Rishi Sunak, the former chancellor who sparked mutiny from Boris Johnson's Cabinet when he resigned this week, has announced he will stand to be the next leader of the Conservative Party.
He said: “Let’s restore trust, rebuild the economy and reunite the country.”
His move to become Tory leader and with it gain the keys to No 10 Downing Street as prime minister, came as allies of former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt – who was runner-up to Mr Johnson in 2019 – said he was “virtually certain” to stand again this time.
Meanwhile, Mr Johnson was continuing to resist demands to stand down as Prime Minister and hand over to his deputy Dominic Raab until a permanent successor is in place.
Mr Sunak released a three-minute video, alongside a #Ready4Rishi hashtag, featuring home movie footage and pictures of his family, who moved to Britain from India.
He said the UK cannot tell itself “comforting fairy tales”.
He said: “Do we confront this moment with honesty, seriousness and determination, or do we tell ourselves comforting fairy tales that might make us feel better in the moment but will leave our children worse off tomorrow?
“Someone has to grip this moment and make the right decisions. That’s why I’m standing to be the next leader of the Conservative Party and your prime minister.”
From front-runner to a police fine
Mr Sunak had been expected to run and would be considered one of the favourites, although his standing within the party has taken a battering in recent months after the disclosure of his wife's non-domiciled tax status. He is being endorsed by two senior Tories, former chief whip Mark Spencer and Laura Trott, a ministerial aide.
The revelation of his wife Akshata Murty's financial affairs exposed Mr Sunak to accusations of “breathtaking hypocrisy". She owns a $1 billion stake in tech firm Infosys and her father is one of India's richest men.
Mr Sunak was elevated from a junior role to No 11 Downing Street in early 2020, after Sajid Javid's surprise resignation over policy differences with Boris Johnson.
With a slick social media campaign backed by graphics, Mr Sunak soon had a personal brand and led the rankings for a future leadership bid.
Mr Sunak was elected in 2015 in the seat of Richmond in North Yorkshire, but was recently tarnished by a fine in the Partygate scandal.
He has also been on the front line as the UK economy struggled under the cost-of-living crisis, with the government coming in for criticism for not doing enough to help people's finances. Inflation is sitting at 9.1 per cent and Britain is facing a summer of strikes as disgruntled workers make their feelings known.
The pitch to the party and public
Mr Sunak's announcement video begins with him telling the story of how his grandmother came to Britain "almost a lifetime ago" after boarding a plane "armed with hope for a better life and the love of her family".
The footage goes on to say she took a year to save enough money for her husband and children, including Mr Sunak's mother Usha, who was then 15, to join her and set up life in Southampton.
"My mum studied hard and got the qualifications to become a pharmacist," he says. "She met my dad, an NHS GP, and they settled in Southampton.
“Their story didn’t end there, but that is where my story began.
"Family is everything to me," says Mr Sunak in the video. "My family gave me opportunities they could only dream of. But it was Britain, our country, that gave them and millions like them the chance of a better future.
“I got into politics because I want everyone in this country to have those same opportunities, to be able to give their children a better future.
“Our country faces huge challenges, the most serious for a generation. And the decisions we make today will decide whether the next generation of British people will also have the chance of a better future.”
Mr Sunak becomes the second candidate to publicly declare he wishes to run in the leadership contest, which began when Mr Johnson announced his resignation on the steps of Downing Street on Thursday.
Backbencher Tom Tugendhat announced he also wishes to stand, while The National understands that Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has also decided to run. Suella Braverman, Steve Baker and Kemi Badenoch have also expressed their interest.
The full list of candidates is expected to number around 12, with other likely contenders including Liz Truss, Ben Wallace, Nadhim Zahawi and Penny Mordaunt.
The rules and timetable for the contest to replace Mr Johnson are due to be set out next week by a party committee.
Mr Sunak said in his resignation letter it had become clear that his approach to the economy had been too different to Mr Johnson's, as the two had tried to agree on the next steps for the country.
He continued on that theme in his candidacy announcement video.
He told of his experience during the Covid-19 pandemic, as he launched his bid.
He said: “I want to lead this country in the right direction. I ran the toughest department in government during the toughest times when we faced the nightmare of Covid.
“My values are non-negotiable. Patriotism, fairness, hard work. We’ve had enough of division. Politics at its best is a unifying endeavour, and I have spent my career bringing people together. Because that is the only way to succeed.”
Mr Sunak said he would set out his vision in the “coming days and weeks”.
“I have told you a bit about my story, but I’m running to be our next prime minister because it’s your stories that matter most," he said. "Your futures.”
Brand Rishi - in pictures
After an extraordinary 48 hours in which dozens of ministers, aides and MPs quit or withdrew their support, Mr Johnson resigned on Thursday as Conservative leader.
In his unrepentant resignation speech in Downing Street, he blamed the “herd” mentality of Parliament for turning against him and said he had tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade colleagues that it would be “eccentric” to change governments at this time.
He offered no contrition for the scandals of “partygate” or his handling of the sexual harassment claims surrounding Chris Pincher as deputy chief whip.
Mr Johnson, 58, said he intended to remain prime minister until a new leader of the Conservative Party is found, a process which could take months.
However, calls are building for him to leave immediately and for an acting leader to head the world's fifth-largest economy.
Polling suggested most Britons favour his rapid exit, as claims surfaced that Mr Johnson was only hanging on to enjoy a wedding party with wife Carrie at his government-funded country retreat Chequers.
Opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer has threatened a confidence vote in Parliament in an attempt to hasten Mr Johnson's departure, while Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Mr Johnson hanging around “would cause chaos”.
On Friday, Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey said Mr Johnson should go immediately “as he can't be trusted”.
Newly appointed Education Secretary James Cleverly, the government minister put forward for the morning media round, said on Friday that he did not agree with calls for Mr Johnson to stand down immediately.
The Conservative Party needs to hold a full contest to find the best leader, Mr Cleverly said.