Former British Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak declined to criticize Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday, despite the fact that it contributed to his precipitous fall.
Sunak, 42, stepped down last week to protest Johnson’s scandalous administration along with another minister, sparking a wave of government resignations that forced Johnson to step down as leader of the Conservative Party.
Johnson remains on Downing Street as prime minister until an intra-party contest finds a successor.
While officially launching his campaign, Sunak, considered one of the leaders, was described by Johnson as “one of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met.”
“Whatever some commentators say, he has a good heart,” he told cheering supporters after one of Johnson’s allies accused Sunak of being a conniving “snake.”
“But didn’t I agree with him? Often. Is he defective? Yes, and the others too. Has he stopped working? Yes, that’s why I quit.
“But let me be clear, I will not be participating in a rewriting of history that seeks to demonize Boris, exaggerate his shortcomings, or deny his efforts.”
Johnson’s departure was a spectacular downfall for the politician, who won a landslide victory in the December 2019 general election and pulled the country out of the European Union just a month later.
Sunak said he would not shy away from praising for this or acknowledging Johnson’s leadership in the fight against Covid or his hawkish support for Ukraine.
“Some people may advise me not to say all this so as not to alienate people, but that would not be fair,” he added.
“If telling you what I think – positive and negative – is going to cost me leadership, so be it.”
So far, 11 candidates, including Sunak, his replacement at the Treasury Department, Nadhim Zahavi, and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, are vying for Johnson’s seat.
The winner will be announced on September 5 after a series of votes from the parliamentary party and ordinary members.
In his speech, Sunak, who if successful would become Britain’s first Hindu prime minister, said he had a plan to get the country through tough economic times, not least because of the skyrocketing cost of living.
But unlike several other candidates, he said “promising much more spending and lower taxes is not plausible.”
And he dismissed claims that, as part of the tarnished Johnson administration, he was not the fresh start he claimed to be.
He said he reacted to the revelations about his wealthy wife after it was revealed that she did not pay taxes in the UK and that he had a green card for US residency even when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer.