Seven weeks after being defeated in his first attempt to be the Prime Minister of the UK, former Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is set to replace Liz Truss as prime minister and make history as the first person of color to ever be the Premier of the UK.
Sunak, 42, emerged victorious on Monday after a brisk contest by the ruling Conservatives to select a new party leader and, by extension, the U.K.’s new prime minister. The process began after Truss resigned Thursday as the shortest-serving premier in the history of the United Kingdom, following a turbulent tenure that roiled the markets causing record inflation and sparking chaos among the Conservative parliamentary rank and file.
Due to the sheer stroke of luck, Sunak was the only leadership candidate to receive the minimum 100 signatures required from fellow Conservative lawmakers by a Monday afternoon deadline. Rival Penny Mordaunt failed to secure enough votes, and former Prime Minister Boris Johnson pulled out of the election for unknown reasons.
Sunak, who built his business career in investment banking before switching to politics eight years ago, will become Britain’s third prime minister in less than two months, following the resignations of Truss and Johnson in the middle of political anarchy. Of Indian descent, Sunak will be the first non-white to be the PM of Britain, which, by contrast, has already had three female prime ministers.The incoming prime minister won’t officially take office until the reigning King Charles formally appoints him and requests that he form an administration.
Challenges to face
Like his predecessors, Truss and Johnson, who resigned in July after political pressure applied were too much for them, Sunak will have monumental tasks ahead of him in a struggling Britain.
Inflation is at its highest level in 40 years as the nation is looking at a dark winter of soaring energy costs. The pound has hovered close to parity with the dollar, an effect of the tax-slashing policies of Truss that sent markets into disarray and tumbling leading to her downfall. Sunak, at least, can claim to have better economic sense after having warned that Truss’ tax plans were a “fairy tale” that is not realistic and whose numbers would not “add up” because they cut billions from the government’s budget without making up for even a fraction of the losses.
But he, too, will have to deal with breakaway sentiment in Scotland that could flare once more could eventually lead to devastating results. He also has to counter the long-term economic and cultural ramifications of Brexit, which have yet to become fully apparent since the move took effect in 2020.
Sunak also faces a party in disarray. Conservatives enjoy a strong majority over their opponents but have been torn by infighting over their party’s direction. Their biggest competitors are them. The fight for the party leadership has haunted them big time in the last few months. A general election is not expected until January 2025, but polls have shown that if one were held now, the Conservatives would be wiped out by their opponents, the Labor Party.