By Ashis Ray
London, Jan 13 (IANS) Rishi Sunak, the Indian-origin Chancellor of the Exchequer, is tipped as the bookmakers’ favourite to succeed the current incumbent Boris Johnson as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
The odds on Sunak are 9/4, according to Oddschecker, a comparison site compiling prices from leading British bookmakers.
Liz Truss, the present Foreign Secretary, is second favourite at 22/5. The others in the running as per the betting opportunities are senior backbench MP and former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, who put up a good fight against Johnson in the Conservative party leadership contest in 2019. He is quoted at 11/1.
Sunak and Truss have been neck-and-neck for a while in public opinion surveys. On Wednesday, when Johnson tendered a conditional apology (because he apologised for the function, but not for his presence at it or for its illegality under prevailing legislation) in the House of Commons for his office holding a drinks party at his 10 Downing Street garden during the height of the Covid-19 lockdown in the UK in May 2020, Truss sat next to him, often nodding her head in support of the statement. On the other hand, the Chancellor was conspicuously absent from Parliament, 225 miles away from London in the south-western English county of Devon.
Political commentators saw this as Sunak distancing himself from Johnson. In the evening he tweeted: “I’ve been on a visit all day today continuing work on out #PlanFor Jobs as well as meeting MPs to discuss the energy situation.” He added: “The PM was right to apologise and I support his request for patience while Sue Gray (a senior civil servant) carries out her enquiry.”
A YouGov poll carried out within hours of Johnson’s apology indicated 89 per cent of respondents did not accept his expression of contrition, while only 4 per cent supported it. The rest didn’t have an opinion.
Sunak is of East African Punjabi origin. His father has been a general practitioner and his mother a pharmacist in the southern English coastal city of Southampton since they migrated to Britain. He is also the son-in-law of N.R. Narayan Murthy, one of the founders of the software giant Infosys. He was educated at Winchester school, Oxford and Stanford Universities. An MP for less than seven years, his rise up the Conservative political ladder has been meteoric.
A powerful body within the Conservative parliamentary party known as the 1922 Committee has to receive 54 letters from its party’s MPs (out of around 365) to call for a leadership contest. As Johnson fights to save his political career, the big question is when will such a battle take place?
By Ashis Ray