AP

UK leader hopefuls make final push amid soaring cost crisis

Aug 30, 2022, 7:00 PM | Updated: Aug 31, 2022, 7:07 am

Members of the National Union of Journalists demonstrate outside the offices of Reach Plc, in Canar...

Members of the National Union of Journalists demonstrate outside the offices of Reach Plc, in Canary Wharf, London, as they begin strike action after talks to resolve a pay dispute broke down, in London, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022. More than 1,000 journalists from at Reach newspapers and websites from around the country took part in the strike action from publications including The Mirror, Express, Daily Record and Sunday Mail. (Victoria Jones/PA via AP)

(Victoria Jones/PA via AP)


              Protesters gather outside Perth Concert Hall in Perth, Scotland, where Conservative leadership hopefuls, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak are due to take part in an hustings event, on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022. (Jane Barlow/PA via AP)
            
              A new mural showing the two Conservative leadership contestants Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss appears on a wall in Belfast City Centre, Northern Ireland, Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022. The British Prime Minister hopefuls are due to speak in Belfast on Wednesday during a Conservative party hustings. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)
            
              Liz Truss meets supporters at a Conservative Party leadership election hustings at the NEC, Birmingham, England, Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2022. Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss are running to succeed Boris Johnson as party leader. The winner will be chosen by Conservative Party members across the country. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)
            
              Rishi Sunak addresses a Conservative Party leadership election hustings at the NEC, Birmingham, England, Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2022. Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss are running to succeed Boris Johnson as party leader. The winner will be chosen by Conservative Party members across the country. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)
            
              Liz Truss addresses Conservative Party members during a Conservative leadership election hustings at the NEC, Birmingham, England, Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)
            
              Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a visit to Thames Valley Police, at Milton Keynes Police Station in Buckinghamshire, Britain, Wednesday Aug. 31, 2022. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has entered his last week in office ahead of the election of a new Conservative Party leader, who will also take the post of Prime Minister. (Andrew Boyers/PA via AP)
            
              Members of the National Union of Journalists demonstrate outside the offices of Reach Plc, in Canary Wharf, London, as they begin strike action after talks to resolve a pay dispute broke down, in London, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022. More than 1,000 journalists from at Reach newspapers and websites from around the country took part in the strike action from publications including The Mirror, Express, Daily Record and Sunday Mail. (Victoria Jones/PA via AP)

LONDON (AP) — The two candidates vying to become Britain’s next prime minister were making their final push to win over Conservative Party members Wednesday, wrapping up a summer of campaigning ahead of a leadership announcement on Monday.

That decision — made by only about 180,000 party voters, not the country’s whole electorate — couldn’t come soon enough.

Britain has been rudderless for weeks as it endures a deepening cost-of-living crisis, the worst to hit the country for decades. Since Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his impending resignation on July 7, a cascade of workers’ strikes has disrupted ports, trains and multiple industrial sectors as energy and food costs skyrocket and unions demand better pay.

Households are facing an 80% jump in energy bills triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, prices are set to soar even higher in the coming months and the U.K. economy is heading into a potentially lengthy recession.

The Conservative government has faced increasingly urgent calls for action to ease the pain, but officials have insisted that no new policy will be decided until a new prime minister is in place on Tuesday.

Tim Bale, a politics professor at Queen Mary University of London, said this summer has seen the Conservative Party looking “inwards rather than outwards” at a time when millions of Britons have been plunged into uncertainty and financial hardship.

“There is a feeling in the country that the last few weeks have been, in some ways, a bit of a waste of time,” he said. “I think the country’s just wanting the government to get on with it and wanting the government to tell them what they’re going to do to help them through what looks like a really, really difficult autumn and winter.”

The two leadership finalists, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and former Treasury chief Rishi Sunak, have been widely criticized for offering very little in the way of concrete policies to help households and businesses struggling to afford essentials.

Truss, the frontrunner, has spoken about tax cuts such as slashing sales taxes and is reportedly mulling more financial help targeting the most vulnerable households. But her supporters have said she will not finalize her plans to tackle spiralling costs before she becomes the leader — a stance that seems tone deaf as charities, small businesses and even heads of schools plead for help and say they face closure unless there is significant government aid.

