Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss advance to runoff to become U.K. prime minister

The race to replace Boris Johnson as U.K. prime minister and Conservative Party leader is down to two: former finance minister Rishi Sunak and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.

State of play: Sunak (137 votes) finished first in the final vote among Conservative members of Parliament, while Truss (113 votes) leapfrogged trade minister Penny Mordaunt (105 votes) to reach the runoff round.

What’s next: The broader Conservative Party membership — estimated at between 100,000 and 200,000 members — will pick the winner, with results expected by early September. Sunak and Truss will face off in a head-to-head TV debate on Monday.

  • Polls show Truss, who has promised to slash tax and take a hard line with the EU over Brexit, ahead of Sunak with the party members.
  • Sunak built his national profile as the face of the U.K.’s COVID relief program, but has come under pressure for his family’s wealth and his resistance to major tax cuts before the national finances are in healthier shape.
  • Sunak’s resignation as chancellor helped start the exodus that ultimately forced Johnson out. Now, what started as a wide-open race to replace Johnson has boiled down to the two contenders who held the most senior roles in his government.

The big picture: Johnson, who will remain prime minister in the interim, defended his record in farewell remarks in Parliament on Wednesday, signing off with “hasta la vista, baby” and receiving a standing ovation from the Conservative MPs who had just pushed him out of office.

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