Rishi Sunak closes in on Downing Street after Boris Johnson pulls out of leadership race

Rishi Sunak could be elected leader of the Conservative Party and prime minister of the U.K. if he receives enough votes from fellow lawmakers Monday.
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LONDON — Former Finance Minister Rishi Sunak looks set to become the next prime minister of the U.K., with votes to be counted Monday afternoon. 

Sunak could be confirmed as the next leader of the Conservative Party and U.K. prime minister as early as 2 p.m. Monday, by which point candidates need to have secured at least 100 nominations from fellow Tory lawmakers to stand as leader of the party.

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson was Sunak’s biggest competition, but he dropped out of the race late Sunday.

The only remaining contender for the leadership position is Penny Mordaunt, a former defense minister, who came behind Sunak in the original contest to take charge of the Conservative Party in September.

If both Sunak and Mordaunt have more than 100 backers on Monday and no-one decides to pull out, members of the wider Conservative Party will vote for their new leader, who will then be announced Friday.

Sunak is believed to have around 180 public backers, according to Sky News, while Mordaunt is thought to have around 25, with 357 lawmakers eligible to vote.

Among Sunak’s backers are current Finance Minister Jeremy Hunt and former Finance Minister Sajid Javid, along with current Interior Minister Grant Shapps and his predecessors Suella Braverman and Priti Patel.

Mordaunt is thought to be calling around for votes, with her campaign team telling Sky News’ Beth Rigby that “she’s getting the numbers and she’s in it to win it.”

Gilt yields fall

Sterling rose and 10-year gilt yields fell to their lowest level in a month in early trade Monday, briefly hitting 3.814%, down 21 basis points for the session.

The shifts were prompted by Truss’ resignation and Johnson leaving the leadership race, according to Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

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“Johnson had threatened to cause fresh political instability, given that it’s less than two months since he left the job, so his retreat from the race brought a sigh of relief for sterling and an even bigger sigh of relief on the bond markets,” Streeter wrote in an analysis note Monday.

“It’s an indication that bond vigilantes have been pacified by the expectations of a calmer political horizon ahead with fiscal responsibility forecast to be the new mantra of the incoming Prime Minister,” she said.

A new prime minister is being chosen after Liz Truss announced her resignation Thursday after just 44 days in the role. Pressure had mounted for the short-lived leader to quit after her new finance policies flopped and caused market chaos.