RISHI SUNAK TO BECOME THE NEXT UK PRIME MINISTER
AFTER MONTHS OF TURBULENCE
- Sunak to become prime minister after winning party race
- Sunak becomes first UK leader of colour
- He will be appointed by King Charles on Tuesday
- Warns UK faces a profound economic challenge
LONDON, Oct 24 (Reuters) – Rishi Sunak will become Britain’s first prime minister of colour on Tuesday after he won the race to lead the Conservative Party, tasked with steering a deeply divided country through an economic downturn set to leave millions of people poorer.
One of the wealthiest politicians in Westminster, Sunak, 42, will become the country’s youngest leader in modern times – and its third in less than two months – as he takes over during one of the most turbulent eras in British political history.
He replaces Liz Truss, who only lasted 44 days before she said she would resign, needing to restore stability to a country reeling from years of political and economic turmoil and seeking to lead a party that has fractured along ideological lines.
He told his lawmakers in parliament on Monday that they faced an “existential crisis” and must “unite or die”. He told the country it faced 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,” he said.
The multi-millionaire former hedge fund boss will be expected to make deep spending cuts to try to rebuild Britain’s fiscal reputation, just as the country slides into one of the toughest downturns in decades, hit by the surging cost of energy and food.
A recent mini budget by Truss, which triggered her downfall, pushed up borrowing costs and mortgage rates, and sent investors fleeing. British government bonds rallied aggressively in the run-up to Sunak’s victory, and extended their gains on Monday.
Sunak, who will be appointed prime minister by King Charles on Tuesday, will also have to work hard to hold Britain’s dominant political party together after some accused him of treachery earlier this year when he resigned from the cabinet of former leader Boris Johnson, triggering his downfall too.
Other Conservatives say he is too rich to understand the day-to-day economic pressures building in Britain, and worry whether he could ever win an election for a party that has been in power for 12 years.
“I think this decision sinks us as a party for the next election,” one Conservative lawmaker told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
Britain has been locked in a state of perma-crisis ever since it voted in 2016 to leave the European Union, unleashing a battle at Westminster over the future of the country that remains unresolved to this day.
Johnson, the face of the Brexit vote, led his party to a landslide victory in 2019, only to be driven out of office less than three years later after a series of scandals. His successor Truss lasted just over six weeks before she too was forced out.
Historian and political biographer Anthony Seldon told Reuters that Sunak had the most difficult economic and political inheritance of any British leader since World War Two, and would be constrained by the mistakes made by his predecessor Truss.
“There is no leeway on him being anything other than extraordinarily conservative and cautious,” he said.
He added that Sunak had shown composure when he became finance minister just as the COVID-19 pandemic hit Britain.
Amid the turmoil, polls show that Britons want an election. The Conservatives do not have to hold one until January 2025.
Angela Rayner, deputy leader of the opposition Labour Party, said the Conservatives had “crowned Rishi Sunak as prime minister without him saying a single word about how he would run the country and without anyone having the chance to vote.”
Labour has held record leads in opinion polls of more than 25 points ever since Truss’s budget sent shockwaves through financial markets.
Economists and investors welcomed Sunak’s appointment, but questioned whether he can tackle the country’s finances while holding the party’s warring factions together.
Many Conservative lawmakers appeared relieved that the party had at least selected a new leader quickly.
Penny Mordaunt, who lost out to Sunak, said his election was an “historic one and shows, once again, the diversity and talent of our party,” she said. “Rishi has my full support.”
Veteran lawmaker Crispin Blunt told Reuters after Sunak met lawmakers in a room in parliament: “The party will remain united, not least because we don’t have a choice. In there, he showed a capacity to marshal the whole party.”
The first real test of unity will come on Oct. 31, when finance minister Jeremy Hunt – the fourth person in the role in four months – is due to present a budget to plug a black hole in the public finances that is expected to have ballooned to up to 40 billion pounds.
The task will be helped by a recovery in the bond market, with the 30-year gilt , which suffered unprecedented losses after the mini-budget on Sept. 23, now recovered to levels close to those seen early on that day.
Sunak’s appointment is another first for Britain – he will become the country’s first prime minister of Indian origin.
