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Indian-origin Rishi Sunak could be candidate for Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

Boris Johnson's hopes now rest on an ongoing internal inquiry clearing him of wrongdoing

Indian-origin Rishi Sunak could be candidate for Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
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The odds of struggling Prime Minister Boris Johnson resigning soon have been slashed by a prominent bookmaker in the UK, with his Indian-origin Chancellor Rishi Sunak odds-on favourite to take over at 10 Downing Street.

The clock appears to be ticking for 57-year-old Johnson, who is under pressure to resign not only from the opposition but also from within his own Conservative Party following revelations of a drinks party at Downing Street during the country's first Covid-19 lockdown in May 2020, according to Betfair.

Sunak was conspicuously absent from the House of Commons chamber when his boss made a "heartfelt apology" for the apparent breach of lockdown procedures on Wednesday.

"I've been on a visit all day today continuing work on our #PlanForJobs as well as meeting MPs to discuss the energy situation," Sunak, 41, took to Twitter to dispel rumours that his absence from Johnson's side in Parliament was an attempt to distance himself from the party's embattled leader.

"The PM was right to apologise and I support his request for patience while Sue Gray carries out her enquiry," Sunak, who is the Chancellor of the Exchequer since February 2020, said.

Sunak's statement of support was taken by some media as lukewarm support for his employer and Downing Street neighbour, according to the BBC.

Sue Gray, a senior civil servant, is reviewing any reported lockdown breaches in government buildings, including Downing Street.

In recent weeks, there have been a slew of discoveries surrounding similar instances, which Johnson has attempted to excuse as work-related activities taking place on the premises of his company. However, within the Tory party, there is growing infighting and discontent, with several backbenchers claiming that his position was untenable after attending what seemed to be gatherings in violation of the rules in place at the time.

"In terms of a replacement, long term favourite Rishi Sunak still heads the betting at 15/8, with (Foreign Secretary) Liz Truss at 11/4 and (Cabinet Minister) Michael Gove at 6/1 the next two most likely alternatives should the PM vacate Number 10," Betfair's Sam Rosbottom told 'Wales Online'.

Former Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt is in the running at 8/1, while Indian-origin Home Secretary Priti Patel, Health Secretary Sajid Javid, and Cabinet Minister Oliver Dowden are all tied for fifth position at 14/1.

"The latest betting suggests the clock is ticking for Boris Johnson," said Rosbottom.

On Betfair Exchange, the market is leaning towards the UK having a new Prime Minister before the end of the year, and the bookmaker also offers an exchange option where players may build their own market for bets. Sunak also leads the betting odds comparison site Oddschecker in the leadership stakes.

Before Johnson's apology in Parliament on Wednesday, a YouGov survey for 'The Times' revealed that six out of ten respondents, including 38% of those who supported Tory in the last election, thought Johnson should quit. It was discovered that 78% of the population did not feel the Prime Minister had been truthful in his responses to queries regarding the purported parties. Conservative voters accounted for 63% of the total.

Johnson's approval ratings are also at an all-time low, with the Conservatives trailing Labour by ten points, the widest deficit since December 2013.

"I want to apologise. I know that millions of people have made extraordinary sacrifices in the last 18 months. I know the rage they feel with me and with the government I lead when they think that in No 10 rules are not being followed," Johnson said in his Commons statement.

He admitted that he "implicitly" assumed it was a work-related gathering, but that he regretted not dispersing the crowd and "sending everyone back inside."

Johnson's chances now rest on an ongoing internal inquiry clearing him of wrongdoing, despite the fact that the demand to resign is unlikely to go away anytime soon.

Johnson has been called to resign by the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats, and the Scottish National Party (SNP), all of which say he has broken Covid guidelines.

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting told the Commons: "The prime minister's not fit to lick the boots of NHS staff in this country."

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Johnson postponed a visit to a vaccine clinic on Thursday after a family member tested positive for the coronavirus. Despite the fact that he is not needed to isolate as a close contact under current guidelines, his office stated that he had declined to travel.

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