Scandal-ridden and following critical election defeats last month, Boris Johnson announced last week that he would step down as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, sparking a leadership race within the Conservative party.
Read more: UK Boris Johnson’s resignation could delay crypto and BNPL legislation
As it stands, 11 prospects have thrown their hats into the ring. Some are familiar faces in British politics, while others are lesser-known foreigners who have never held a ministerial post.
While no one can rule out an underdog, PYMNTS provides insight into three internationally known potential leaders and dives into their records on the topics of innovation, technology and digital transformation.
Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak is currently the bookmakers’ favorite to win the leadership race. But having made more than a few enemies during his years as chancellor, not to mention his role in bringing down Johnson, Sunak will have to overcome fierce opposition if he is to emerge victorious.
From a business perspective, although his rivals paint Sunak as a high-tax candidate, he has been a proponent of post-Brexit freeports and, as chancellor, has said he would cut tax on the income and on corporations in the future when the time is right.
A longtime advocate for small businesses, one of Sunak’s most interesting insights can be found in a 2017 report in which he advocates for the creation of a bond market for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
At the time, he wrote in the Yorkshire Post that ‘the UK lending market is heavily dependent on big banks’ and that SMEs could benefit from a bond issuance framework on a smaller scale than what corporations borrow currently on UK bonds. market.
Since joining Boris Johnson’s government in 2019, Sunak’s bond market has remained an unrealized dream, but if he becomes prime minister the idea could resurface.
In April, Sunak described his “ambition to make the UK a global hub for crypto-asset technology.”
Related: UK Treasury to Introduce Stablecoin Regulations Within Weeks
The plan includes a proposal to regulate stablecoins as a recognized form of payment, the creation of a financial market infrastructure sandbox, and the Cryptoasset engagement group to open a space for experimentation and dialogue. around technology and its role in the UK economy.
Read more: UK Government Wants Bank of England to Regulate Risky Stablecoins
Sunak’s vocal support for stablecoins sets the stage for future opposition to the Bank of England’s more cautious stance.
One of the most experienced candidates in the running, Liz Truss has held various cabinet posts under David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson.
Truss announced his candidacy in an article published in The Telegraph on Sunday July 10. In it, she said she would cut corporate taxes, reverse Sunak’s National Insurance hike and revise corporate rates. Promising to repeal the National Insurance hike is proving to be a popular move among leadership candidates and is likely to appeal to the Conservative base.
The statements are typical of Truss’ economic position, where she has long championed the free market ideals of low taxation and light regulation.
During his tenure as International Trade Secretary (2019-2021), Truss oversaw future trade strategy aimed at strengthening the UK’s position as a ‘tech powerhouse’, a phrase popularized by Truss that has become a mantra of the current government.
Launching the strategy at London Tech Week in 2020, Truss said: “I want the UK to be the leading global voice for digital commerce and the intellectual driving force in the space.”
Related: Cloud Banking Takes Center Stage at London Tech Week
In 2021, at an event celebrating the Scottish FinTech sector, Truss said: “The UK is a global leader in FinTech and that’s why we’re breaking down barriers, pushing new frontiers in our free-trade agreements. exchange and open markets to stimulate this growing industry. …we use our independent trade policy to drive inward investment in UK FinTech and increase export opportunities around the world.
Like Truss, Sajid Javid held a number of government posts throughout the Cameron, May and Johnson years.
Among the leadership contenders, Javid is seen as belonging to the moderate wing of the Conservative Party, an indication of how far his Overton window has come since 2015, when the Financial Times called him “the right-winger the strongest in the cabinet”. .”
In his more recent role as health secretary, Javid prioritized the digitalization of the country’s National Health Service (NHS) and highlighted the role of digital technologies in delivering health services post-pandemic.
In a speech in February, Javid said, “Digital transformation is not something you can delegate. It has to be led from the front.
His major contribution to the strategic direction of the NHS has been a restructuring of its digital leadership components. It also accelerated the deployment of electronic medical records and digital social records.
An open field
Which of the above three candidates survives the next parliamentary votes, if any, is by no means set in stone. The scars of the Brexit referendum run deep in the Conservative Party and many are clamoring for a fresh face, untainted by the bitter infighting of recent years.
Whether MPs opt for new blood or a known personality, the final decision will be made by the Conservative Party as a whole, once the field is narrowed in two successive final rounds of voting.
Between Sunak’s crypto hub, Truss’ tech powerhouse and Javid’s digital NHS, it looks like technology and innovation will be the main battlegrounds in the coming campaigns. If they are to win the support of party members, candidates will need to paint a compelling picture of the UK’s digital future and their plans to support the country’s tech sector.
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