Can Rishi Sunak Save Britain?

Sophia Robertson, Contributing Writer

Rishi Sunak was appointed Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (UK) on October 25th, 2022. If you’ve heard of him, it’s likely because he lost the UK Conservative Party’s internal leadership election to Liz Truss in September. Sunak takes office at a time of economic recession and political turmoil as the UK struggles to pass effective policy on international relations, climate change, immigration, and the energy crisis. But in order to understand the UK’s political fragmentation and the tipping point that is Sunak’s new government, one must first understand the failures of his predecessor, Liz Truss.

Truss entered office in early September, pushing a hard-line economic agenda of tax cuts and decreased social spending to combat inflation. Her fiscal plan, dubbed the “mini-budget” by government officials, proposed 49 billion pounds in tax cuts. Despite basic economic principles dictating that increasing the amount of money circulating in the economy would increase inflation, Truss insisted that her plan would boost the economy. Sunak challenged Truss’s plan on numerous occasions, referring to the proposal as “fairy-tale economics” and, in a Quint article, claiming that the implementation of her mini-budget would lead to “higher inflation … higher mortgage rates, and eroded savings.” Sunak’s prediction quickly came true.

Sunak takes office at a time of economic recession and political turmoil.

After 36 days of economic downturn and rapidly increasing energy and housing costs, Truss fired her finance minister and scaled back her tax cuts. Forty days into her term, Truss’s promises of “growth, growth, growth” seemed empty to millions of families unable to afford the cost of living. As foreign investors pulled money out of the UK, inflation continued to rise, and a British tabloid began a livestream to see if a head of lettuce could outlast Truss’s term; the Prime Minister’s credibility tanked. A week after she’d declared herself “a fighter, not a quitter” during a Parliament session, Truss announced her resignation, marking the shortest Prime Minister term in British history.  

Enter Rishi Sunak, who, just a few months ago, was ridiculed for challenging Truss’s fiscal plan. After Truss’s misguided attempts at economic reform, the Conservative Party is looking for stable leadership to guide the UK through the current crisis. According to the Guardian, Sunak has declared inflation the “number one enemy,” and is considering flat taxes on vehicles and goods to combat inflation. Sunak has voiced plans to address the immigration crisis on the English Channel and calls himself “a champion of clean energy.”

A closer look at Sunak’s plans, however, shows that he may have had a clearer vision of what not to do than what to actually do. His summer campaign promised increased fracking (an environmentally-harmful method of oil extraction) to reduce energy prices, national healthcare reform, and the removal of all European Union legislation from UK law. Sunak has recently rescinded each of these plans, instead proposing his Ten Point Plan, which vaguely aims to halt inflation, crack down on crime, and transform the UK. Into what? We’ll have to wait and see. Whatever Sunak’s policies, with such rapid Prime Minister turnover in recent years, the world is watching and wondering how long he’ll last.

This article also appears in the November 2022 print edition.