- Sunak will meet King Charles on Tuesday morning
- He promises to restore confidence in the country
- It is expected to start forming the Cabinet of Ministers
- The country is facing major challenges to restore stability
LONDON, Oct 25 (Reuters) – Rishi Sunak became Britain’s third prime minister in two months on Tuesday and pledged to lead the country out of a deep economic crisis and restore confidence in politics.
Sunak quickly reappointed Jeremy Hunt as finance minister, a move aimed at placating markets that had rejected his predecessor’s debt-laden economic plans.
The former hedge fund boss has said he will unite the country and is expected to name a cabinet drawn from all wings of the party to end the infighting and abrupt policy changes that have spooked investors and rattled international allies.
Speaking outside her official residence in Downing Street, Sunak praised her predecessor Liz Truss’s ambition to revive economic growth, but admitted mistakes had been made.
“I was elected as the leader of my party and your prime ministership to correct them,” Sunak said as he stood by his family, breaking the tradition of supporting political supporters.
“After everything that has happened, I understand that I still have work to do to restore trust. All I can say is that I am not afraid of anything. I know the high position I have accepted and I hope to fulfill its requirements. .”
Sunak said that difficult decisions lie ahead as he seeks to reduce government spending. Hunt, appointed to calm markets with Truss lines for growth, is preparing a new budget with borrowing and growth forecasts due on Monday and repeated his warning on Tuesday that “it’s going to be tough”.
The new prime minister also reinstated Dominic Raab as deputy prime minister, a role he lost during Truss’ 44-day tenure, but reappointed James Cleverley as foreign secretary and Ben Wallace as defense secretary.
Penny Mordaunt, who ended her bid to win the leadership contest against Sunak on Monday, also retained her post as leader of the House of Commons, which conducts government business in the lower house of parliament.
Sources said that he wants to become the foreign minister.
With the new appointments, Sunak has been seen pulling ministers from the Conservative Party and sacking others – which should ease fears that Sunak will appoint loyalists rather than trying to unify the party.
Sunak, one of the richest people in parliament, is expected to cut spending to plug an estimated 40 billion pound ($45 billion) hole in public finances created by the economic slowdown, rising borrowing and an energy bailout.
He will now have to review all spending, including politically sensitive areas such as health, education, defense, welfare and pensions. But if he fails to deliver on many of his promises to win the Conservatives in the 2019 election, his party’s popularity will see him face election challenges.
Economists and investors welcomed Sunak’s appointment – Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary said adults were back in charge – but they warned there were few options for fixing the country’s finances as millions struggle to survive.
Sunak, who runs the Treasury amid the COVID-19 pandemic, has pledged to put economic stability and confidence at the top of his agenda. “It means difficult decisions,” he said shortly after accepting King Charles’ request to form a government.
The candidate also pledged to put the needs of the public ahead of politics, acknowledging the growing frustration with Britain’s political class and the ongoing ideological battles since the historic vote to leave the European Union in 2016.
Sunak, Britain’s youngest prime minister and its first leader of color in more than 200 years at 42, appeared to be the best of a bad bunch, according to workers headed to London’s financial district.
“I think he was competent and that’s what we have to hope for now,” said James Eastbook, 43, a management consultant.
With two prime ministers appointed in less than two months without a popular vote, some have called for a general election now, but others hope Sunak will stay until the next election, set for January 2025.
Sunak, a Goldman Sachs analyst who only entered parliament in 2015, faces the challenge of ending the factional infighting that has dragged his party down. Many Conservatives remain angry with him for resigning as Chancellor of the Exchequer in July and launching a wide-ranging rebellion that ended Boris Johnson’s prime ministership.
Others question how a millionaire can run a country when millions are struggling with rising food and energy bills.
“I think this decision will set us up as a party for the next election,” one conservative told Reuters.
According to historian and political biographer Anthony Seldon, Sunak is also limited by the mistakes of his predecessor.
“He is extremely conservative and has no choice but to be cautious,” he told Reuters.
Many politicians and officials abroad welcomed Sunak’s appointment in what was once seen as a pillar of economic and political stability in a brutally embattled country.
Hindu Sunak became Britain’s first Indian Prime Minister.
US President Joe Biden described it as a “presidential milestone”, while leaders of India and other countries welcomed the news. Sunak’s billionaire father-in-law, NR Narayana Murthy, said he would serve the UK well.
“We are proud of him and wish him every success,” the founder of software giant Infosys said in a statement.
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Written by Kate Holton and Elizabeth Piper; Edited by Hugh Lawson and John Boyle
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