Los Angeles Times

2 left standing in U.K. race for prime minister

Former Treasury chief will face the current foreign secretary.

- associated press

LONDON — Britain’s Conservati­ve Party lawmakers chose former Treasury chief Rishi Sunak and current Foreign Secretary Liz Truss as the two finalists Wednesday in the race to replace departing Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who capped his final appearance in Parliament as premier with the words “Hasta la vista, baby.”

Sunak and Truss came first and second, respective­ly, in the vote by Tory lawmakers. Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt came in third and was eliminated.

The race pits the man who steered Britain’s economy through the COVID-19 pandemic against the woman who has led Britain’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The two contenders will spend the next few weeks campaignin­g for the votes of about 180,000 Conservati­ve Party members around the country, who will vote by mail or online. The winner of the party leadership vote will be announced Sept. 5 and will automatica­lly become Britain’s next prime minister.

Sunak won every round of voting by lawmakers but is less popular with the party’s rank and file. Truss is a favorite of the party’s right wing.

The bitter leadership campaign has exposed deep divisions among Tories at the end of Johnson’s scandal-tarnished three-year reign. Truss has branded Sunak a “socialist” for raising taxes in response to the economic damage wrought by the pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

Sunak has hit back by accusing his rivals of peddling economic “fairy tales” to British voters as the country faces high inflation.

All the contenders — there were 11 to start — sought to distance themselves from Johnson, whose term in office began boldly in 2019 with a vow to “get Brexit done” and a resounding election victory, but is now ending in disgrace.

Johnson quit July 7 after months of ethics scandals but remains caretaker leader until the party elects his successor.

On Wednesday, he faced derisive opposition politician­s and weary Conservati­ves at his last Prime Minister’s Questions session in the House of Commons. It was a downbeat departure, with supportive Conservati­ve lawmakers lobbing praise and opposition politician­s offering variations on “good riddance.”

Johnson extolled what he called his accomplish­ments — leading Britain out of the European Union and through COVID-19, and supporting Ukraine against Russia’s invasion — and declared: “Mission largely accomplish­ed, for now,” before departing with Arnold Schwarzene­gger’s catchphras­e from “Terminator 2.”

Johnson clung to office through months of scandals over his finances and his judgment, refusing to resign when he was fined by police over government parties that broke COVID-19 lockdown rules. He finally quit after a new scandal — his appointmen­t of a politician accused of sexual misconduct — drove his ministers to resign en masse, Sunak among the first of them.

Despite remaining prime minister, Johnson has largely disappeare­d from the scene, even as Britain faces a summer cost-of-living crisis and labor discontent as inflation hits 9.4%.

Johnson did not attend any government emergency meetings about the heat wave that brought record temperatur­es of 104 degrees to Britain this week. Last week he took a ride in a Royal Air Force Typhoon fighter jet, with “Top Gun”style footage released by his office, then threw a weekend party at Chequers, the country house that comes with the prime minister’s job.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan accused Johnson of wanting to “become Tom Cruise” and urged him to resign immediatel­y.

“We need a full-time prime minister looking after our country rather than somebody who’s checked out,” Khan said.

 ?? Matt Dunham Associated Press ?? BORIS JOHNSON told members of Parliament, “Hasta la vista, baby.”
Matt Dunham Associated Press BORIS JOHNSON told members of Parliament, “Hasta la vista, baby.”

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