London, July 20: Rishi Sunak, the Indian origin contender for the prime ministership of the UK, said he will run the British economy like former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, if he wins.
In his first campaign interview to The Daily Telegraph, the pro ruling Conservative party daily broadsheet, he remarked: "We will cut taxes and we will do it responsibly." He added: "That's my economic approach. I would describe it as common sense Thatcherism. I believe that's what she would have done."
He continued: "If you read her speeches — and I've quoted her and Nigel Lawson (an erstwhile Conservative chancellor of the exchequer) in other lectures I've given — her approach to these things was to make sure that as a nation you have to earn what you spend."
Sunak was speaking in the context of a serious cost of living crisis gripping Britain, with a recession feared by economists. This has catapulted the UK's economy as the main issue in the ballots to determine who will be the next leader of the ruling Conservative party and therefore the prime minister.
Thatcher was a shrill right-wing, pro-market leader, who served as Britain's prime minister between 1979 and 1990. She is a revered figure in Conservatives circles; but generally reviled in the now opposition Labour and Liberal Democrat parties.
As chancellor of the exchequer in the government, Prime Minister Boris Johnson — until he resigned a little over a week ago to signal the beginning of Johnson's end — he raised taxes after borrowing heavily to protect lives, livelihoods and businesses in the face of the Covid-19 challenge. Unlike his rivals in the leadership contest that is underway, he has refused to cut taxes until national debt is brought down.
In the newspaper interview, published on Wednesday morning, he likened his upbringing to Thatcher's. He cited that akin to her upbringing above her father's grocery shop, in his childhood he helped out at his mother's pharmacy.
"My mum was a small businesswoman, she was a chemist," Sunak stated, "I worked in my mum's small chemist shop in Southampton. I did my mum's books — that was part of my job. I also did payroll and accounts every week and every month."
On Tuesday, four potential runners either dropped out after entering the race or desisted from doing so, because of a failure to muster support from fellow MPs, who will vote to whittle down the contestants to two, before the entire Conservative party membership indicate their preference. The quartet, who pulled out, were home secretary Priti Patel, transport secretary Grant Shapps, former health secretary Sajid Javid and junior minister in the Foreign Office Rehman Chishti.
The first ballot in the contest will take place on Wednesday afternoon and the result will be revealed by 1600 hours GMT or 2130 Indian Standard Time. The eight candidates in the field will be required to attract at least 30 votes from MPs to go forward to the next round on Thursday.
Sunak's opponents are Penny Mordaunt, Kemi Badenoch, Liz Truss (who appears to have adopted a 'stop Rishi' mode), Jeremy Hunt, Tom Tugendhat, Suella Fernandes Braverman, who is also of Indian descent, and Nadhim Zahawi.
In informed groups, Sunak and Mordaunt are assessed to be neck and neck in terms of support from MPs, with the latter, according to Conservative Home, a Conservative news and analysis site, enjoying an edge among the wider party activists.
The Conservative party is largely white, Anglo-Saxon and Protestant.