His family migrated to Britain in the 1960s, a period when many people from Britain’s former colonies moved to the country to help it rebuild after World War Two.
Sunak attended Oxford University and Stanford University where he met his wife Akshata Murthy, whose father is Indian billionaire N. R. Narayana Murthy, founder of outsourcing giant Infosys Ltd. Among the many messages of support, he received “warmest congratulations” from Indian leader Narendra Modi.
END OF THE REUTERS ARTICLE
NEW UK PRIME MINISTER: WHAT COMES NEXT FOR
24 OCTOBER 2022
Rishi Sunak will establish a series of firsts when he becomes prime minister – including becoming the first British Asian person to hold the office, and being the first prime minister appointed by King Charles III. But much of the process of the next few days will follow choreography set by decades of tradition.
So what happens now and what can he expect when he does formally become prime minister?
A final word… or two
Liz Truss will hold her final Cabinet meeting at 09:00 BST on Tuesday. As Rishi Sunak is not currently in the Cabinet, he will not be present.
Like many a departing prime minister, she will then deliver a final speech outside 10 Downing Street at about 10:15.
Ms Truss will then be driven to Buckingham Palace to offer her resignation to the King.
This means Ms Truss will miss out on her chance of a goodbye in the House of Commons, as she announced her departure after last week’s Prime Minister’s Questions, but is being replaced before this week’s takes place at noon on Wednesday.
In the past that has provided an opportunity for a standing ovation or a tearful farewell from supporters. Last month it gave Boris Johnson the chance to tell the Commons “Hasta la vista, baby”.
Once Ms Truss has departed the scene – and the UK is temporarily without a prime minister – Mr Sunak, as leader of the largest party in the Commons, will be invited to Buckingham Palace by the King.
The King will ask Mr Sunak if he believes he can form a new government, before the politician is appointed through a tradition called “kissing hands”.
In his autobiography, Tony Blair – who was operating on only one hour’s sleep following his election victory – admitted to being a bit confused when a royal official told him: “You don’t actually kiss the Queen’s hands in the ceremony of kissing hands. You brush them gently with your lips.”
Having been formally appointed as prime minister, the new leader will head to 10 Downing Street – his new workplace and (usually) his new home – although in the past, Tony Blair swapped with the living quarters above No 11 to accommodate his family more comfortably.
Here, at about 11:35, Mr Sunak will make his first prime ministerial speech with the aim of explaining what he wants to do in government.
Margaret Thatcher promised to bring “harmony… where there is discord”, Gordon Brown vowed to “try his utmost”, Theresa May spoke of tackling “burning injustices” in society, while Boris Johnson warned that “the doubters, the doomsters, the gloomsters” would “lose their shirts”.
The plans are for the speech to be outside No 10 – but becoming prime minister in October means there is a persistent risk of rain, so Mr Sunak’s team might be anxiously checking the weather.
The new prime minister will then enter through the famous black door to be greeted by Downing Street staff, who traditionally line up to applaud their new boss. Usually it is all smiles, but not always.
When he arrived, Mr Blair noticed one of the secretaries was in tears. Lord Robin Butler – the most senior civil servant at the time – recalls that Mr Blair asked if she was OK. “Well, Mr Blair, you are welcome,” she replied “but I did so like that nice Mr Major [Mr Blair’s predecessor].”
Who’s up, who’s down and who’s out?
There is not much time for anxious introspection as a prime minister must immediately begin appointing senior ministers, some of whom can prove to be surprisingly elusive, just at the moment the party leader wants to sound them out about accepting a promotion.
Dealing with angry or even eager colleagues is to be expected for a prime minister on their first day. Mr Sunak has yet to set out how he plans to bring together a party riven into factions that have driven out two prime ministers in three months.
Civil servants – government workers who are not politically appointed so do not change with a new prime minister – will have been monitoring the candidates’ various policy pronouncements throughout the leadership campaign and preparing advice.
Mr Sunak has not publicly updated his policy platform since the summer, when he last ran for leader. Since then the economic picture has changed.
Government borrowing costs have increased following weeks of market turmoil set off by Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget.
