Rishi Sunak promises to focus on ‘economic stability and confidence’ in first speech as U.K. prime minister
The 3rd U.K. prime minister in 7 weeks, Rishi Sunak becomes the first person of color and the first Hindu in the position, and inherits a country facing economic challenges
At age 42, Sunak is the youngest prime minister to serve since Robert Jenkinson, second Earl of Liverpool, in 1827, and the first person of color and the first Hindu to hold the office. Sunak comes into office at a time of great economic crisis for the United Kingdom and a Conservative Party battered and bruised from months of infighting.
Who is Rishi Sunak?
Sunak was born in Southampton, England, to parents of Indian heritage who immigrated from British East Asia. His father was a National Health Service general practitioner and his mother ran a pharmacy, according to Sunak’s official website.
He was educated at Winchester College, one of England’s most elite fee-paying schools, before receiving degrees from Oxford and Stanford University. He worked in finance, including at Goldman Sachs, before winning a parliamentary seat for Richmond in Northern Yorkshire in 2015. While at Stanford, he met and married Naranya Murthy, billionaire co-founder of the IT service Infoys. Together their estimated worth is more than 700 million pounds, according to the BBC, a sum which exceeds the British royal family.
As an MP, Sunak quickly rose through the ranks of the Conservative Party until being appointed financial minister — or chancellor of the exchequer — for Boris Johnson in 2020. As chancellor, Sunak oversaw the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, per The New York Times, spending heavily to delay the fallout. He supported Brexit. His resignation from the position in July 2022 was one of the nails in the coffin for Johnson’s ministry.
Seven weeks ago, Sunak was soundly beat by Liz Truss in the Conservative Party’s leadership race. During the election, he criticized Truss’s economic plan to slash taxes and implement day-to-day spending through borrowing, according to CNN. His prediction seemed to come true when the British pound fell to its lowest point in decades and collapsed bond prices, leading to near insolvency for pension funds and rising mortgage repayments.
According to CNN, through his actions during the pandemic that saved many livelihoods and businesses, Sunak has proven himself to be a safe pair of hands that is able to weather economic storms. His job is to do that once more and bring unity to the British Conservative Party.
What did he say during his first speech?
Meeting with reporters in front of 10 Downing Street, Sunak delivered his first address as prime minister.
He began by acknowledging that Great Britain is in the midst of “a profound economic crisis” from the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine. He went on to praise Liz Truss, saying that her instinct to improve the economy of the country was not wrong or borne out of any ill-will, but mistakes were made and that he was elected to fix them. “That work begins immediately,” Sunak declared. “I will place economic stability and confidence at the heart of this government’s agenda.”
Sunak highlighted his work during the pandemic to illustrate his ability to handle problems. “You saw me during COVID, doing everything I could to protect people and businesses, with schemes like furlough, “ he said. “There are always limits, now more than ever, but I promise you this; I will bring that same compassion to the challenges we face today. The government that I lead will not leave the next generation — your children and grandchildren — with a debt to settle that we were too weak to pay ourselves. I will unite our country, not with words, but with action. I will work day in and day out to deliver for you.”
He continued, saying that he was not daunted by the challenges ahead, but promised to strengthen the NHS, better the education system, control the borders, support the armed forces, protect the environment and embrace Brexit.
What problems will Sunak face?
The country is currently suffering from an energy crisis after significant increases in the annual household energy bill (projected to reach 4,000 pounds by January), causing many people to not be able to afford to heat their homes, per NPR. The energy crisis, along with the rising food prices and mortgage rates, has led to a record-high inflation rate of 10% and is predicted by the Bank of England to lead to a recession. As of now, Sunak has not outlined a plan to combat the economic crisis for the general public.
Other problems that Sunak will face include the impact of Brexit and the Northern Ireland Protocol, continuing support of Ukraine and increased defense spending, uniting the Conservative Party and widespread strikes of postal workers, rail workers and public barristers.
Throughout the day, Sunak has been announcing the members of his cabinet, including Jeremy Hunt as chancellor of the exchequer and Suella Braverman returning as home secretary only days after she resigned from the position under Truss.