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Rishi Sunak to become UK's first prime minister of color: 'Greatest privilege of my life'

Rishi Sunak
New Conservative Party leader and incoming prime minister Rishi Sunak waves as he departs Conservative Party Headquarters on October 24, 2022, in London, England. Rishi Sunak was appointed as Conservative leader and the United Kingdom's next prime minister after he was the only candidate to garner 100-plus votes from Conservative MPs in the contest for the top job. |

Conservative Party member Rishi Sunak will be appointed the new prime minister of the United Kingdom, becoming the first person of color and Hindu to occupy the position.

The former chief secretary of the Treasury and chancellor of the Exchequer, Sunak is victorious in his bid for Tory leadership after his opponent, Penny Mordaunt, withdrew from consideration on Monday after failing to accrue enough nominations.

Her withdrawal avoids the need for a vote among Conservative Party members. Sunak is expected to take office on Tuesday. 

Sunak previously lost his bid to become prime minister in early September to Liz Truss by a party vote of 57.4% to 42.6%.

After six weeks in power, Truss announced last week that she would resign upon a replacement being selected. She had the shortest premiership in U.K. history.

Sunak said in a short speech that it is the "greatest privilege" of his life to "serve the party I love and give back to the country I owe so much to."

"There is no doubt that we face a profound economic challenge," he said. "We now need stability and unity, and I will make it my utmost priority to bring our party and our country together."

"That is the only way we will overcome the challenges that we face and build a better, more prosperous future for our children and our grandchildren."

In a statement outside 10 Downing Street last Thursday, Truss said she "came into office at a time of great economic and international instability" and was "elected by the Conservative Party with a mandate to change this."

"We delivered on energy bills and on cutting national insurance. We set out a vision for a low tax, high growth economy that would take advantage of the freedoms of Brexit," Truss said.

"I recognize though, given the situation, that I cannot deliver the mandate on which I was elected by the Conservative Party."

In his speech Monday, Sunak thanked Truss for her service during "exceptionally difficult circumstances" as the U.K. is seeing nearly 40-year-high inflation amid increases in food, transport and energy prices.

The opposition Labour Party has called for a general election after weeks of political turmoil that began with the resignation of former Prime Minister Boris Johnson in July. According to Politico, Sunak will not be obligated to call a general election until January 2025.

On Monday, Johnson issued a statement saying he would not contend to be the next Conservative Party leader. 

"I believe I am well placed to deliver a Conservative victory in 2024 — and tonight I can confirm that I have cleared the very high hurdle of 102 nominations, including a proposer and a seconder, and I could put my nomination in tomorrow," Johnson said in a statement shared by BBC.

"There is a very good chance that I would be successful in the election with Conservative Party members — and that I could indeed be back in Downing Street on Friday.  But in the course of the last days I have sadly come to the conclusion that this would simply not be the right thing to do. You can't govern effectively unless you have a united party in parliament. And though I have reached out to both Rishi (Sunak) and Penny (Mordaunt) — because I hoped that we could come together in the national interest — we have sadly not been able to work out a way of doing this." 

The news of Sunak becoming the first Hindu prime minister comes as Monday is the day Hindus observe Diwali, the festival of lights. 

Sunder Katwala of the think tank British Future told The Guardian that Sunak's rise to power is a "historic moment" that "would not have been possible even a decade or two ago."

"It shows that public service in the highest office in Britain can be open to those of all faiths and ethnic backgrounds," Katwala said. "This will be a source of pride to many British Asians — including many who do not share Rishi Sunak's Conservative politics."

Follow Michael Gryboski on Twitter or Facebook

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