Rishi Sunak promises to bring stability and unity as new PM

Rishi Sunak's first statement after being named as next PM

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After a coronation that took just four days, the new Tory leader warned his party it must “unite or die”. But he said his top priority will be bringing together a divided country as well as healing Conservative splits.

Mr Sunak said he was “humbled and honoured” to have been picked by MPs.

“It is the greatest privilege of my life, to be able to serve the party I love and give back to the country I owe so much to,” he added.

“The United Kingdom is a great country but there is no doubt we face a profound economic challenge.

“We now need stability and unity and I will make it my utmost priority to bring our party and our country together.”

Mr Sunak paid tribute to outgoing PM Liz Truss for her “dedicated public service” and she promised him her “full support”.

Boris Johnson, who pulled out of the contest late on Sunday night after a number of senior figures backed his former Chancellor, did not publicly congratulate the new Prime Minister.

Some Conservative Party supporters cancelled their memberships after being denied a vote on their new leader because the bar was set so high for candidates to make it on to the ballot paper.

But MPs from across the party insisted Mr Sunak had their support after he addressed them in a private Commons meeting shortly after being elected party leader at 2pm today. 

He told them they have “one last shot” with the public and they must “unite or die”.

Mr Sunak’s victory comes just weeks after he lost out to Ms Truss in a difficult, drawn out campaign that left the party at loggerheads.

Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt yesterday continued her scramble to secure the support of the 100 MPs needed to make it on to the ballot paper but conceded just before the results were announced.

Mr Sunak received public support from more than half the parliamentary party, including some key allies of Mr Johnson such as Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and Priti Patel.

He will hope that securing the backing of around 190 MPs will mean he has a fighting chance of corralling a party that some of its own backbenchers claim is now so divided it is ungovernable.

Mr Sunak is expected to appoint a new Cabinet that includes supporters of Mr Johnson and Ms Mordaunt in an attempt to stabilise the party.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, brought in after the mini-budget sparked market turmoil, is tipped to keep hold of his new job.

Arch-Truss critic Michael Gove is a likely contender for a return to the frontbench along with Mr Sunak’s close ally Oliver Dowden.

Suella Braverman, on the right of the party, is expected to be given a role and Ms Mordaunt is being touted as a potential foreign secretary.

Mr Sunak was greeted with cheers and the traditional banging of desks as he addressed MPs last night.

Deputy Prime Minister Theresa Coffey said that despite being the “best friend” of Ms Truss, she believes it is “absolutely critical that the Conservative party comes together” now.

Former prime minister Theresa May said Mr Sunak has her “full support”.

She added: “Rishi will provide the calm, competent, pragmatic leadership our country needs at this deeply challenging time.”

Leadership rival Ms Mordaunt said: “I’m just pleased for Rishi. This is a historic decision and makes me very proud of my party.

“I think the party can and it must (unite). We’ve got a lot to do.”

Conservative Tom Hunt, from the right of the party, said Mr Sunak had support now across all wings. 

He said it was the “loudest and most positive” response to a Prime Minister at a 1922 committee since he became an MP.

“It was a really passionate speech by Rishi and I think a vast chunk, if not all the parliamentary party, is with him now.

“It is the most united I have felt the parliamentary party for a very long time.

“His message was we have got one last shot so unite or die.”

Ex-Cabinet minister Sajid Javid said: “Everyone understands the need for unity, to work together to put any differences we had aside.”

Mr Sunak is the UK’s third Prime Minister in seven weeks and the youngest in 200 years.

The British asian is the first premier of colour and the first Hindu in the job, winning the contest during Diwali, the mid-autumn Festival of Lights that celebrates light over darkness, and good over evil.

He becomes Prime Minister just seven years after entering Parliament in the fastest rise to the top in modern times.

Mr Sunak faces calls from Labour and some Tories to call an immediate general election to secure a mandate after the rapid changes in leader over the last few months.

Conservative Sir Christopher Chope, said a general election is the “only answer, otherwise we’re just going to go from bad to worse”.

“The party is ungovernable in the House of Commons and so we’re going to have continuing rebellions as we try to change policies and so on, and so I must say I’m very pessimistic, I’m very angry, and I feel that Boris has been let down once again and undermined by our parliamentary colleagues,” he added.

Labour’s Angela Rayner said the Conservatives “can’t just keep doling out prime ministers” as she demanded a general election.

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