Sunak new PM-in-waiting as Johnson quits race
Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak is a strong favourite to become Britain’s next prime minister – the third this year – as early as today following the withdrawl of Boris Johnson from the contest. Johnson announced Sunday he would not run to lead the Conservative Party, ending a short-lived, high-profile attempt to return to the prime minister’s job he was ousted from little more than three months ago. Late Sunday he said he had amassed the backing of 102 colleagues, more than the threshold of 100 needed to make a ballot of lawmakers later today. But he was far behind Sunak in support, and said he had concluded that “you can’t govern effectively unless you have a united party in Parliament”. The clear favourite now is Sunak, who has support from more than 140 lawmakers, according to unofficial tallies. Penny Mordaunt is backed by fewer than 30. If both make the ballot, the 357 Conservative lawmakers will hold an indicative vote today to show their preference before the choice goes to the 172,000 party members around the country. If Mordaunt does not reach 100 nominations, Sunak will win by acclamation. Forty-two-year-old Sunak was runner-up after Truss in this summer’s Tory leadership race to replace Johnson. If he wins now, Sunak would be the first prime minister of Indian origin in the United Kingdom. “I served as your chancellor, helping to steer our economy through the toughest of times,” Sunak said in a statement on Sunday. “The challenges we face now are even greater. But the opportunities – if we make the right choice – are phenomenal.”
Meloni discusses energy node with Macron
It was a long first day at the office for the new Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni: a 90-minute meeting with outgoing prime minister Mario Draghi for a good hand-over, her first cabinet meeting and a face-to-face in the evening with French President Emmanuel Macron with whom she discussed the energy node, in particular the ambitious gas prices cap. Meloni immediately took sides against the choice of Germany to proceed alone to face the emergency by putting a 200-billion-euro shield and to express her strong and clear dissent. She re-affirmed her position with Macron, at the same confirming that Italy remained friends with France. And, she said she wanted to send a signal of détente after the controversy, surrounding the remarks sparked on her winning the election, by French minister Laurence Boone, who said: “We will monitor respect for values and the rule of law”. Italy’s position does not change with the change of government, Meloni assured the head of the Elysée. Macron closed with a tweet of harmony and esteem: “As Europeans, as neighbouring countries, as friendly peoples, with Italy we must continue all the work we have begun. To succeed together, with dialogue and ambition, we owe it to our young people and our peoples. In our first meeting in Rome, Giorgia Meloni goes in this direction.”
Before confronting Macron, however, Meloni tackled the themes of expensive energy during her long meeting with Draghi. They addressed the war in Ukraine and the economic situation brought about by the energy crisis. “We will be up to it,” she declared later, as long as the team of ministers remains “united” and immediately gets to work, saying we now have to “write the future”. There are big “responsibilities” that await the executive and the situation is “difficult” but the government will be up to the “emergencies” of the country. After the handover by outgoing premier Mario Draghi and the bell ceremony, Meloni presided over her first cabinet, calling for “loyalty” and “teamwork” above all “in such a difficult time for the nation”. The premier, who first thanked President Mattarella, also reiterated to the members of her executive to “never forget that being a minister is not only an honour but also a great responsibility”.
The Meloni government also received a message and greetings from Pope Francis, who referred to the new executive during the Angelus. “Today, at the beginning of a new government, we pray for Italy’s unity and peace,” he said. On Twitter, Meloni thanked His Holiness “for the thought he wished to address to Italy on this very important day for the government that I have the honour of presiding over”.
Pope signs up for Lisbon World Youth Day
Pope Francis on Sunday made official his participation at World Youth Day in Lisbon next year – the largest gathering of young Catholics that had been postponed because of coronavirus. The event, begun by Pope John Paul II in 1986, usually takes place every three years but was moved from this year to 2023 due to the pandemic. “There, I have registered,” the pope said, tablet in hand, standing with two young people from Portugal at the window overlooking St Peter’s Square, where he delivered his weekly Angelus prayer. The pontiff said he had registered “as a pilgrim” for the event. Around one million people are expected in Lisbon for World Youth Day next year, which runs from August 1 to 6. Addresing youths of the world directly, the Pope invited them “to register for this meeting in which, “we will rediscover the joy of the fraternal embrace between peoples and between generations, which we need so much!”
Putin, Kim Jong-un congratulate Xi
President Putin has congratulated Xi Jinping on his third term at the helm of the Chinese Communist Party and hopes to strengthen cooperation with Beijing, according to the Kremlin. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un also sent his “warmest congratulations” to the Chinese President for his third and unprecedented consecutive term at the helm of the Communist Party. “I, together with you, will shape an even more beautiful future for relations between North Korea and China, meeting the demand of the times,” said the supreme leader.
‘Uncontrolled escalation’ warning in Ukraine conflict
Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu warned of “further, uncontrolled escalation” in the war in Ukraine in a phone call Sunday with his French and Turkish counterparts, the Russian defence ministry said. Shoigu also conveyed “concerns about possible provocations by Ukraine with the use of a ‘dirty bomb’”. Meanwhile, Britain’s Defence Minister, Ben Wallace, refuted claims made by his Shoigu, in a call between the two men on Sunday, that Western countries were facilitating a plan by Kiev to escalate the conflict in Ukraine. Britain’s Ministry of Defence said in a statement Wallace “cautioned that such allegations should not be used as a pretext for greater escalation”.
Slovenia heads for Presidential run-off vote
Slovenia’s conservative candidate Anze Logar was headed for a first-round victory in Sunday’s close presidential election, but will face his centre-left rival in a runoff, partial results suggested. The country’s conservatives saw the vote as a chance to regain some support after their defeat in April parliamentary elections. But it was widely expected that no candidate would clinch the 50% support needed for an outright victory. Electors in the small Alpine EU member of two million people on Sunday chose from seven candidates standing for the largely ceremonial post.
‘Europe faces long-term pain from energy crisis’
Europe faces painful “industrial rationalisation” due to its energy crisis that risks political trouble, the head of Shell warned Sunday, as the oil giant joined a natural gas project in Qatar. Shell chief executive Ben van Beurden agreed a deal for a 9.3% stake in Qatar Energy’s North Field South project, that will play a major role in the Gulf state’s effort to increase liquefied natural gas (LNG) production by 50% in the next five years.
Monster storms threaten four Australian states
A third week of heavy rains has worsened Australia’s flooding crisis across the east. Roughly 200 flood warnings remained in place in New South Wales and Victoria, with thousands of homes and farms badly affected by the flooding. At least five people have died as a result. Meanwhile, a second system is travelling across the border from South Australia. Authorities are pleading with people not to drive through floodwaters with a frustrated NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet saying they are tying up resources and risking lives.