The winner of the race to replace Boris Johnson as the next leader of the ruling Conservative Party – and UK’s new prime minister – will be named on Monday. The two contenders are Foreign Secretary Liz Truss or former finance minister Rishi Sunak.
According to recent polls, Britain’s top diplomat enjoys overwhelming support among Tory members.
On Tuesday, Johnson is expected to deliver a farewell speech and announce his resignation to the Queen, who will then officially appoint either Truss or Sunak as his successor. The new British prime minister will then form a cabinet, but Johnson will remain in office until the power transfer is complete.
Johnson, who led his party to a landslide election victory in 2019 and led Britain out of the European Union, stepped down as Conservative leader on July 7 after more than 50 members of parliament resigned from his government within 48 hours. It followed a series of high-profile scandals, including Johnson hiring as his deputy chief whip a politician who had been accused of sexual misconduct, and an internal inquiry earlier this year that found that cabinet officials – and the PM himself – had routinely broken their own Covid-19 social distancing rules.
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But while only 25% of the public have a favorable opinion of him, according to a YouGov survey, Johnson reportedly enjoys huge popularity overseas – in Ukraine. A poll in June revealed the UK PM to be the most popular foreign leader in the country with a 90% approval rating, only three points behind Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky.
A strong supporter of Kiev, the prime minister was among the first Western leaders to visit Ukraine after Moscow launched its military operation in late February. His government has committed about £2.3 billion ($2.8 billion) in military assistance to Kiev in addition to training its troops and sanctioning Russia.
He also blamed the cost of living crisis in the UK on Russia, saying that “we’re paying in our energy bills for the evils of Vladimir Putin” – despite inflation having been on the rise long before February.
Today at 12.30pm: New Prime Minister announced.
Tonight at 10.30pm: New Newsnight presenter arrives.
Welcome to @vicderbyshire, who joins the team permanently today. Catch her first show as co-lead presenter tonight as we make sense of a massive day for UK's politics and people
— Stewart Maclean (@stewartmaclean) September 5, 2022
But will London’s stance on Russia and Ukraine change with a new occupant in 10 Downing Street?
Truss has made it clear that she’s going to stick to Johnson’s policies. “The flame of freedom in Ukraine [will continue] to burn bright” if she becomes the next prime minister, she has vowed. “Under my leadership, President Zelensky will have no greater ally,” the 47-year-old insisted.
The PM candidate accused Putin of “barbarism,” claiming she wouldn’t allow him to win in Ukraine. Kiev would be one of her first foreign destinations in the new job, according to Truss.
Sunak may be Truss’ rival now, but the two appear to see eye to eye when it comes to Russia.
He recently called for Putin to be barred from the G20 summit in Indonesia this November over what he described as “abhorrent behavior.” The Russian leader “doesn’t have a seat at the table unless and until he stops his illegal war in Ukraine,” Sunak has said.
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He also promised to “redouble… efforts and reinforce our policy of total support for Ukraine” if he takes charge of the British government.
RT with additional input by GVS News Desk