Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss are the finalists in the race for next UK PM
he number of candidates vying for the post of the next UK PM has finally come down to two.
On Wednesday, the final and fifth round of vote was held among three candidates. Rishi Sunak secured 137 and Liz Truss 113 votes. Mordaunt dropped out with 103 votes. Sunak and Truss will now go head-to-head when about 160,000 rank-and-file members of the party have their say.
Both candidates are optimistic about their success.
Rishi Sunak jumped into the campaign with the promise of supporting people through economic growth and taking advantage of the freedom that Brexit provides. “I would be tackling problems the UK faces with honesty and responsibility. I am the person best placed to beat Keir Starmer in the next general elections,” he added.
Meanwhile, local media has criticised Sunak. It was claimed that he was the director of a free school with close links to right-wing libertarian founders and was found to have multiple financial and safeguarding failings years after his departure.
Sunak served as the East London Science School (ELSS) director from its founding in 2013 until he ran for office in 2015.
Many founders and original directors of the school were members of the now-dissolved Revolutionary Communist Party.
Despite the leftist origins of the group, many of these former members are now closely associated with the libertarian right wing.
Sunak is understood to have been involved at the ELSS while preparing to run for office as a Conservative MP. Boris Johnson’s team had allegedly recommended the school at City Hall.
During Sunak’s time as a director, University of Kent sociologist Prof Frank Furedi, the founder of the Revolutionary Communist Party, was invited to address a staff away day in 2014.
A regular contributor to Spiked, Furedi has written articles arguing against consent classes in school.
Between 2013 and 2015 – the ELSS principal was David Perks, one of its co-founders. Perks was among those named in a government investigation prompted by whistle-blowers in 2019 after Sunak had departed from the school.
In 2020, five years after Sunak left, the Education and Skills Funding Agency issued the ELSS with a “notice to improve”. It noted “improper recruitment and salaries for new appointees, especially where appointees had a prior connection to the principal”.
It also criticised the school’s links with the charity Battle of Ideas, which is linked to Claire Fox, who was later a Brexit party MEP and had past connections with the Revolutionary Communist Party.
Media also disclosed that the school paid the charity £14,400 in 2019 for an event – but the report criticised the potential conflict of interest and said there “was no evidence to show how the connections, and potential conflict, were managed”.
Bridget Phillipson, Labour’s shadow education secretary, said: “This bizarre tale raises yet more serious questions.”
In December 2021, the school was placed into special measures after a damning inspection by Ofsted, which criticised poor behaviour, poor safeguarding and inadequate provision for personal development. However, the school was rated “good” during Sunak’s time as a director.
Perks left the school in November 2021. During the pandemic, Perks became famous for saying he would not follow government guidance for pupils to wear masks in school and criticised the prime minister’s decision. “I found it very challenging to see the prime minister defer to the scientists who stood by his side… The decisions you make are for people, and that’s an inherently political decision,” he said. Local media contacted the ELSS for comment but attempts to reach Perks were unsuccessful.
After winning the leadership candidature, Liz Truss said if elected as Tory leader, she would “hit the ground running”. We have two years until the next general election, and I want to deliver for the people. She promised to help the struggling families through lower taxes.
Interestingly, while targetting her rival candidate Mordaunt, Liz Truss had said that she would lift defence spending by a little over £10 billion in four years from its current £48.2 billion and by another £12 billion or more in the run-up to 2030. Responding to Liz Truss’ claim, Defence Secretary Wallace has questioned the viability of a pledge made by her to increase the defence budget dramatically. He warned that his department would not be able to make good use of the extra billions immediately; it’s unenthusiastic. “If I were just given a blob of money tomorrow morning, I wouldn’t be able to spend it,” Wallace said.
The challenging contest process for the selection of new leadership was initially started between 12 candidates, including two British Pakistani parliament members, Sajid Javid and Rehman Chishti. The process was approved by the 1922 committee on July 11 when Boris Johnson was forced to announce his resignation. The name of the new Tory leader will be announced on September 5, 2022.
Earlier, Boris Johnson appeared before his final question answer hour and advised his successor to: “Stay close to the Americans, stick up for Ukrainians, stick up for freedom and democracy, cut taxes and deregulate. Focus on the road ahead, but always check the rear-view mirror and remember, above all, it’s not Twitter that counts.”
The prime minister received a loud cheer from his backbench MPs, who had ousted him from Downing Street just a few weeks ago. Labour leader Sir Kier Starmer also paid a tribute to Boris Johnson.
The writer is a correspondent for Geo News, daily Jang and The News in London