Sunak ‘honoured’ to lead the country, but cautions that we face ‘profound economic crisis’
Rishi Sunak has become the UK’s 57th Prime Minister, and its third in less than two months.
The Former Chancellor paid tribute to his predecessor Liz Truss, saying he “admired her restlessness for change”.
However, he stressed that “mistakes were made”, and hinted at “difficult decisions” to come.
He promised he would put “your needs above politics,” adding, “together we can achieve incredible things.”
He also thanked former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, for whom he served as Chancellor of the Exchequer from 2020 to July of this year, for his “incredible achievements”, adding that he will treasure Johnson’s warmth and generosity of spirit.
Johnson congratulated Sunak on Twitter, urging party members to rally behind their new leader.
Ready for Rishi?
Sunak stood in the first Tory leadership contest earlier this year under the campaign slogan ‘Ready for Rishi’.
During televised debates, he clashed with Truss over her controversial fiscal strategy, branding her plans to cut taxes and borrow in order to promote growth a “fairytale” and warning it would spark “economic chaos”.
Despite Sunak’s popularity among Tory MPs, he narrowly lost out to Truss in the Conservative membership vote.
Who is Rishi Sunak?
Mr Sunak was first elected as an MP for Richmond, North Yorkshire in 2015. He was made finance minister in February 2020 under Boris Johnson.
The 42-year-old was born in Southampton, England, to parents of Punjabi Indian descent who had emigrated from East Africa.
He is the UK’s first British Asian Prime Minister, and its youngest in more than two decades.
Sunak was privately educated at one of Britain’s most prestigious schools, and holds degrees in Politics, Economics and Philosophy from the University of Oxford and Stanford University.
He told BBC News: “I’m standing here because of the hard work, the sacrifice, and love of my parents and the opportunities they provided to me, and that’s why I want to be Prime Minister because I want to ensure that everyone, your children and grandchildren, has the very same opportunities that I had.”
The new Prime Minister has taken care to craft a public image on social media of a man of privilege who hasn’t lost touch with the working class, but critics remain sceptical of his true position.
As Mr Johnson’s chancellor, Sunak provided financial aid during lockdowns with furlough payments and introduced the “Eat Out to Help Out” scheme for restaurants.
Together the couple are thought to be sitting on a combined fortune of £730million.
Another major black mark on Sunak’s record is the scandal which led to Johnson’s downfall: Partygate.
A series of leaked emails and photos from the events revealed that several Conservative MPs – including Sunak and Johnson – enjoyed ‘boozy’ parties at No. 10 at a time when the country was enduring lockdown.
The public outcry and subsequent police investigation set in motion a sequence of events which led Sunak to resign as Chancellor – and ultimately to Johnson’s resignation.
A new era?
Sunak has promised to govern with “integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level.”
But he faces an uphill struggle to win back public support, as the latest polls see the Conservatives’ popularity among voters at an all-time low.
Opposition party leaders have called for an early General Election, with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer launching a scathing attack on “this revolving door of chaos” in the wake of Liz Truss’s resignation.
“The Tories cannot respond to their latest shambles by yet again simply clicking their fingers and shuffling the people at the top without the consent of the British people,” said Starmer.
“The British public deserve a proper say on the country’s future.”
Scotland’s first Minister Nicola Sturgeon agreed, insisting a national vote was a “democratic imperative”, while Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey said: “It is time for Conservative MPs to do their patriotic duty, put the country first and give the people a say.”
Sunak also has to contend with a bitterly divided Tory party, some of whom are said to see him as a ‘traitor’ for his role in Johnson’s downfall.
It remains to be seen whether he can balance the needs of the British public with the interests of his party.