We Have Yet Another Prime Minister: Can Rishi Sunak Succeed?

Hannah Walton-Hughes

After weeks of economic turbulence as a result of the disastrous mini-budget announced by then Chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, Liz Truss resigned as Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party on Thursday 20th October. In a rapid leadership contest, lasting less than a week, Rishi Sunak received the MP backing to take up the role. Impact’s Hannah Walton-Hughes reports on our new Prime Minister, what we can expect from him, and how the public sees him.

Only a month and a half ago, I wrote a comment piece discussing our new Conservative Prime Minister, Liz Truss. It was an article full of praise, hope and endorsement. No one could have predicted how quickly her premiership was going to fall apart. I believed in the majority of the policies that Truss had promised over the summer and had high hopes for her leadership of the Conservative Party and the United Kingdom. It saddens me that it all ended so swiftly and catastrophically. But we are where we are.

And we now have a new Prime Minister: Rishi Sunak, former Chancellor of the Exchequer under Boris Johnson, and Liz Trussrival during the summer leadership election.

How can someone with that much cash in the bank understand the struggles of a social worker?

Firstly, and most importantly, I want to say how fantastic it is that we now have our first British Asian Prime Minister. Diversity and inclusion are so important in politics and society, and, in the words of Sir Keir Starmer, it sends the important message that “Britain is a place where people of all races and all beliefs can fulfill their dreams.

There has been much controversy around whether Rishi Sunak’s immense wealth means that he is out of touch with the needs of the general public. Sunak is believed to be the richest MP, and his and his wife’s wealth combined comes to the grand total of £730 million; they are 222nd wealthiest people in the U.K. And however much I have tried not to take his wealth into account in terms of my opinion of him, I do find it hard. How can somebody with that much cash in the bank understand the struggles of a social worker earning less than £30,000 a year?

I would like to touch on some of the policies promised by Rishi Sunak, both over the summer and more recently. He was always the candidate in favour of higher taxes, at least until the government gets on top of soaring inflation. And let’s be honest, he has been proven right.

Traditional Conservative ideology of a low-tax, high growth economy, is simply not viable in the current climate

So-called “Trussonomics” was torn apart and essentially abandoned by new Chancellor Jeremy Hunt only a couple of weeks ago. The proposed rise in corporation tax (initially reversed by Liz Truss) is going ahead, tax cuts for the wealthiest are no longer on the cards, and the reduction of income tax has been eliminated. The only policies remaining are the reversal in the national insurance rise, the cut in stamp duty, and the removal of the cap on bankers’ bonuses.

It has become abundantly clear that, whilst some of Truss’ economic policies may have been wonderful in an ideal, economically stable world, reality bites and the traditional Conservative ideology of a low-tax, high growth economy, is simply not viable in the current climate. So, economically, I am behind Sunak.

It is nothing short of a disgrace for the Prime Minister of the U.K. to claim that he cannot attend [COP27]

Since his appointment, Rishi Sunak has also announced that he will not be going ahead with Truss’ plans to lift the ban on fracking. This is perhaps the policy that I agree with the most, as I do not believe that the environment can be compromised any further.

This brings me onto my next criticism of Sunak; his recent controversial announcement that he will not be attending the COP27 conference. Now, I happen to agree with King Charles’ decision not to attend, as monarchs are not intended to express political views one way or the other. However, it is nothing short of a disgrace for the Prime Minister of the U.K. to claim that he cannot attend because he is too busy with the fiscal statement, now due to be released on 17th November.

Whilst it is mildly frustrating that we have to wait almost an extra three weeks for the fiscal statement, I can understand why the government has taken this decision. The delay has been met with approval from industry experts on the whole, and Jeremy Hunt has said that it will now be a “full-blown Autumn Budget”, rather than a “medium-fiscal event.” It also ensures that the policies were been built on the most “up-to-date data, and Hunt says that it will mean the Budget Responsibility Committee had “security in numbersfor its OBR forecast. The forecast will accompany the Budget announcement.

However, the forecast will now come after the Bank of England has set its “interest rate policy decision” on 3rd November.

My strongest criticism lies in Sunak’s Cabinet selection

On the topic of health care, Sunak has recently U-turned on his policy to introduce a £10 charge for people missing GP and hospital appointments without prior notice. I think that this was a brilliant idea, and would have acted as an incentive to make sure people attend the appointment that they have made, or else give enough notice, so that the appointment could be filled by someone else who needs it.

The famous Margaret Thatcher phrase “The lady’s not for turninghas been adapted and mocked in relation to Liz Truss’ endless series of U-Turns. But it would now appear that the ‘man is for turning’ too.

My strongest criticism lies in Sunak’s Cabinet selection, primarily of his decision to re-appoint Suella Braverman as Home Secretary, only six days after she resigned, following a breach of ministerial code, sending an official government document from her personal email account. In her resignation letter to Liz Truss, Braverman said “I have made a mistake; I accept responsibility; I resign”. This can be viewed as slightly rich, considering she jumped at the opportunity to return, albeit under a different Prime Minister. It seems to many, including the Opposition, that Sunak has brought Braverman in because she declared support for him during the week-long campaign.

On a slightly different note, I do also feel that Penny Mordaunt deserved a more senior position in the Cabinet, considering how close she was to gaining the desired number of MPs’ backing for the PM nomination.

I think we need to give Sunak a chance to unite an extremely fractured Conservative party

Finally, on the topic of a General Election, I am going to be very controversial; I disagree with the call for one. Whilst the argument that Rishi Sunak does not have a mandate to lead can be seen as valid, and I understand that the British public’s voice deserves to be heard, we really do not need weeks of more political disruption and instability. I think we need to give Sunak a chance to unite an extremely fractured Conservative party, and I hope he succeeds. He did, after all, come second in the leadership contest this summer, therefore, morally, I believe he was most deserving for the job out of the candidates.

I am also not very supportive of the current Labour Party; all they seem to do these days is criticise the government, and talk about what they would like to do, without much backing about how they would carry it out.

As I said in my Liz Truss article, only time will tell how well Rishi Sunak does, and how much confidence he can inspire in his own party and indeed the British public. I for one hope he does well, and turns this mess around. Otherwise, I fear that the Conservative Party simply does not have a future.

Hannah Walton-Hughes

Featured image courtesy of Number 10 via Flickr under All Creative Commons licenses. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image. 

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