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FirstFT: Rishi Sunak leads pack in PM succession battle

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Rishi Sunak, former chancellor, has emerged as the early favourite to become the next UK prime minister, after Liz Truss terminated a 44-day premiership marked by economic and political turmoil.

Truss’s resignation made her the shortest-serving prime minister in Britain’s history. Her time in Number 10 will be remembered for a disintegrating economic policy and disastrous slump in Conservative party support.

Sunak, who stood against Truss for the Tory leadership in the summer, is “the easy favourite”, said one cabinet minister. Bookmakers agreed that the 42-year-old was the frontrunner to become the country’s first non-white prime minister.

But Sunak is disliked by some Tory MPs and party members for his role in bringing down Boris Johnson in July and could struggle to reunite his deeply divided party.

The new leader could be confirmed as early as Monday if only one candidate earns the 100 votes needed from MPs for nomination, said Sir Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 committee of backbench Tory MPs. Otherwise, the leader will be chosen by Friday October 28.

Thank you for reading FirstFT Europe/Africa. Here is the rest of today’s news — Gary

1. UK consumer confidence near 50-year low The consumer confidence index for October remains near a 50-year low as Britons worry not only about the prospect of rising food, energy and mortgage costs but also potential tax rises and austerity measures. The index is a closely watched measure of how people view their personal finances and wider economic prospects.

2. ScottishPower calls on private sector to subsidise energy bills Keith Anderson, the utility’s chief executive, has proposed a multibillion pound fund to subsidise electricity and gas bills from April, when blanket UK government support ends. The fund should be backed by all energy companies, including oil and gas producers, Anderson said, and would ensure households’ energy bills continue to be discounted.

3. Russian jet ‘released’ missile near UK spy plane over Black Sea A Russian fighter plane released a missile near an unarmed British spy plane patrolling international air space over the Black Sea last month, UK defence minister Ben Wallace said. The UK plane was shadowed by two SU-27 aircraft, which was “not unusual” except for the missile release, Wallace said. Russia blamed it on a “technical malfunction”.

4. Germany divided over sale of port terminal stake to China’s Cosco A row has broken out in the German government over whether to let Cosco, the Chinese shipping conglomerate, take a stake in a Hamburg container terminal. Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s support for the deal has created tensions with his coalition partners, who oppose it on security grounds.

The HHLA Tollerort container terminal in the port of Hamburg © Bloomberg

5. Grandmaster sues over chess cheating claims Hans Niemann, the 19-year-old chess grandmaster accused of cheating in a scandal that has shaken the game’s elite echelons, has filed a lawsuit in US federal court seeking at least $100mn in damages from defendants including reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen. The suit brings claims including slander, libel and civil conspiracy against Carlsen.

Have you kept up with the news this week? Take our quiz.

The days ahead

Economic data The EU releases consumer confidence figures for October, while the UK has September public sector borrowing and retail sales data and Citi/YouGov publishes their public inflation expectations survey. S&P and Moody’s will review the UK’s credit rating.

Earnings American Express, Deliveroo, the London Stock Exchange, Schlumberger, Verizon Communications and Whirlpool release Q3 earnings. See a complete list here.

Slovenia Presidential elections will be held in the country on Sunday.

Steve Bannon sentencing Donald Trump’s former political adviser is due to be sentenced today for contempt of Congress after failing to comply with a subpoena issued by the committee investigating last year’s attack on the US Capitol.

What else we’re reading

‘My guide to a deglobalising world’ The pendulum of history is swinging away from global economic integration, writes Rana Foroohar. Some of the changes that come with this, including market chaos, trade wars and real wars, are extremely worrisome. But beyond the immediate, troubling headlines, there are challenges and opportunities.

China’s GDP blackout Economic data from the country’s National Bureau of Statistics have been dwindling since Xi Jinping came to power in 2012. This week’s decision to indefinitely delay the publication of headline third-quarter economic indicators continues a trend towards statistical opacity as China shifts from sustained high growth to more modest numbers.

Chart showing that China’s continuing commitment to zero-Covid has taken it from one of the countries coping best with pandemic disruption to one of the worst

Ukraine’s civilian army takes aim As Russia steps up strikes against the country, a shadow army of tens of thousands of ordinary Ukrainian citizens — from computer wizards to fundraising and food-distributing pensioners — has become intrinsic to Kyiv’s war effort.

Renault and Nissan close in on deal to save partnership The two carmakers are close to a deal to save their dysfunctional alliance, which rescued Nissan from near-bankruptcy 20 years ago and was meant to be a model for how rivals could work together.

Close calls and eerie quietude Artist Sergiy Maidukov’s sketches of the war in Ukraine are explained through poignant entries in his diaries.

A sketch from the war by artist Sergiy Maidukov
© Sergiy Maidukov


Explore Arashiyama, one of Kyoto’s top tourist destinations, with our new FT Globetrotter guide. Arashiyama is well worth exploring for its lovely walks dotted with historic temples and gardens, as well as one of Japan’s most famous and iconic bridges. It also happens to be a mecca of Japanese classical literature.

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