On his first day in the job, Mr Sunak will be presented with briefs from civil servants setting out how his policy plans can be put into action.
“It is a very big pile of paper,” says Lord Robin Butler, who led the civil service under Ms Thatcher, John Major and Mr Blair.
“You want them [the new prime minister] to feel that everything has been thought of.”
Those nuclear codes
At some point during his first few days, the prime minister will have to do something that will put everything else into perspective.
He will sit down and write letters to the four commanders of the UK Trident submarines with instructions about whether he should retaliate in the event the UK suffers a nuclear attack. The letters are stored in a safe on board the submarines, and only opened if contact with the UK is lost.
James Callaghan – prime minister from 1976-1979 – is the only former leader to reveal what he would have done in the event of a nuclear attack.
“If we had got to that point where it was, I felt, necessary to do it – then I would have done it,” he told a BBC documentary in 1988. “I’ve had terrible doubts of course about this. And I say to you that if I had lived after having pressed that button, I would never, never have forgiven myself.”
In 2013, political historian Lord Peter Hennessy told BBC Radio Four: “This is the moment they know what being prime minister is all about – no other job can prepare you for this.”
Phone a friend
The first days of the prime minister’s term are normally filled with phone calls from foreign dignitaries.
President Biden is looking forward to speaking with Mr Sunak in the coming days, the White House Press Secretary said. But they added that it was “protocol for the president to wait until after an incoming British prime minister has met with the monarch and been invited to form a new government to offer his congratulations”.
The congratulations have already started rolling in, though.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted “Special Diwali wishes” to Mr Sunak and “the ‘living bridge’ of UK Indians, as we transform our historic ties into a modern partnership”.
END OF BBC ARTICLE
RISHI SUNAK: A QUICK GUIDE TO THE UK’S NEW
25 OCTOBER 2022
He won after running for the second time this year
He lost to Liz Truss in September, but she resigned six weeks later. In the latest leadership contest, Mr Sunak racked up the support of his fellow MPs early, and fast. He crossed the 100 nominations he needed long before the deadline – including from MPs that had previously backed Truss or Boris Johnson.
He ‘predicted’ financial problems under Truss
He clashed with the former PM during the previous leadership race, claiming her plan to borrow money during an inflation crisis was a “fairytale” that would plunge the economy into chaos.
He is the son of immigrants
His parents came to the UK from east Africa and are both of Indian origin. Mr Sunak was born in Southampton in 1980, where his father was a GP and his mother ran a pharmacy. He went to the boarding school Winchester College, then studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford, and business at Stanford in America. He is now the first British Asian prime minister.
He’s only been an MP for seven years
Mr Sunak was first elected as an MP in 2015 – for Richmond in north Yorkshire – but rose quickly, and was made finance minister – or chancellor – in February 2020 under Boris Johnson.
He was in charge of Covid support cash
As Mr Johnson’s chancellor, Mr Sunak was behind the financial aid during lockdowns – including furlough payments and the “Eat Out to Help Out” scheme for restaurants.
He’s thought to be one of the richest MPs
His wife is Akshata Murty, the daughter of Indian billionaire Narayana Murthy. Mr Sunak himself has worked for investment bank Goldman Sachs and at two hedge funds. The Sunday Times Rich List estimates the couple’s fortune to be worth about £730m. They have two daughters.
He faced controversy over his wife’s tax arrangements
Over the summer, it emerged Akshata Murthy paid no UK tax on big earnings abroad – which is legal. Mr Sunak defended his wife saying, “to smear my wife to get at me is awful” – but eventually she agreed to start paying extra taxes. We also found out he temporarily had a US green card, allowing him to live permanently in America while he was the UK’s chancellor.
He campaigned for Brexit and deregulation
“Free ports” are one of his long-time favourite ideas: areas near ports or airports where goods can be imported and exported without paying taxes, to encourage trade.
He really wanted to be… a Jedi
In 2016, he told a group of schoolchildren that he originally wanted to be a Jedi Knight when he grew up. His favourite Star Wars film is The Empire Strikes Back.
RISHI SUNAK/EARLY POLITICAL CAREER