Rishi Sunak, UK’s next PM, faces major economic problems

LONDON (AP) — Former Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is poised to become Britain’s first black prime minister on Monday after being elected to lead the ruling Conservative Party, which requires a safe pair of hands to steer the country through economic and political turbulence.

The challenges facing Britain’s third prime minister this year are formidable: he must try to shore up a recession-prone economy after the previous prime minister’s brief, disastrous experiment. trying to unite a demoralized and divided party that is lagging far behind the opposition in libertarian economics as well as in the polls.

“The UK is a great country, but there is no doubt that we are in deep economic trouble,” Sunak said in his first public statement.

“We need stability and unity now and I will make it a top priority to unite our party and our country,” said Sunak, 42, Britain’s youngest prime minister in 200 years.

Sunak will be the first British Prime Minister from South Asia and its first Hindu leader – a milestone for a country with an extensive colonial past and still controversial.

Party leader Sunak, who was elected during the main Hindu festival of Diwali, replaces Liz Truss, who resigned last week. after 45 tumultuous days in office. His only remaining challenger, Penny Mordaunt, fell short of the 100 Conservative nomination threshold and withdrew from the vote to remain in the race.

Sunak will now be asked to form a government by King Charles III and Truss will become prime minister in a handover of power on Tuesday.

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Sunak’s victory in the summer, when he lost to Truss in the Conservative election to replace former prime minister Boris Johnson, confirmed his desire for tax cuts amid warnings from his party members that inflation must be tamed.

The Truss admitted last week that it would not be able to implement its plans – but only after its actions fueled market turmoil and worsened inflation at a time when millions of Britons are struggling with rising borrowing costs and rising energy and food prices.

The party is now hoping to right the ship after months of turmoil – both during Truss’ short tenure and Johnson’s end.

As finance minister, Sunak has been praised for steering the economy through the coronavirus pandemic and providing financial support to laid-off workers and closed businesses.

He now faces the enormous challenge of trying to calm markets and tame inflation at a time when the government’s finances are strained, the economic outlook is deteriorating and a wave of strikes is on the rise. Treasury chief Jeremy Hunt, who was appointed by the Truss 10 days ago, is due to make an emergency budget announcement on October 31 – if Sunak keeps him in the job.

Britain is also facing wider economic challenges stemming from the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the country’s exit from the EU in 2020. Sunak was a strong supporter of Brexit.

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The bid was booed by conservatives in a private meeting in parliament after winning the contest on Monday.

Former cabinet minister Chris Grayling said Sunak had urged the party to “come together and tackle the challenges facing the country” and was “well received”.

Theresa Coffey, who is the Trust’s deputy prime minister, said the whole party should now support Sunak.

“We have to go after him,” he said.

But Sunak still faces anger from Johnson’s supporters for quitting the government in July, a move that helped oust the then-leader. His work as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs and the vast wealth of his wife – the daughter of an Indian billionaire – also contribute to his distance from the struggles of ordinary people.

He took the reins after the Truss’s proposal to aggressively cut taxes on government debt weakened the pound, pushed up the cost of government debt and home mortgages and forced emergency intervention from the Bank of England. Truss made several U-turns and replaced his Treasury chief, only to face a rebellion from lawmakers in his own party that overturned his rule.

Sunak’s position strengthened after Johnson abruptly dropped out of the race in a lightning-quick race to replace him. Sunday night marked the end of a short-lived, high-profile attempt to return to the prime ministership after he was ousted by ethics scandals just over three months ago.

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The prospect of Johnson’s return has thrown an already divided Conservative Party into further turmoil. He led the party to victory in the 2019 election, but his prime ministership was clouded by scandals over money and ethics, and the party eventually became unsustainable.

He threw in the towel On Sunday night, he assured the next national election that the “conservatives are well positioned to win”.

The turmoil in the Conservative Party is fueling calls for a national election. According to the British parliamentary system, there should not be one until the end of 2024Although the government has the power to call earlier.

At present, this seems unlikely. According to opinion polls, the election will be a disaster for the Conservatives, with the left-wing Labor Party winning a majority.

Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London, said the Conservative Party was still “not out of the woods” after choosing Sunak.

“Certainly, I think the voters, maybe they’ll give Rishi Sunak a little bit of credit for not being Liz Truss, certainly don’t love the whole Conservative Party,” he said. “So I don’t expect it to make a big difference in the polls.”


Associated Press writer Danica Kirka contributed to this story.


Follow all AP news on British politics at https://apnews.com/hub/british-politics


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