On Monday, Rishi Sunak emerged victorious in a tumultuous three-day race for the leadership of Britain’s Conservative Party, completing a remarkable political comeback that also served as a historical milestone, making him the first person of color to become prime minister in British history.
Mr. Sunak, the 42-year-old son of Indian immigrants, won the election to replace the short-lived prime minister, Liz Truss, when his only remaining opponent, Penny Mordaunt, withdrew after failing to reach the threshold of 100 nominating votes from Conservative lawmakers.
Mr. Sunak, a former chancellor of the Exchequer, is anticipated to return Britain to more mainstream policies following Ms. Truss’ unsuccessful experiment in trickle-down economics, which shook financial markets and severely harmed Britain’s fiscal reputation. He is also likely to stand in sharp contrast to Boris Johnson, his former employer and Ms. Truss’s disgraced predecessor, with his flashy manner and unstable conduct.
Mr. Sunak, on the other hand, will face the worst economic crisis in a century while leading a very divided Conservative Party. Healing party schisms and leading the country through the next economic storms would need political abilities at least as deft as those that allowed Mr. Sunak to win the leadership race.
Mr. Johnson’s withdrawal from the campaign on Sunday night opened the way for Mr. Sunak, who competed against Ms. Truss last summer but lost in a vote of the party’s rank-and-file members. Mr. Sunak was the sole surviving candidate this time, hence he did not face another vote of the members.
It was a bizarre turn of events for Mr. Sunak, whose surprise departure from Mr. Johnson’s cabinet last July precipitated Mr. Johnson’s downfall and threw Britain into turmoil, ending in Ms. Truss’s brief, disastrous tenure. Mr. Sunak’s meteoric rise seems to have cratered after he lost the leadership election to her.
He will now become Britain’s third prime minister in seven weeks, the youngest in two centuries, and the first Hindu to hold the highest elected post.
Mr. Sunak, a former investment banker whose wife is the daughter of an Indian technology tycoon, will be one of the wealthiest persons to ever occupy 10 Downing Street, which might pose a risk at a time when Britons are struggling to pay skyrocketing gas bills. The couple’s net worth was estimated to be more than $800 million by the Times of London this year, placing them among the 250 wealthiest British individuals or families.
However, if his win broke down another barrier in British politics, placing Mr. Sunak in the same category as Margaret Thatcher ,Britain’s first female prime minister, and Benjamin Disraeli, its only prime minister of Jewish heritage — it also thrust him into power at a singularly difficult moment.