Home » The rich one, the ‘boring’ one and Trump’s buddy: Key U.K. election players

The rich one, the ‘boring’ one and Trump’s buddy: Key U.K. election players

The rich one, the ‘boring’ one and Trump’s buddy: Key U.K. election players

LONDON — British voters will head to the polls Thursday in a contest that could see the ruling Conservative Party give up the keys to 10 Downing Street after 14 years in power.

These are parliamentary elections, so the public will technically be voting for their lawmaker rather than choosing Britain’s next prime minister. But the leader of the winning party will end up leading the country — and the party leaders do have a major influence over how people vote.

Here are some of the key players, and interesting personalities, in this week’s elections.

Conservative leader: Rishi Sunak, 44

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak made history as Britain’s first prime minister of color, having South Asian heritage. He is also the first Hindu leader of the United Kingdom.

Sunak is extremely wealthy — something the British press and opposition politicians have highlighted. His wife, Akshata Murty, is an Indian heiress, and the Sunaks have a combined personal wealth that makes them richer than King Charles III, according to the Sunday Times Rich List.

Sunak enjoyed a spell of popularity earlier in his career, as finance minister, when he was dubbed “Dishy Rishi” by the tabloid press. But his time as prime minister has been dogged by claims that he is out of touch, and he has faced criticism over the country’s cost-of-living crisis, long waiting times in Britain’s National Health Service and a controversial policy to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda.

His call for snap summer elections took many by surprise — including within his own party — and prompted the Economist newspaper to call him “Rishi the Rash.” Even his election announcement didn’t go smoothly — he was drenched in pouring rain as he called the vote, prompting jokes about the prospects for his party, which is widely expected to fare badly, with some analysts predicting its biggest electoral loss in decades.

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Fun fact: Despite his political woes, Sunak has at least outlasted his predecessor, Liz Truss, who spent fewer than 50 days in office. Truss became so unpopular so quickly that she was widely compared to a head of iceberg lettuce, in jokes that she had the shorter political life span.

Labour leader: Keir Starmer, 61

Keir Starmer leads the opposition Labour Party, which is widely expected to win this year’s elections.

Starmer is frequently portrayed by the press and critics as dull, uncharismatic or politically timid. Britain’s Spectator magazine asked last year: “Is Keir Starmer too boring to be prime minister?” Another commentator dubbed him “No Drama Starmer” but argued that his “boringness” might appeal to voters tired of the “chaos” under the Conservative government, which went through five prime ministers in 14 years.

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer is favored to win Britain’s July 4 election and become the country’s new prime minister. Here’s everything to know about him. (Video: Naomi Schanen/The Washington Post)

Starmer has stressed that Labour would be a security-focused ruling party, guarding the borders and the economy and putting more police on the streets to crack down on petty crime.

Starmer was knighted in 2014 for his services to criminal justice, after his time as director of public prosecutions — one of the most senior criminal prosecutor roles in the country. He was the first member of his family to attend university and has often sought to emphasize his working-class background.

Fun fact: Starmer managed to find time for a “‘Swift’ campaign pitstop,” attending the Taylor Swift concert in London last month.

Reform UK leader: Nigel Farage, 60

Despite never having been elected to Britain’s Parliament, Nigel Farage has had an outsize influence on the country’s politics over the last few decades, with his anti-immigration platform, which has appealed to right-leaning voters, and his dominant role in the “Brexit” campaign that led to Britain voting in 2016 to leave the European Union.

As leader of the recently created right-wing Reform UK party, Farage will be making his eighth attempt standing for Parliament — and the populist politician appears to have a decent shot this time.

His party, though much smaller than the Labour and Conservative parties, has made headlines — for the impact it could have taking votes from the Conservatives, and for racist or offensive comments made by several of its supporters or candidates, whom the party has sought to distance itself from.

Farage also recently made headlines for claiming that the West provoked Russian President Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine, sparking condemnation from other politicians.

Former U.S. president Donald Trump has previously described Farage as “a friend of mine,” while Farage has boasted that Trump “learned quite a lot from me.” The two had a high-profile photo op in 2016, shortly after Trump’s election win, and Farage interviewed Trump this year on the right-leaning GB News channel, in a sign of their ongoing political friendship.

Fun fact: Farage was featured in a popular British reality TV show last year in which he had to live in a jungle camp, sleep outdoors, and eat a pizza topped with animal genitalia as part of a challenge.

Liberal Democrats leader: Ed Davey, 58

Ed Davey took over the Lib Dems, as they are commonly known in Britain, in 2020. They are a minority party, with British polls placing them fourth ahead of this election.

The party is often seen in competition with the Conservatives and Labour for moderate voters. However, in this election there’s been widespread speculation that the Lib Dems and Labour are avoiding targeting each other’s parliamentary seats in a bid to oust the Conservatives from power.

In this election campaign, Davey has become best known for his high-profile press stunts. He has fallen off a paddleboard into a lake; ridden a giant roller coaster; splashed and skidded down a waterslide; and undergone a makeover on television.

“If you do it the traditional way, you make a speech at a lectern, you might get a tiny bit of coverage but people aren’t that engaged with it,” he has said. “I think that by taking a slightly different approach — with a bit of humor, a bit of emotion — you can get people’s attention.”

Fun fact: In 1994, before he was a politician, Davey rescued a woman who had fallen between a train track and a station platform, carrying her to safety as a high-speed train was approaching.

All the major political parties in England are currently led by men — although two women were recently prime minister — Conservatives Truss and Theresa May. As of February, just over a third of lawmakers in the House of Commons were female, according to parliamentary data, a broadly similar rate to that of the U.S. Congress.