Neither Truss nor Sunak wanted to come forward with detailed plans, partly because they are reluctant to promise anything they couldn’t deliver as the economic outlook continues to worsen, Bale said.

Conservative ideology – and the way the new leader is chosen – also play a part in how the candidates have responded to the crisis.

“Conservative Party members probably don’t want to hear about having to increase the help to households from the state, since they believe that the state should do as little as possible,” Bale added.

Truss and Sunak, who have both declared their admiration for Margaret Thatcher and her ring-wing, small-government economics, are not campaigning for support from the wider U.K. public. Instead, they are seeking to win over the Conservative Party membership.

Only about 180,000 party members will have a vote in choosing the party leader, and that person will automatically become the next U.K. prime minister.

Meanwhile strikes or ballots for industrial action are being announced almost daily amid growing demands for pay rises to keep pace with inflation. Train drivers, postal and port workers, garbage collectors and lawyers have staged walkouts in recent weeks, and unions representing teachers, nurses and others are considering similar action.

An initial field of 11 Conservative candidates put their hats in the ring after Johnson quit in July, as his government was engulfed by ethics scandals. Revelations of pandemic lockdown-breaching parties in Downing Street, Johnson’s office and residence, eroded his authority for months, and Conservative lawmakers finally forced Johnson out over his appointment of a politician accused of sexual misconduct.

Johnson sought to strike an optimistic note Wednesday, highlighting positives during his term in office — such as low unemployment and investments in rail and high-speed broadband — and dodging questions about the cost-of-living crisis that his successor will inherit.

The U.K. has the “financial strength to get through” cost-of-living “pressures,” he told reporters. Asked whether Britain was broken in the final days of his leadership, he said: “Absolutely not. This country has got an incredible future and has everything going for it.”

Final campaigning was taking place later Wednesday in London, and the winner will be announced Monday. Johnson and his successor will then travel to Scotland to see Queen Elizabeth II on Tuesday — one to formally tender his resignation, and the other to be invited to form a government.

The queen’s meetings with prime ministers traditionally take place in London’s Buckingham Palace. But the 96-year-old monarch has suffered from mobility problems in recent months, and so the arrangements are being moved for the first time to the Scottish Highlands, where she traditionally spends her summers.

___

Danica Kirka in London contributed to this report.

___

Follow all AP stories on British politics at https://apnews.com/hub/boris-johnson.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

The logo for Boeing appears on a screen above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exc...

Associated Press

Boeing ousts head of 737 jetliner program weeks after panel blowout on flight

Boeing said the head of its 737 program is leaving the company in an executive shake-up weeks after a door panel blew out on a flight over Oregon.

2 hours ago

Image: The Alabama State Capitol is seen on May 15, 2019 in Montgomery, Alabama....

Associated Press

Alabama Supreme Court rules frozen embryos are ‘children’ under state law

Critics say the Alabama embryo ruling may have sweeping implications for fertility treatments.

1 day ago

Image: People take cover during a shooting at Union Station during the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bow...

Associated Press

Two men charged with murder at Kansas City Chiefs parade

Minutes after Kansas City Chiefs players spoke at a victory celebration Wednesday, multiple people near the parade route were carried away on stretchers.

1 day ago

Image: A sign is on display above an ATM at a Capital One Café in Miami on Monday, Feb. 19, 2024. ...

Associated Press

Capital One to buy Discover for $35B in deal combining major US credit card companies

The deal would bring together two of the nation's credit card companies as well as potentially shake up the payments industry.

1 day ago

Image: The Minnesota state flag is displayed in the state Capitol building rotunda, March 24, 2022,...

Associated Press

2 officers, 1 first responder killed at the scene of a domestic call in Minnesota; suspect dead

Two police officers and one first responder were shot and killed early Sunday while responding to a domestic abuse call in a Minneapolis suburb.

3 days ago

Image: Former President Donald Trump attends the closing arguments in the Trump Organization civil ...

Associated Press

Donald Trump fraud verdict: $364 million penalty in civil fraud case

A New York judge ruled Friday against Donald Trump, imposing a $364 million penalty over what was ruled was a yearslong scheme to dupe banks and others.

5 days ago

UK leader hopefuls make final push amid soaring cost crisis