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Rishi Sunak resigns as Tory leader as well as PM after election defeat

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(The Guardian) Rishi Sunak apologised to the country after his catastrophic election loss and said he had heard voters’ “anger and disappointment” and desire for change.

Speaking outside 10 Downing Street after a disastrous night for the Conservative party, Sunak confirmed his resignation as prime minister and said: “To the country I would like to say first and foremost, I am sorry.

“I have given this job my all, but you have sent a clear signal that the government of the United Kingdom must change. And yours is the only judgment that matters.

“I have heard your anger, your disappointment, and I take responsibility for this loss.”

He also said he would step down as Conservative leader once the arrangements for selecting his successor were in place. The party appears likely to win just over 121 seats, its worst result in history.

Sunak also congratulated Keir Starmer on Labour’s resounding victory, saying: “In this job his successes will be all our successes and I wish him and his family well. Whatever our disagreements in this campaign he is a decent, public-spirited man who I respect.

“He and his family deserve the very best of our understanding as they make the huge transition to their new lives behind this door.”

By 11am when all but two constituencies had declared their results, Labour had won a huge landslide with more than 410 seats.

Sunak said the Tories now needed to rebuild and take up their “crucial” role in opposition. He also apologised to the party’s candidates and campaigners: “I’m sorry that we could not deliver what your efforts deserved. It pains me to think how many good colleagues who contributed so much to their communities and our country will now no longer sit in the House of Commons.”

He then travelled to Buckingham Palace for his final audience with the king before Starmer formally becomes prime minister.

Speaking about his legacy, Sunak said he had brought down inflation to the Bank of England target of 2%, put mortgage rates on a downward trajectory and enhanced the UK’s international standing. He cited support for Ukraine and the negotiation of the Windsor framework on post-Brexit trading arrangements in Northern Ireland.

“I’m proud of those achievements. I believe this country is safer, stronger and more secure than it was 20 months ago,” he said. “It is more prosperous, fairer and resilient than it was in 2010.”

Referencing his historic status as the UK’s first British Asian prime minister, Sunak said: “One of the most remarkable things about Britain is just how unremarkable it is that two generations after my grandparents came here with little, I could become prime minister. And that I could watch my two young daughters light Diwali candles on the steps in Downing Street.

“We must hold true to that idea of who we are. That vision of kindness, decency and tolerance that has always been the British way.”

He thanked his family for their support and sacrifices and, after concluding his speech, walked into a waiting car on Downing Street hand-in-hand with his wife, Akshata Murty.

Sunak became Tory leader in October 2022 without any contest after the implosion of Liz Truss’s 45-day stint in Downing Street. He has pledged to stay on as an MP for the full term of the current parliament.

He said: “This is a difficult day at the end of a number of difficult days. But I leave this job honoured to have been your prime minister. This is the best country in the world. And it is thanks entirely to you, the British people, the true source of all our achievements, our strengths and our greatness.”

The Conservatives are now set for a bruising leadership contest with senior figures who survived election night, including Kemi Badenoch, Tom Tugendhat and Robert Jenrick, vying to take over.

Several other likely contenders, including Grant Shapps and Penny Mordaunt, were among the 12 cabinet ministers to lose their seats, a record-breaking number. According to analysis by the Institute for Government, a further 24 junior ministers and seven Tory whips were ousted from their constituencies.

The outgoing chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, is likely to play a role in rebuilding the party after he unexpectedly saw off a major challenge from the Liberal Democrats in his Godalming and Ash seat. He clung on by 891 votes.

The Tory chair, Richard Holden, survived by only 20 votes in Basildon and Billericay, an Essex seat his party won with a 20,412 majority in 2019.

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