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Liz Truss to be the next UK PM, but what went against Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak, Britain's former Chancellor of the Exchequer and a contender to become the country's next Prime Minister.Premium
Rishi Sunak, Britain's former Chancellor of the Exchequer and a contender to become the country's next Prime Minister.

  • Conservative party leader Liz Truss has been declared the new Prime Minister of United Kingdom after a month long rigorous campaign between her and Rishi Sunak. But what led to Rishi's loss and why did his popularity plummet?

The race to the Downing Street, the most powerful pin code in London has finally ended with Liz Truss being crowned as the next Prime Minister of United Kingdom. She will be UK's third woman PM after Theresa May and Margaret Thatcher with whom she is being widely compared. 

The result of the summer-long campaign was announced in London today with Liz winning by a small margin of votes. The Conservative party gave her 81,326 votes against 60,399 votes to Rishi. Eventhough the victory margin is small the decks have been in her favour since the race to Downing Street went two-way. S

According to YouGov poll, in the first round between Jul 20 - Jul 21 Liz enjoyed an early lead of 62% against Rishi, which further increased to 69% from Jul 29-August 2 and consolidated to 66% until August 17. Interestingly, Rishi's popularity sunk from a high of 41% in Q3 2020 to 26% in Q1 2022. Wheres Liz's popularity graph remained lower than Rishi's, surging from 13% to 21% between the same time. 

Why is Sunak seen losing the race to Liz Truss?

Rishi Sunak was the first to throw in the hat for the Prime Minster's position hours after Boris' ouster, which was triggered by his resignation, a mark of trust deficit in his boss and mentor. His campaign video titled ‘Ready for Rishi’ got him a first mover advantage with endorsements from four former chief whips. But soon enough he lost a host of others who dropped out – Sajid Javid, Nadhim Zahawi and then, finally, Mordaunt. Several other MPs too switched sides. On the other hand, Liz was the last to join the race, but became sharper and smarter with the days.

Even though his personal ratings shot up after resignation Tories always considered Rishi to be a backstabber for causing Johnson to resign. His tax policies and performance in the Treasury was given as a reason by 8%, while 7% cited a lack of trust and 5% saw him as out of touch in the YouGov poll.

According to The Guardian editorial, he who masterminded the coup against Boris Johnson could not have worn the crown, "Despite long having been talked of as a likely future Prime Minister, Sunak struggled to shed the parallel with the man who helped bring down Thatcher but failed in his own tilt at the top job – before coining the famous political cliche: “He who wields the knife never wears the crown." 

Why did Rishi Sunak's popularity plummet? 

A video of Rishi Sunak admitting to taking money from deprived urban areas dented his reputation during the initial days of the campaign. His comments, boasting of shifting money from “deprived urban areas" to fund projects in the Kent commuter belt sparked outrage, considering it cut across the UK government’s rhetoric about ‘levelling up’ Britain and spreading wealth beyond the south-east.

According to the British media, Akshata appears to have become Sunak’s Achilles heel, politically. Reports of Akshata touted to be wealthier than British Queen Elizabeth II with assets worth £430 million, according to Sunday Times Rich List. In fact, the Sunaks are dubbed Westminster’s first billionaire couple, probably enjoying the largest fortune of any House of Commons family since Clive of India’s didn't go down well for them.

The couple’s finances came under scrutiny last month when the Labour party called him to be more transparent regarding loans he took to fund his businesses. According to a report by The Guardian, Rishi was forced to explain details about how he managed his family's fortune, which is said to total £730m and has led to him being routinely referred to as the UK’s richest MP. His fortune's are derived from his marriage to Akshata Murthy, who owns a 0.93% stake worth £690m in Infosys.

The Independent newspaper claimed that Akshata, who is still an Indian national, had non-domiciled status in the UK and non liable to pay taxes in UK. It is reported that her non-domiciled status allowed Akshata to save her around £20 million in taxes on dividends from her shares in Infosys. She is believed to have received £12 million in dividends alone last year, pushing up her estimated worth from around £430 million (39,66cr) to £690 million ( 6364 cr).

Troubles did end there. Media reports sugesting Sunaks had retained their US Green Cards after returning to Britain hammered another nail to the coffin. Southampton-born Sunak had met Murthy while studying at Stanford in 2006 and the couple continued to live and work in the US after marriage in 2009. The couple still owns a £5 million penthouse in California overlooking the Santa Monica beach, where they holiday in style.

While UK allows dual citizenship, the optics were damning. It was extremely embarrassing for the Conservative party to defend their Chancellor for this one. According to reports, Tory backbenchers, who had not been worried by Murthy’s tax status, suggested the Green Card raised issues about Sunak’s long-term plans. A red-faced Sunak admitted that he held the Green Card for more than 18 months after becoming Chancellor but later gave up the status in October 2021 after seeking advice upon his first official trip to America.

In a hard hitting editorial in the The Mirror, Rishi was labelled ‘Fishy Rishi’ accusing him of taxing the poor even as his wife dodged taxes it stated, “Fish rot from the head down and the stench of contempt in Downing Street is seeing scales falling from voters’ eyes. Fishy Rishi is a beached Chancellor without credibility, struggling to survive and contemplating resignation over the Rishi Notax scandal."

From being ‘Dishy Rishi’ during the COVID pandemic, he became ‘Fishy Rishi’, with voters complaining that he could not empathise with the hardships they were enduring thanks to the highest level of inflation in 40 years and soaring energy bills.

 

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