Members of the Conservative Party congratulate the presumptive new British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak outside Conservative Central Headquarters. Photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI | License Photo
Oct. 24 (UPI) -- Rishi Sunak said on Monday he will serve as Britain's prime minister with "integrity and humility" while admitting there will be difficult economic times ahead in a brief speech after he remained the only candidate from the Conservative Party to take the post.
In a whirlwind of events over the past 24 hours, that saw two other leading candidates, including former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, concede to Sunak, Britain's ex-chancellor makes history as the first person of color to become prime minister.
"I am humbled and honored to have the support of my parliamentary colleagues and to be elected as leader of the Conservative [Party]," said Sunak, the son of Indian immigrants, said in his comments. "It is the greatest privilege of my life to be able to serve the party I love and give back to the country I owe so much to."
Sunak replaces outgoing Prime Minister Liz Truss, who lasted less than two months on the job after her economic plan to cut taxes roiled the markets and led to a historic devaluation of the British pound. The incoming leader, though, said difficult economic decisions still lie ahead.
"The United Kingdom is a great country," Sunak said. "There is no doubt we face a profound economic challenge. We now need stability and unity and I will make it my utmost priority to bring our party and our country together.
"Because that is the only way we will overcome the challenges we face and build a better, more prosperous future for our children and our grandchildren. I pledge that I will serve you with integrity and humility and I will work day in, day out to deliver for the British people."
Sunak started his comments by praising Truss for her "dedicated public service" to Britain.
"She has led with dignity and grace through a time of great change and under exceptionally difficult circumstances both at home and abroad," he said of Truss. Sunak lost a bid to become prime minister to Truss last month. Penny Mordaunt withdrew her name for consideration on Monday and threw her support behind Sunak.
Johnson, who resigned in scandal over the summer, said on Sunday he would not compete for the post.
"This decision is a historic one and shows, once again, the diversity and talent of our party," Mordaunt said on social media. "Rishi has my full support.
"We all owe it to the country, to each other and to Rishi to unite and work together for the good of the nation. There is much work to be done."
Sunak's impending appointment appeared to have a galvanizing effect with Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, who pushed for Johnson's return to power, announcing his support for the former chancellor on Monday.
Cleverly said Sunak becoming prime minister would be a "very positive move" as the most experienced candidate running and is a "smart and talented guy," according to the BBC.
Truss resigned last week less than two months into the job while facing withering criticism for her economic policy and major defections from her cabinet.