In his first speech as prime minister, Rishi Sunak promised to correct “mistakes” made under Liz Truss’s direction and forewarned of “difficult decisions” to come. He promised to rebuild confidence and foster trust as he guided the UK through “a profound economic crisis.”
Mr Sunak pledged to deliver the platform that helped the Conservatives win the 2019 election by a landslide. He made his speech outside No. 10 following King Charles’ appointment of him as PM.
Mr Sunak, the first British Asian prime minister, named his cabinet this afternoon after warning Tory MPs to band together or risk losing their majority in the next election. Grant Shapps was appointed business secretary, Dominic Raab was reinstated as deputy prime minister, and Jeremy Hunt remained chancellor in a significant reshuffle.
There was no need for a vote among Tory members because a sizable majority of MPs supported Mr Sunak for the leadership and his only remaining rival Penny Mordaunt withdrew. Opposition parties reiterated their call for an immediate general election after Mr Sunak’s speech and claimed the public had not given Mr Sunak a mandate.
The turbulent premiership of Ms Truss came to an end on Monday with Mr Sunak’s effective coronation as Tory leader, just 49 days after she assumed office. After defeating Mr Sunak in a vote among Tory members over the summer, Ms Truss was elected prime minister. She did this by appealing to members with her tax-cutting economic agenda.
However, political and economic unrest destabilised her government, which was furthered by her mini-budget, whose package of unfunded tax cuts was largely abandoned. Ms Truss defended her economic policies in her farewell speech, saying her time as prime minister had taught her the value of being “bold.”
Ms Truss “was not wrong to want to improve growth in this country – it is a noble aim,” Mr Sunak said in his own speech in a tribute to his predecessors Boris Johnson and Ms Truss. However, some errors were made, Mr Sunak said. Not at all motivated by malice or evil intent; quite the opposite, in fact. Nevertheless, mistakes happen.
“Part of the reason I was chosen to lead the party and serve as prime minister is to fix them. And the work gets started right away. The former chancellor, Mr Sunak, warned that this “will mean difficult decisions to come” and pledged to put “economic componence and stability at the heart of this government’s agenda.”
He did not elaborate on what those choices were, but it is likely that they included how to pay for energy bill support and reduce government debt. To close a projected £40 billion hole in the public finances, Mr Sunak is anticipated to reduce government spending.
In order to “underline the United Kingdom’s steadfast support for Ukraine,” Mr Sunak spoke with Volodymyr Zelensky on his first day in office, according to a Downing Street spokesman.
In another call, according to Downing Street, US President Joe Biden stated: “that the UK remains America’s closest ally.” The Good Friday peace agreement, which established power-sharing in Northern Ireland, was also “preserved” by the prime minister and Vice President Biden.
It occurs in the midst of a heated debate over the Northern Ireland Protocol, a component of the UK and EU’s post-Brexit agreement. Additionally, Mr Sunak had conversations with the first ministers of Wales (Mark Drakeford) and Scotland (Nicola Sturgeon).
The conversation with Mr Sunak, according to Ms Sturgeon, was “constructive,” and according to Downing Street, he emphasised their “duty” to collaborate closely. In order to address the “urgent challenges” the UK was facing, Mr Drakeford said the call had provided an opportunity to “discuss the importance of working together as four nations.”
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) October 25, 2022
Mr Sunak’s speech, which he gave outside his new home at Downing Street in a solemn tone, focused heavily on the economic difficulties that lie ahead of him. He didn’t have his wife Akshata Murty or their two daughters with him when he first appeared.
He recalled the choices he made while serving as chancellor during the Covid-19 pandemic, such as the furlough scheme to assist employers in paying their employees. While acknowledging that “there are always limits,” Mr Sunak vowed to apply the same compassion to the current issues we face.
This was the first time the general public had heard from Mr Sunak since he was chosen as the Tory leader, aside from a brief television statement on Monday night. The 42-year-old former hedge fund manager, who has only served as an MP for seven years, takes office as his party’s popularity in the polls is plummeting.
Mr Sunak’s former boss, Mr Johnson, insisted he was the only person who could unify the Conservatives and win the next election as the party searched for its third leader this year. Announcing that it was not the “right time” for a comeback, Mr Johnson, who had only recently resigned as prime minister, eventually withdrew from the race for the Tory leadership.
In his speech, Mr Sunak reflected on Mr Johnson’s “incredible achievements,” but he downplayed his sole responsibility for the party’s victory in the 2019 elections. The prime minister stated, “The mandate my party earned in 2019 is a mandate that belongs to and unites all of us. It is not the sole property of any one individual.”
And our manifesto is at the core of that mandate,” he added. “I will fulfil its promise,” I said. Calls for an early general election might increase if Mr Sunak veers too far from his party’s 2019 manifesto, which pledged to “level up” the nation.
The UK’s parliamentary system does not require Mr Sunak to hold one before the next one, which is not scheduled to occur until at least January 2025. However, Sir Ed Davey, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, claimed that Mr Sunak’s decision not to call a general election demonstrated that his party “does not trust the British people,” who “will be rightly furious that they have been denied a say.”
The country needed “a fresh start” after “12 years of Conservative failure,” of which Mr Sunak was a part, according to Labour Party Chairwoman Anneliese Dodds. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer warned his party against complacency in a meeting with his shadow cabinet this morning and referred to Mr Sunak as a “ruthless” political operative.
Even if the new prime minister gives the Tories “a significant poll bounce,” Sir Keir claimed that Mr Sunak “will not deliver for working people” and advised his MPs to “ignore the noise.”