Hugs and applause as Rishi Sunak embraced at Tory HQ

New conservative leader welcomed with open arms by his colleagues

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Rishi Sunak was given a jubilant welcome by Conservative MPs in central London on Monday after being declared Britain’s next prime minister.

Dozens of Tories greeted the former chancellor with hugs, kisses and pats on the back as they welcomed him to the party’s campaign headquarters before his victory speech.

The celebratory mood was in stark contrast to the bitter division and chaos which have for weeks engulfed the Conservatives.

Mr Sunak, 42, beamed as he made his entrance, which set off a round of rapturous applause, before waving to the crowds gathered outside the gates.

After holding a meeting with his Conservative colleagues, Mr Sunak said he was “humbled and honoured” to have been elected by MPs as the new leader of the Tory party.

“It is the greatest privilege of my life to be able to serve the party I love and to give back to the country I owe so much to,” he said.

In his first speech as Conservative leader, he warned of more tough days ahead for Britain due to the “profound economic challenge” the country faces.

He also stressed the need for “stability and unity” — a thinly veiled reference to the upheaval that has rocked his party and caused instability across the political system.

Mr Sunak pledged to “make it my utmost priority to bring our party and our country together”.

'General election now'

Following his address, Mr Sunak left party headquarters to more cheers from supporters.

While many members of the public had turned up outside Tory party headquarters to watch out of curiosity, a handful were angry, using Mr Sunak's appearance as an opportunity to vent their frustration over the state of politics in Westminster and issuing a call for change.

“General election now!” was shouted by more than one protester as Mr Sunak’s car drove by.

Such calls, led by the Labour Party, have been growing louder since Liz Truss announced her resignation last week.

The opposition party seized on Mr Sunak's win to push their calls farther, arguing he does not have a mandate from the British public to govern. Labour's deputy leader Angela Rayner said the Tories had “crowned Rishi Sunak without him saying a word about what he would do”.

“He has no mandate, no answers and no ideas. Nobody voted for this,” she added.

The prime minister's official spokesman said a timetable had not yet been decided for the transition of power. However, it is expected that Ms Truss will visit King Charles III at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday to formally resign before Mr Sunak is formally sworn in as prime minister.

Following Monday's leadership race announcement, the king departed his Sandringham estate for London.

Mr Sunak's victory in the contest is historic because he will be the first person of Asian descent to lead Britain and the first leader to be sworn in by King Charles.

Congratulations for Mr Sunak poured in from leaders around the world.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi issued his “warmest congratulations” to the UK's next prime minister on Twitter.

“As you become UK PM, I look forward to working closely together on global issues, and implementing Roadmap 2030,” he wrote. “Special Diwali wishes to the ‘living bridge’ of UK Indians, as we transform our historic ties into a modern partnership.”

Ireland's Taoiseach, or prime minister, Micheal Martin sent a tweet to Mr Sunak saying: “I look forward to working with you as British PM on the important issues we face on these islands and globally.”

Rishi Sunak wins battle to become UK's next prime minister — in pictures

Updated: October 24, 2022, 10:21 PM
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