What does Rishi Sunak bring to the table as the new UK prime minister?

What does Rishi Sunak bring to the table as the new UK prime minister?
Britain’s Conservative MP Rishi Sunak walks next to his campaign headquarters in London, Britain, October 24, 2022. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

The UK has been through a lot over the past couple of months. After all, former Prime Minister Liz Truss lasted only 45 days in office. An unrefrigerated head of lettuce literally lasted longer than she did. While Truss was head of state, the pound plummeted, Queen Elizabeth died and the UK’s cost of living and energy crises raged on. Then, after she announced her resignation, the public briefly thought that former leader (and recently resigned himself) Boris Johnson would get the post again. But, he said that although he did think he could win, he didn’t feel he could unite party members. So, he stepped back from the race.

Now, the UK Parliament has chosen a new conservative prime minister – Rishi Sunak. After his two closest rivals, Johnson and Mourdant, dropped out of the race, Sunak clenched the position. The first prime minister of color – as well as the youngest in 200 years – Sunak has already made history by getting the position. Campaigning on a promise to fix the British economy, Sunak may actually have the skills to follow through; he was chancellor of the exchequer (basically, the finance minister) during BoJo’s administration. His plan is to bring down public debt and cut taxes as long as those options are affordable.

Key comments:

“There is no doubt we face a profound economic challenge. We now need stability and unity. And I will make it my utmost priority to bring our party and our country together,” said Rishi Sunak in a short speech after being confirmed as the new leader.

“We’ve got to move forward,” said Alex Chalk, a Brexit Remainer from the party’s moderate One Nation faction, of Sunak’s acceptance speech. “He said it with an articulacy and a power that brought the room to life.”

“Whichever government comes in, they’re going to be faced with a difficult situation; they’ve already been shown on the one hand that markets aren’t to be messed with and so you can’t just offer unlimited support to the economy,” said Nikhil Sanghani, managing director of research at the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum. “The flip side is if you stick to more prudent fiscal policies and fiscal austerity, that’s going to be difficult to implement politically when you’re already facing a weak economy, high inflation, and people wanting support to pay their bills or mortgages, and the government unable to step in and provide that because their finances aren’t really in order right now.”