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LONDON — Liz Truss will be the next prime minister of the U.K. after comfortably seeing off rival Rishi Sunak in the race to lead the governing Conservative Party.
Truss, currently the U.K’s foreign secretary, won 81,326 votes (57.4 percent) from Conservative members versus 60,399 (42.6 percent) for Sunak, the former chancellor who quit over his differences with Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Truss will fly to Balmoral, the queen’s Highland estate, on Tuesday to be officially sworn in as prime minister before choosing her new Cabinet.
Speaking after the announcement, Truss pledged to deliver on a raft of promises she made during the campaign and take the Conservatives — currently lagging in the polls — to victory at the next election. “I know our beliefs resonate with British people,” she said, adding: “I campaigned as a Conservative and will govern as a Conservative.”
Using her victory speech to talk up a “bold plan” to cut taxes and address rising energy prices, Truss vowed: “We will deliver, we will deliver, we will deliver.”
The incoming prime minister is expected to announce a bailout package within a week of taking office in a bid to help households and businesses trying to cope with soaring inflation and rising energy bills.
Truss faced criticism during the campaign for her refusal to spell out a detailed plan to tackle the cost of living, but won over Tory members early on in the race with a promise to cut taxes and a turnaround in her debate performances.
She has promised to cancel a planned hike in corporation tax, reverse a rise in the national insurance personal tax, and unveil an emergency budget soon after taking office.
Sunak’s campaign, which easily secured the support of Conservative MPs in the contest’s first round only to falter in the wider vote of rank and file Tory members, argued that Truss’s economic proposals will only increase inflation.
Truss said Sunak had led a “hard fought campaign,” and insisted the bitter, summer-long contest to find a new Tory leader had “shown the depth and breadth of talent in our Conservative Party.” Sunak urged the party to “now unite behind the new PM, Liz Truss, as she steers the country through difficult times.”
The Conservative leadership contest was triggered by Johnson’s resignation in July after months of anger from party colleagues over his handling of a series of scandals, including sexual misconduct claims against a senior minister and political ally.
Johnson remains prime minister until the formal handover on Tuesday. He will also attend Balmoral after making his final address outside Downing Street.
Paying tribute to her “friend” Johnson in her acceptance speech, Truss said: “Boris, you got Brexit done. You crushed [former Labour leader] Jeremy Corbyn. You rolled out the vaccine and you stood up to Vladimir Putin. You are admired from Kyiv to Carlisle.”
In turn, Johnson hailed her “decisive win” and said “she has the right plan to tackle the cost of living crisis.”
While Truss won by a clear margin, she received a lower percentage of votes than polls during the campaign had predicted — and less than any Conservative leader since the current system was introduced.
In 2019, Boris Johnson won 66 percent of votes in the membership ballot, with Jeremy Hunt winning 34 percent. David Cameron managed an even bigger share in 2005, winning 68 percent to David Davis’s 32 percent.
The opposition Labour Party was quick to dismiss Truss’s victory. Deputy Leader Angela Rayner said: “All Britain has to show for the last 12 years of Tory government is low wages, high prices, and a Tory cost-of-living crisis. Liz Truss offers more of the same old failed Tory ideas that got us in this mess.”
This story has been updated.