LONDON — Rishi Sunak is headed to Downing Street after being appointed U.K. prime minister.
After winning the second Conservative leadership contest of the year on Monday, the 42-year-old has now been formally invited to form a government by new British monarch King Charles III.
Sunak was expected to make his first speech as PM outside the steps of No. 10 Downing Street late on Tuesday morning, before heading inside to form his first Cabinet. He is the youngest British prime minister in modern history, and the first British-Asian to lead the country.
His predecessor Liz Truss, who beat Sunak in the summer leadership contest, said it had been “a huge honour” to lead the nation — despite having been ousted after just a few weeks in office.
“From my time as prime minister, I am more convinced than ever we need to be bold and confront the challenges that we face,” Truss said in her second and final speech from Downing Street, showing few signs of contrition over her chaotic seven weeks in office.
She even quoted the Roman philosopher Seneca, adding: “It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare. It is because we do not dare that they are difficult.”
Sunak won the Conservative leadership race this week after his rival Penny Mordaunt failed to secure the required 100 nominations from her fellow Conservative MPs. He also beat off a brief challenge from former PM Boris Johnson, who decided to pull out of the contest Sunday night despite claiming to have enough nominations.
Sunak is well known to the British public, having served as chancellor for more than two years under Johnson before quitting after his former boss became embroiled in a string of personal scandals.
Truss won the subsequent leadership race last month, but was swiftly forced from office after her radical economic plan spooked the markets, sent Sterling plunging and U.K. borrowing costs through the roof. Sunak had predicted precisely these consequences during the summer-long leadership contest, and is now reaping the political reward.
But it means Sunak takes over at an intensely difficult time for Britain, with surging energy costs, mortgage rates and inflation rates triggering a cost of living crisis for millions of households and businesses.