Five obstacles before Rishi Sunak in race to British PM post

Rishi Sunak, a British-Indian leader, has emerged as the frontrunner for the post of the leader of the Conservative Party. His success in this bid would make him the Prime Minister of Great Britain, a post which has become vacant after the resignation of Boris Johnson.

Johnson was forced to resign last week after facing a beginning of mass rebellion by his colleagues over the revelation about allegations of inappropriate behaviour against former Deputy Chief Whip Chris Pincher.

The whole episode has started a fresh process of leadership (prime ministership) selection in which Rishi Sunak has taken lead.

I briefly explain the process and procedure of the leadership selection of the Conservative Party that would result in the selection of a new prime minister, and then explain the major obstacles in the way of Rishi Sunak, the principal contender for the post.


The leadership selection process of the Conservative Party is conducted by the 1922 Committee – a committee of the backbencher MPs of the party. This committee is empowered to make rules and regulations about leadership contests and hold vote of confidence against existing leaders.

Also Read: | UK PM race narrows down to 8 candidates; Rishi Sunak still favourite

Presently, a three-stage contest – nomination, elimination, and final selection – would be organised by this committee which will involve the participation of MPs and members of the Conservative Party.

In the first stage, any MP of the party, willing to be considered for the post of leadership, will have to submit his/her nomination paper to the chair of the Committee Sir Graham Brady, along with mandatory support of at least 20 MPs. The last date of nomination was July 12, 2022, and only eight contenders could secure the support of 20 MPs, and among them, Rishi Sunak has the backing of the highest number of MPs.

Names of Candidates

Position(s) Held

MP from Constituency

Kemi Badenock

Equality Minister

Saffron Walden since 2017

Suella Braverman

Attorney General

Fareham in Hampshire since 2015

Jeremy Hunt

Cultural Secretary, Health Secretary, Foreign Secretary. Lost leadership contest last time with Boris Johnson

South West Surrey since 2005

Penny Mordaunt

First Female Defence Secretary

Portsmouth North since 2010

Rishi Sunak

Former Chancellor of Exchequer and Chief Secretary to the Treasury

North Yorkshire constituency of Richmond since 2015

Liz Truss

Foreign Minister, International Trade Secretary

South West Norfolk since 2010

Tom Tugendhat

Former Territoral Army Officer and Chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee

Tonbridge in Kent since 2015

Nadhim Zahawi

New Chancellor of Exchequer, Vaccine Minister, and Education Secretary

Stratford-on-Avon since 2010

After the nominations are filed, the committee will start eliminating contenders with votes of party MPs.

The first round of voting will be held today and contenders who are unable to amass the support of 30 MPs would be eliminated.

Also Read: | Rishi Sunak leads race to replace Boris Johnson, but road to 10 Downing Street not easy

Thereafter, the committee would hold a second round of voting in which the contender receiving the lowest number of votes will be eliminated.

These rounds will continue until two contenders remain. Finally, the members of Conservative Party will select the leader through postal votes, the result of which would be announced on September 5.


Although Rishi Sunak has received the support of the highest number of Tory MPs in the nomination process, MPs have started rallying against him under a campaign ‘StopRishi’.

Also Read: | Rishi Sunak launches campaign for UK PM’s post. So why are people complaining?

On his way to the PM’s post, Sunak will have to face five major obstacles – increasing taxation, tax avoidance allegations, rising living costs, the ‘no working class friends’ remark, and the spectre of partygate.


Rishi Sunak has been the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer from 2020 to 2022, and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury from 2019 to 2020.

Under his chancellorship, Britain has seen an increase in insurance tax, income tax, and corporation tax.

Sunak has announced that corporation tax will be hiked from 19% to 25% starting April 2023. With this, he became the first chancellor since 1974 to increase corporation tax.

Though Sunak has defended his policy of increasing taxes – to reduce fiscal deficit and to finance welfare policies launched after the Covid pandemic, he has been severely criticised for the move. The contenders are up in arms against him over the hike, and almost everyone has promised to reduce the taxes.


Rishi Sunak is married to Akshata Murthy, the daughter of Infosys founder Narayana Murthy. Akshata is an Indian citizen and pays taxes in India.

However, an allegation has been made that Sunak has avoided paying taxes with the non-domicile status of his wife.

Also Read: | Who is Rishi Sunak, one of the favourites to replace Boris Johnson as British PM

As Sunak’s ratings rose and he started getting more and more popular with the Tories, the allegations became public. This began damaging his popularity.

His wife sought to defend the decision of paying taxes in India and clarifed that her future plan is to settle in India. However, this further raised questions about Rishi’s commitment to the British politics and its citizens. His holding a US green card while being a minister in the UK added to the controversy.


Britain has been witnessing a rise in the living costs over the past year. The Ukraine-Russia war has disrupted the supply chain of food and energy, resulting into a spike in the cost of living.

Last year, the country saw a sudden shortage of essential items due to the unavailability of truck drivers.

The country also reeled under repeated railway strikes in the last few months over demands of a wage hike.

Also Read: | UK PM race widens with foreign minister Liz Truss entering the fray

Sunak has been accused of not taking sufficient measures to support the cost of living. The opposition continuously makes sensational claims that few families have been forced to skip meals, creating dents in the claims of Sunak’s good performance.


The opposition has consistently attacked Rishi Sunak for being out of touch with the life of the working class.

They have repeatedly said that he is not aware about the hardships the working-class population of the country faces.

Such attacks were earlier taken as just rhetorics.

Also Read: | Pic of Rishi Sunak’s wife serving tea to journalists goes viral. Internet has a lot to say

But now, after Sunak launched his bid for the post of the PM, a short video clip has emerged, in which a young Rishi Sunak can be heard saying, “I have friends who are aristocrats, I have friends who are upper class, I have friends, who are, you know, working class, but …well, not working class”.

Although the video is from a series “Middle Classes: Their Rise & Sprawl” in which 21-year-old Sunak had appeared, it managed to give enough ammunition to his opponents who argue that he is devoid of the understanding of pain and suffering of the common people.


Although Boris Johnson had to resign after the revelations of allegation about the appointment of tainted leader as the deputy whip of the party, the ball started rolling after the partygate scandal was revealed.

Johnson had organised a party at the 10 Downing Street on the eve of the new year when the country and the world was in a lockdown, triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

Johnson had vehemently denied organising any such parties, but he, along with Sunak, was subsequently fined for breaching the lockdown protocols.

Also Read: | What Boris Johnson’s exit means for Indian-origin contenders and for India

Since Sunak has been a part of the party, opposition leaders from the Labour Party as well as the Scottish Nationalist Party have been consistent in raising this issue in the parliament.

A section of the Tory MPs thinks that in order to overcome the spectre of the partygate in toto, the Conservative Party needs to look for a fresh leader – a leader untouched by the scandal. If this demand finds resonance, Sunak’s prospects would further decline.

Although the final winner will be announced on September 5, the contest has laid open the shift in the political discourse on realistic promises and economic issues.

Until now, the leaders have avoided making populist and nationalist emotive appeals which have become a hallmark of the right-wing authoritarianism.

If this continues until the last round of voting, it might be the beginning of a significant change in the world politics, which is witnessing a rise of populist leaders in the last decade.

(Arvind Kumar is a PhD scholar at the Department of Politics & International Relations, Royal Holloway, University of London)

Also Read: | Indian-origin Chancellor Rishi Sunak: British Prime Minister in waiting?

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