Rishi Sunak has entered the Tory leadership race, vowing to “restore trust” and “reunite the country” after Boris Johnson’s scandal-tainted reign.
The former chancellor – who quit this week over the Chris Pincher scandal – promised he would also “rebuild the economy”, despite leading the Treasury for two years.
Mr Sunak is the biggest hitter to join the race since Mr Johnson announced his resignation on Thursday, with Liz Truss and Jeremy Hunt expected to follow him over the weekend.
He is the favourite with the voters – but polls have put Ms Truss and Ben Wallace, the defence secretary and another likely candidate, ahead among Conservative members who will make the choice.
“I’m standing to be the next leader of the Conservative Party and your Prime Minister. Let’s restore trust, rebuild the economy and reunite the country,” Mr Sunak tweeted.
The post was accompanied by a typically slick three-minute video in which he spoke of his immigrant grandmother arriving in the UK “armed with hope for a better life”.
“She managed to find a job, but it took her nearly a year to save enough money for her husband and children to follow her,” Mr Sunak related.
“One of those children was my mother, aged 15. My mum studied hard and got the qualifications to become a pharmacist. She met my dad, an NHS GP, and they settled in Southampton.
The video added: “Their story didn’t end there, but that is where my story began,” – a story Mr Sunak now hopes will take him to 10 Downing Street.
His candidature comes with the endorsement of Mark Harper, a respected former chief whip, who had been touted as a possible candidate himself.
The former chancellor “represents a return to traditional Conservative values and has an exciting vision for the future of our country,” Mr Harper said.
Mr Sunak also launched a website, ready4rishi.com, which – as The Independent reported in January – set hares running at No 10 when it first appeared in September 2020.
His chances of replacing Mr Johnson appeared to have been sunk when The Independent revealed his wife’s tax-reducing non-dom status and he admitted holding a US green card while chancellor.
His standing has revived, not least by resigning over the Pincher scandal, but Tory members may resent his caution over immediate tax cuts favoured by other candidates.