Give a thought, if Rishi Sunak had not chosen to resign from cabinet, Boris Johnson may have still remained Prime Minister of United Kingdom. With political turns favoring her, Mary Elizabeth Truss, better known as Liz Truss, is now the third female Prime Minister of United Kingdom. She shares an interesting political bonding with the other two of fairer gender. The three belong to Conservative Party. The first one was Margaret Thatcher, who was also the longest serving Prime Minister of the 20th century (1979 to 1990). The three are among 15 prime ministers in Queen Elizabeth II’s reign. Thatcher was elected to this office thrice, but didn’t complete her third term. Though she secured a landslide victory in 1987 elections, she quit office in 1990 due to her leadership being challenged. Theresa May became the second female Prime Minister in July 2016 after resignation of David Cameron. A month later, May announced snap general election, probably to strengthen her political power and hold office for the whole term. But luck eluded her. A hung parliament led her to seek support of Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Northern Ireland. However, her minority government couldn’t survive for too long and she had to resign in July 2019 prior to completing her term.
May was succeeded by Boris Johnson. He decided to go for snap election leading Conservative Party to victory with 43.6 % votes, described as party’s largest seat share since 1987. However, this was short-lived success. Electoral luck of this nature didn’t help him complete the whole term. Not surprisingly, chances of Liz Truss going for snap poll in the hope of lasting a complete term cannot be accorded much importance. The next parliamentary polls are scheduled to be held in 2024, prior to January 28, 2025. If Truss calls for a snap election or has to quit office like her predecessor, there is no knowing as to who may be favored by electoral tide.
It would not be wrong to assume that just as her entry into 10 Downing Street was a tough ride, her stay in office is riddled with too many problems. Certain limitations viewed in her key rival Rishi Sunak’s politicking have apparently helped Truss gain greater confidence of her party members. Interestingly this has less to do with the color factor and that of his being of Indian origin. He certainly was the first to turn his back against Johnson by resigning from the cabinet. His supporters followed suit. Had Rishi not taken this step, notwithstanding the “unpopularity” earned by Johnson, the latter may have completed his term. Described as a “back-stabber” and a man “not to be trusted” Rishi has not been favored by several members of his party, particularly strong supporters of Johnson. In contrast, Liz has had no qualms about her being described as a party “loyalist” (a Johnson supporter), who deliberately did not quit office – like Rishi. This apparently has also helped her succeed Johnson.
Wealth of his wife Akshata Murthy has also been viewed as a major obstacle in Rishi’s political battle. She is reportedly wealthier than British Queen Elizabeth II. Daughter of Infosys Ltd. co-founder Narayana Murthy, she holds non-domiciled status in UK on account of which it was claimed earlier this year, she does not pay British taxes on her foreign earnings. Non-domicile status costs around £30,000, which helped her in not paying roughly £20 million as taxes in UK. They were also reports about Rishi and his wife holding US Green Cards. Irrespective of credibility of these reports, which hit headlines this April, there is no denying that they led to a negative image of Rishi and his wife.
It may be noted, investigations conducted regarding his wife’s non-domicile status and his green card status were conducted and cleared Rishi of charges of breaching his ministerial code of conduct. A report of investigations conducted by Johnson’s ethics adviser Christopher Geidt was published on April 27, 2022. Though Rishi escaped these charges, they were probably strongly suggestive of political tide turning against him even before he chose to hand in his resignation in an attempt to succeed Johnson.
Besides, the “money” tag didn’t help his campaign. Soon after his resignation, journalists waiting to see him were served tea by his wife. What caught their attention and hit social media were expensive cups as well as quality of tea. Each cup cost around £38 (around Rs 3,625). Netizens also commented in tea not being served in matching cups.
Where did Rishi err in handling his political and financial affairs is likely to be debated and deliberated upon politically as well as academically for some time. It is possible, nature of his politicking may also be partly credited for victory of Liz. Now, all attention is centered on how Liz handles the problematic situation she has taken over from Johnson. Of course, neither she nor Johnson can be totally blamed for crises UK is battling with. Impact of Covid is still there. Ukraine-crisis shows no sign of coming to an end. Inflation, failure of social services, including health facilities, strikes and other problems are spread virtually all around. Liz has asserted about being prepared with a plan to “ride out the storm”, to ensure everyone “opportunities they deserve” and so forth. If her handling of these problems, fails to appeal her own party members and they choose not to support her, she may also have to quit office sooner than expected!
Nilofar Suhrawardy is a senior journalist and writer with specialization in communication studies and nuclear diplomacy. She has come out with several books. These include:– Modi’s Victory, A Lesson for the Congress…? (2019); Arab Spring, Not Just a Mirage! (2019), Image and Substance, Modi’s First Year in Office (2015) and Ayodhya Without the Communal Stamp, In the Name of Indian Secularism (2006).