Is it Sunak or Truss who will be Britain’s Next Prime Minister?

0.3% of the British Public Will Now Get the Final Say
This combo of file photos shows the remaining candidates in the Conservative Party leadership race, former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss. The two candidates to become Britain's next prime minister have begun a head-to-head battle for the votes of Conservative Party members who will choose the country's new leader. Former Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is promising fiscal prudence. (AP Photo, File)
5- Journalists wait opposite 10 Downing Street in London, Wednesday, July 6, 2022. Treasury chief Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Savud Javid resigned within minutes of each other, costing British Prime Minister Boris Johnson the support of the men responsible for tackling two of the biggest issues facing Britain the cost-of-living crisis and surging COVID-19 infections. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

On 7 July, 2022, Boris Johnson announced he would resign as Conservative Party Leader. The announcement of his resignation followed a string of ministerial resignations and concern over his handling of sexual misconduct allegations against for Deputy Chief Whip, Chris Pincher.

On 12 July, the nominations closed and eight hopeful candidates made the first round. In total there were 5 rounds, in each round a candidate with the fewest votes was to be eliminated. Once whittled down, the candidate list heads to a final runoff between two contenders.

The fifth and final round of voting by Conservative Party MPs took place on 20 of July and the Junior Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt was eliminated. The two candidates who managed to survive the heated up race to replace Johnson is the former Finance Minister Rishi Sunak and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.

Throughout all the five rounds of voting, MPs showed a strong backing to Sunak. In the final round Sunak once again was leading and took 137 votes while Truss took 113. Yet polls are suggesting that Truss is more likely to be the next prime minister and that begs to the question, why is it so?

Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak meets Conservative Party members and activists, in Teesport, Redcar, Britain, July 16, 2022. REUTERS/Lee Smith

Well, the decision of who will replace Boris Johnson is neither with Conservative MPs nor the British public, but rather it lies with a tiny group who make up about 0.3 per cent of the population – they are the Conservative Party members and they are the ones who will get the final say of who will winner the leadership contest.

0.3%  - this tiny minority will choose who led Great Britain

The Conservatives are the only major UK party to not routinely release membership figures. According to House of Commons Library research, about 160,000 Tory members were eligible to vote in the 2019 leadership election. The party has gained more members since and observers are putting the number of eligible voters between 160,000 to 180,000.

They will have until September 2 to vote on which one they want to see as the Tory Leader and Britain’s new Prime Minister.  The winner of the membership ballot will be announced on Monday 5 September at 12:30.

Professor Tim Bale, head of Queen Mary University of London and Sussex University Party Members projects, says; “The people who get the choose our next Prime Minister are far from being representative of voters as a whole (…) They are not as diverse ethnically; they are heavily concentrated in the South of England; there are significantly more men than women”.

Professor Bale is correct when he said “they are not as diverse ethnically”, in fact they tend to be older, wealthier and ‘whiter’ than the rest of the British electorate as a whole.

Conservative Party member Rishi Sunak launches his campaign for his party's leadership, in London, Tuesday, July 12, 2022. Candidates to replace Boris Johnson as Britain's prime minister are scattering tax-cutting promises to their Conservative Party electorate, as party officials prepare Monday to quickly narrow the crowded field of more than ten candidates. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

On 19 July, a YouGov poll showed that both Truss and Mordaunt would beat Sunak in the party members’ contest, this despite Sunak consistently performed better and have the backing of most Conservative lawmakers. The results highlight a key issue of disconnection between Conservative lawmakers and their party members:

Sample Size: 725 Conservative Party members

Fieldwork: 19th July 2022

 

          Age 

Gender

2016 EU ref vote

Total

18-49

50-64

65+

Male

Female

Remain

Leave

725

254

167

304

457

268

123

573

725

226

165

334

442

283

143

558

 

 

 

Imagine that the following were the final two candidates to replace Boris Johnson as leader. Who would you most like to see as the next Leader of the Conservative Party?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rishi Sunak

35

40

25

37

35

35

66

28

Liz Truss

54

50

62

54

55

54

21

61

Don't know

10

11

14

8

10

11

13

10

 

Imagine that the following were the final two candidates to replace Boris Johnson as leader. Who would you most like to see as the next Leader of the Conservative Party?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rishi Sunak

37

38

32

39

35

40

51

34

Penny Mordaunt

51

51

57

49

56

43

40

53

Don't know

12

11

10

13

9

17

9

13

 

(Source 2022 YouGov plc.)

"In short, what political scientists call 'the selectorate' looks pretty different to the electorate", says Professor Bale.

According to Professor Bale’s research team – Tory Party membership is a primarily white, and more than half are above the age of 57 and more than 70% are male. And they live predominantly in the South of England.

Most members of political parties in the UK are prominently middle-class, however, according to Prof Bale’s the Tory are the most middle-class party, with more than 40% earn more than the national average.

In the past decade, the Conservative party has led the way in terms of minority representation at the highest levels of the U.K political echelon: with Sajid Javid who served as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care from June 2021 to July 2022, having previously held posts as a Home Secretary and Chancellor of Exchequer; Priti Patel as a Home Secretary since 2019 and Nadhim Zahawi was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer on 5 July 2002, having previously worked as Secretary of State for Education.

British Foreign Secretary and Conservative leadership campaign candidate Liz Truss speaks during her campaign launch event, in London, Britain July 14, 2022. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Minority representation was even fairly distributed in the race to replace Johnson.  Among the final four candidates for the top job, two were from racial minority backgrounds, Sunak who is of South Asian heritage and the former equalities minister Kemi Badenoch, is black. The other two, Truss and Mordaunt are white women.

There are those who would argue that Britain is not ready to have its first ‘ethnic minority’ PM. But that is far from the truth, the Conservative party twice elected Benjamin Disraeli to serve as Prime Minister in the late 19th century and he was Jewish.

Conservative lawmakers chose their two best candidates to replace Boris Johnson, now it’s up to the Conservative members to decide who they think is the most suitable to lead their party and the country. Or are we going to see a new Prime Minister who lacks the backing of most of his MPs?


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