“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.”
Earlier on Monday afternoon, the Prime Minister’s spokesperson said discussions were still ongoing about a timetable for the handover of power, confirming that it won't take place today as details were yet to be decided between Downing Street and Buckingham Palace.
It is expected that Sunak will be formally appointed to the role in a handover of power overseen by King Charles III within the coming days.
Sunak addressed the 1922 Committee of backbench MPs shortly after its chair, Sir Graham Brady, announced that he would become the next leader of the party.
According to Tory MP Simon Hoare, Sunak used the speech to rule out a general election before 2024.
“He is actually going to hit the ground running. We have no time to lose. Certainly, he said that there will be no early general election,” Hoare told reporters.
Sunak won the race by default after his main opponent, Penny Mordaunt, pulled out at the last minute.
Former Conservative minister George Freeman, who initially backed Mordaunt before shifting his support to Sunak on Monday afternoon, said he had urged the Commons leader to drop out.
"My advice has been to Penny in the last 24 hours, this country needs unity and stability as she has said, and given that Boris has pulled out, given the markets are febrile and are looking for stability, I would urge her to fold in with Rishi now in a unity ticket,” he told Sky News.
"I think she would have had the hundred and she might well have won, but I'm just not sure right now that that is what the country needs. It needs stability and unity, and I'm not sure a TV hustings, a big debate, and blue-on-blue is at all helpful as we want to get to a point of unity and stability."
Asked about the response from Mordaunt, he said: "Her view was, and I respect it, is that for real stability you need the grassroots of the party to have been part of the process, and I think that is an honourable and perfectly legitimate view."
Bob Seely, who also backed Mordaunt, said Sunak needed to put together a "big tent" government rather than only promoting his own supporters.
He told Sky News: "What is critical now is that we give Rishi 100% of our support – we have to remember that our opponents are in front of us in the House of Commons, not behind us. We have got to come together.
"Am I disappointed it wasn't Penny? For sure. But loyalty and collective responsibility are important qualities and I stress to all my colleagues that we re-learn that now."
Labour’s Deputy Leader Angela Rayner criticised the process, saying that Sunak had been appointed “without him saying a single word about how he would run the country, and without anyone having the chance to vote.”
“Rishi Sunak has no mandate and no idea what working people need," she said.
“We need a general election so the public get a say on the future of Britain – and the chance for a fresh start with Labour.”
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