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Rishi Sunak Rules Out Quitting Parliament If He Loses Tory Leadership Contest

Rishi Sunak at the Conservative leadership hustings in Cardiff, August 2022 (Alamy)

4 min read

Rishi Sunak has dismissed suggestions that he will quit as an MP if he loses the Conservative leadership race to Liz Truss.

There has been speculation that Sunak will not fight the next general election, which is set to take place in 2024, if he fails in his bid to succeed Boris Johnson as Prime Minister.

However, the former chancellor told the Sunday Times it was an “unbelievable privilege” to serve as the MP for Richmond in North Yorkshire and that “it would take a lot” for him to give the role up. 

Sunak is competing against Foreign Secretary Truss to be the next Conservative party leader and Prime Minister, but recent polling suggests that he is significantly behind. 

Asked whether he would return to the United States where he has a home if he loses to Truss, Sunak told the newspaper: “You must be joking, absolutely not.” 

He said: “It is the most unbelievable privilege to have these jobs. 

“The people of Richmond are the most amazing people; it is a joy every week to go home to them and to have their love and their support and to be able to represent them properly as their Member of Parliament. 

“Gosh, it would take a lot for me to give that up.”

Polling from Opinium released on Saturday night showed that Truss had taken a 26-point lead over Sunak among 2019 Conservative voters on the question of who would be the best Prime Minister. 

Among those who backed Johnson at the 2019 general election, 48 per cent think Truss would be better suited for Number 10, compared to 22 per cent who say the same of Sunak.

Crucially, Truss also looks to be significantly more popular than Sunak among Tory party members who will decide who replaces Johnson in Downing Street.

Two polls published this week by YouGov and ConservativeHome gave Truss large leads over Sunak of 38 per cent and 32 per cent respectively with the Conservative party membership. The members have until 2 September to cast their votes, before the winner is announced on 5 September.

Heading into the weekend, a Truss campaign source told PoliticsHome that her big leads in the polling "reflects what we are seeing on the ground" as the pair go head-to-head in hustings around the country.

They added that the strength of the Foreign Secretary's debate performances had taken her critics by surprise. "Some people used to say she came across as wooden, but they’ve had their perceptions proved wrong," they said.

The cost-of-living crisis and soaring energy bills will be among the most urgent challenges for whoever becomes the next Prime Minister, with both Truss and Sunak under pressure to spell out how they help households in the coming months.

This week the Bank of England painted a dire picture of the months ahead, projecting that the UK would soon enter the longest recession since the financial crisis and see inflation hit 13 per cent.

PoliticsHome reported that some figures in government believe that food prices could rise by as much as 20 per cent this year as the effects of Russia's attack on Ukraine are yet to fully filter through to the consumer.

Truss pledged in the Sunday Telegraph to “immediately” cut taxes if she becomes Prime Minister by reversing the National Insurance rise and suspending green levies on energy bills.

However, she dismissed “giving out handouts”, telling the Financial Times on Saturday that she would do things “in a Conservatisve way of lowering the tax burden”. 

Sunak in response said it is “simply wrong” to rule out direct support for households.

“We need to get real about this situation," he said on Saturday.

“It’s simply wrong to rule out further direct support at this time as Liz Truss has done and what’s more her tax proposals are not going to help very significantly, people like pensioners or those on low incomes who are exactly the kind of families that are going to need help.”

Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt, who endorsed Truss after being eliminated from the leadership contest, said this morning that Truss was not ruling out "all future help".

"What she is looking at though is enabling people to keep more of the money that they earn," she told Sky News.

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