Rishi Sunak is one step closer as the clear frontrunner in the Conservative Party leadership race on Monday to be elected Britain’s first Indian-origin Prime Minister after his former boss, Boris Johnson, confirmed he would be pulling out of the contest.
With the former prime minister stepping aside on Sunday night saying it was “simply not the right time” for his comeback, the prospect of a Diwali victory for Sunak cannot be ruled out.
The 42-year-old former chancellor, who said he wanted to “fix our economy, unite our party and deliver for our country” when he declared his candidacy, has held a solid lead in the contest having comfortably surpassed the 100-MPs threshold to make the shortlist in time for the 1400 local time Monday deadline.
Leader of the Commons Penny Mordaunt, the only other contestant in the race, has much ground to cover to hit the 100-MPs mark, giving rise to the possibility that the former finance minister may well be declared the new leader as soon as Monday evening.
If Sunak and Mordaunt both make the final shortlist, they would go forward for an online vote of the 170,000 Tory membership and that result on Friday would prove less predictable.
A Sunak victory would mark a remarkable turnaround in political fortunes for the former finance minister, who lost out to outgoing Prime Minister Liz Truss just last month after his popularity among party colleagues did not translate in the wider Tory membership vote.