The new UK Premier, Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak wins
Rishi Sunak.

By Dr. Nana Sifa Twum, Communications Consultant

The United Kingdom this week had Rishi Sunak as its new Prime Minister after the dramatic resignation of Liz Truss as Prime Minister. The former Chancellor won a Conservative Party leadership contest.

Liz Truss resigned just after 44 days in office. She assumed office as the 77th Prime Minister and was the third female British Prime Minister after Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May. She was also Britain’s fourth Prime Minister in six years.

Her short premiership was one of severe turbulence within the economic and political space. Volatile markets, a baseless economy, and sharp divisions within her party continue to be the order of the day. She has led a very divided political party while at the same time being faced with a tough opposition in Parliament that calls each passing day for general election.

She reckoned in her resignation speech, she came into office at a time of great economic and international instability. “Families and businesses were worried about how to pay their bills. Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine threatens the security of our whole continent. And our country had been held back for too long by low economic growth.”

There had always been intra and inter-party confusion amidst the high level of economic uncertainty. In her first major move as Prime Minister, the government announced its Mini Budget on 23rd September 2022, in which former Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng announced sweeping tax cuts without clear funding or a forecast from the Office for Budget Responsibility. This led to gilt yields skyrocketing and the pound plummeting to the lowest level against the dollar in history.

He assumes office at a time when Britain faces serious economic challenges and needs stability and unity, which are blamed on the previous two Prime Ministers, Boris Johnson and Liz Truss. For Sunak, they did their best, but “some mistakes were made—not born of ill will or bad intentions. Quite the opposite, in fact. But mistakes, nonetheless. And I have been elected as leader of my party and your Prime Minister, in part to fix them.”

He is the third Prime Minister in two months and the party’s fifth Conservative Party Leader, since the Brexit Referendum of 2016. Rishi Sunak, a former Chancellor of the Exchequer, was declared the new leader of the Conservative Party on October 24th. He is the 78th Prime Minister.

Sunak is fairly and relatively new in politics, having been elected to the House of Commons for Richmond in North Yorkshire during the 2015 general election after Willian Hague stepped down. He was a big supporter of the 2016 European Union membership referendum and was then appointed as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Local Government.

After the resignation of Theresa May, Sunak supported Boris Johnson’s campaign to become Conservative Leader. Johnson, after winning the Prime Minister position, then appointed Sunak as Chief Secretary to the Treasury who later replaced Sajid Javid as Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Sunak as Chancellor proved himself so worthy of the position, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the pragmatic government’s financial response to the pandemic and its economic impact. His approach to Coronavirus Job retention and Eat Out to Help Out schemes was deemed a phenomenon.

He resigned some three months ago with his Boss, Boris Johnson, amid severe crises in the government. His attempt to replace Johnson during the Conservative Party leadership contest hit the rocks, and he lost to Liz Truss.

His dream of becoming Prime Minister of Britain was rekindled when Truss resigned last week. He won the contest and, as per the Conventional Constitution, Sunak was appointed Prime Minister by King Charles III on Tuesday, 25 October 2022, becoming the first British of Indian descent and a Hindu Prime Minister.

He is the first to be given constitutional powers by the new king, King Charles III.

Mr Sunak does not promise a transformational programme. His major task now is to salvage Britain’s fiscal credibility, suppress inflation, and end the cycle of crisis that has consumed the Conservative Party. The Ukraine and Russian conflicts will engage him for some time. He is faced with steering a deeply divided country through an economic downturn set to make millions of people poorer.

Importantly, he must reassure the markets while keeping a fractious Tory party under control. He reckoned in his speech after the election, “There is no doubt we face a profound economic challenge.” Sunak said, “We now need stability and unity, and I will make it my utmost priority to bring our party and our country together.”

Taking office at the age of 42, the youngest Prime Minister of the UK in about 200 years, Sunak has demonstrated a strong commitment to fixing what I agreed to be very difficult moments for the people of Britain, but, he says, the people of today must not leave behind any debt for future generations to pay that the current generation was so weak to pay and promised to work towards this.

The new Prime Minister and a Former Finance Minister during the COVID-19 era then referenced his work during COVID and the furlough scheme, which saved businesses.

He noted, “You saw me during COVID doing everything I could to protect people and businesses with schemes like furlough, and promised to bring the same compassion to the challenges ahead.”

The young and enterprising politician, Rishi Sunak, has taken the mantle and promised to deliver like all his predecessors. Time will tell.

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