UK's Sunak says 'sorry' to public as he leaves office

UK's Sunak says 'sorry' to public as he leaves office
Britain's Rishi Sunak said he would meet King Charles to formally resign as prime minister on Friday and would also stand down as leader of the defeated Tories.
2 min read
Outgoing Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks to the media as he leaves 10 Downing Street following Labour's landslide election victory on July 5, 2024 in London, England. [Getty]

Rishi Sunak on Friday apologised to the public after his Conservatives were trounced by Labour in the UK general election, and said he would step down as party leader.

The 44-year-old former financier gambled on going to the country six months before he had to, hoping that better economic data would swing public support back towards the Tories.

But Thursday's vote indicated that Britons wanted to send a clear message to the party by kicking them out of power after 14 years of economic hardships, Brexit upheaval and Tory infighting.

"To the country, I would like to say first and foremost, I am sorry," he said outside the Prime Minister's residence at Downing Street, before heading to Buckingham Palace to tender his resignation as prime minister to King Charles III.

"I have given this job my all, but you have sent a clear signal that the government of the United Kingdom must change. And yours is the only judgement that matters."

"I have heard your anger, your disappointment, and I take responsibility for this loss."

The scale of the defeat made it inevitable that Sunak -- the conservative party's fifth leader since 2010 -- would have to step down as Tory head as well.

But he said that he would stay on in the role until the arrangements were made for an internal leadership contest, which is expected to be a fight for the ideological soul of the party.

Sunak saw a record number of his top ministerial team lose their seats, including defence secretary Grant Shapps and House of Commons leader Penny Mordaunt.

His immediate predecessor as prime minister, Liz Truss, also lost her seat.

Sunak -- an observant Hindu who is Britain's first prime minister of colour -- wished his successor Keir Starmer well, calling him "a decent, public-spirited man who I respect".

"One of the most remarkable things about Britain is just how unremarkable it is that two generations after my grandparents came here with little, I could become prime minister," he added.

"And that I could watch my two young daughters light Diwali candles on the steps in Downing Street. We must hold true to that idea of who we are."