Former British Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said it was still “early days” in the leadership contest to replace Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a day after a poll showed him 34 points behind rival Liz Truss.
The ruling Conservative Party elects a new leader after Johnson was forced to announce his resignation after ministers resigned en masse from his government over a string of scandals and missteps over the past 12 months.
Sunak, whose resignation contributed to Johnson’s overthrow, and Secretary of State Truss are the two remaining candidates in the contest. Party members will vote by mail in the coming weeks and the winner will be announced on September 5.
“It is still early days and I look forward to meeting many more of you in the coming weeks,” Sunak said in a pre-campaign tweet among ruling Conservative Party members later on Wednesday.
The winner of the party leadership contest will inherit a parliamentary majority and thus become prime minister.
On Tuesday, a poll showed Foreign Secretary Truss had a 34-point lead over Sunak among Conservative Party members, with 86% telling pollster YouGov that they had decided how to vote.
Truss suffered the first major misstep of her campaign on Tuesday when she was forced to backtrack on one of her most notable pledges a day after she announced it after a backlash from fellow conservatives and opposition parties.
Truss had outlined plans to cut billions of pounds a year in government spending in a pledge opponents said would cut wages for public sector workers, including nurses and teachers, outside England’s wealthy south east.
Sunak has struggled in the race, in part due to his role in Johnson’s resignation and his track record in government.
As finance minister, Sunak pushed for tax hikes to pay for government aid provided during the COVID-19 pandemic and to help Britons subsidize rising energy bills. That has been criticized by many activists in the historically low-taxed party.
Sunak has promised to cut taxes over time to avoid stoking inflation, but Truss has said she would act immediately to lower the tax burden.
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