“I will place economic stability and confidence at the heart of this government’s program. It means tough decisions will have to be made,” said new British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, shortly after being officially appointed Prime Minister by King Charles III.
As tradition dictates, the new head of government spoke from the steps of 10 Downing Street. Ex-banker and Minister of Finance, Rishi Sunak becomes the first British leader of Indian origin, of Hindu faith and the first to come from a former British colony. At 42, he is also the youngest head of government in contemporary UK history, after a meteoric rise in politics.
Seneca in the text of Liz Truss
Pushed to the start after the storm caused by his massive plan of tax cuts, Liz Truss, had preceded him to Buckingham Palace to present his resignation to the king, after a term of record shortness: 49 days. She wished “all the successes” of the world to her successor, “for the good of our country” and in a plea for audacity in power quoted the Roman philosopher Seneca: “It is not because things are difficult that we dare not, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult”.
Taking stock of her lightning mandate, marked by the death and funeral of Queen Elizabeth II and the accession to the throne of Charles III, she underlined the support provided to households in the face of rising energy bills. She then drove to Buckingham Palace to hand in her resignation to King Charles III.
The 73-year-old sovereign has entrusted the task of forming a new government to Rishi Sunak who, unless surprised, should notably retain Jeremy Hunt as finance minister.
It is the first time that Charles III appoints a head of government. Liz Truss, had been received by Elizabeth II on September 6 during an audience at the Scottish castle of Balmoral. The 96-year-old sovereign died two days later.
After his victory on Monday, the only confirmed candidate within his formation, Rishi Sunak promised “stability and unity”. “Bringing the party and the country together will be my top priority,” he said in a brief address.
Rishi Sunak takes the reins of a country facing a serious economic and social crisis. Inflation exceeds 10%, the highest in the G7. Energy prices are soaring, as are food prices. The risk of recession hovers.
He will also have to calm the markets, shaken by the budget announcements of the Truss government at the end of September, since canceled for the most part in disaster.
As for the former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, he sent him his “congratulations” on this “historic” day. “Now is the time for every Tory to give our new Prime Minister their full and complete support,” he added on Twitter.
Congratulations to @RishiSunak on this historic day, this is the moment for every Conservative to give our new PM their full and wholehearted support.
—Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) October 25, 2022
A divided party
Rishi Sunak comes to power in a period of unprecedented instability. He is the fifth British Prime Minister since 2016, when the country chose in a referendum to leave the European Union, and the third in two months.
He takes the head of an extremely divided conservative party, after twelve years in power. As the Labor opposition prances ahead in the polls two years from the general election, Rishi Sunak has warned MPs in his camp that they must “unite or die”.
Rishi Sunak ruled out early elections, demanded by Labour. But according to an Ipsos poll published on Monday, 62% of voters want such an election before the end of 2022.
According to a YouGov poll, only 38% of Britons are satisfied that Rishi Sunak will become their Prime Minister.
This early Brexiter, who passes for a pragmatic worker, will have to form a government quickly, to both give guarantees to the markets and satisfy the clans of his majority, at the risk of suffering the same fate as Liz Truss. He will also have to explain his intentions: he did not speak during the Tories’ flash campaign which started on Thursday.
He won without a program or a vote from the members, after the renunciation of former Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the failure of his opponent Penny Mordaunt to qualify.
During the previous campaign, last summer, during which he was beaten by Liz Truss, this former Chancellor of the Exchequer (2020-2022) had insisted on the need to fight against inflation, qualifying the promises of cuts taxes of his “fairy tale” adversary.
On immigration, he said he supported the ultra-controversial project, and for the time being blocked, consisting in sending migrants who arrived illegally in the United Kingdom to Rwanda.
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