Sunak's first speech shows that many challenges ahead

But his (Rishi Sunak's) most important task would be to unite a governing party that is riven with divisions, apart from tackling a mounting economic crisis, a warring political party, and a deeply divided country, writes Asad Mirza.
Rishi Sunak (File Photo)
Rishi Sunak (File Photo)IANS

By: Asad Mirza

The Conservative Party of the UK showed a lot of grit in finalizing the name of Rishi Sunak, as the new prime minister of the country very quickly, bringing an end to Liz Truss's short tenure as the prime minister riddled with bad decisions.

Rishi Sunak has become the UK's 57th prime minister, the first prime minister to be a British Asian, the first Hindu, and the richest person to have held the office.

Former prime minister David Cameron exuded confidence in 2014 when he had prophesized to see a British Asian taking on his role his lifetime.

Lo and behold, the words came true in just eight years.

The Conservative Party selected the newest British prime minister just four days, after the previous prime minister Liz Truss' resignation on October 20.

Her shortest 44 days tenure left behind a trail of rising inflation, rising borrowing costs, and predicted deficits on a massive scale, which will likely require either significant tax increases, spending cuts, or both.

The last chapter of Liz Truss's tenure unfolded along the same lines as it happened during the last days of the previous prime minister Boris Johnson.

Rishi Sunak (File Photo)
Diwali parties hosted by Bollywood

In BoJo's case, the crisis was precipitated by the resignation of his then Chancellor of Exchequer, Rishi Sunak and in Truss's case, it snowballed after the resignation of her Home Secretary Suella Braverman.

Rishi Sunak after getting an invite from King Charles III to form the next government tweeted that he'll fulfill promises listed in the Conservative Party's election manifesto in 2019, saying: "I will deliver on (our manifesto's) promise. A stronger NHS, better schools, safer streets, control of our borders, protecting our environment, supporting our armed forces, leveling up, and building an economy that embraces the opportunities of Brexit where businesses invest, innovate and create jobs."

Sunak acknowledged that in light of everything that has transpired, he still has work to do to rebuild confidence.

He declared: "I'm not daunted."

He also said he understands the strain of the high position and that he'll not leave the next generation with a "debt to settle that we were too weak to pay ourselves".

In his first speech as UK prime minister, Sunak declared that his administration would uphold integrity, professionalism, and accountability at every level and pledged economic stability, and increase the public's confidence in the government.

But his most important task would be to unite a governing party that is riven with divisions, apart from tackling a mounting economic crisis, a warring political party, and a deeply divided country.

The Conservative Party, despite having suffered a series of recent by-election defeats, still maintains a working parliamentary majority of 71, meaning that Britain's next general election could conceivably come as late as January 2025.

Apart from the demands of the opposition's Labour Party, other voices are also increasing in intensity demanding the Conservatives go in for a general election. Sunak became a prime minister without public support, as he was voted to be an MP, not a PM.

Rishi Sunak (File Photo)
Russia-Ukraine War: Russia To Raise 'Dirty Bomb' Accusation at UN Security Council

Meanwhile in India, the news of Sunak becoming the prime minister on the auspicious day of Diwali was greeted with joy. The social media exploded in a series of accolades for Sunak, his family, and his in-laws.

The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: "As you become UK PM, I look forward to working closely together on global issues, and implementing Roadmap 2030," referring to the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) struck between the two countries and which was expected to be signed and delivered last week, before Diwali.

Meanwhile, India's arch-rival Pakistan's public also laid claim to Sunak, describing him as a Pakistani, as his parents belonged to Gujranwala, now in Pakistan.

Twitterati even urged the Pakistani government to lay claim to him as a Pakistani.

India has high hopes for Sunak to change the dimensions of the bilateral relationship. But Indian politicians need to understand that Sunak is not an Indian by birth and his outlook is more attuned to being a British citizen.

His Britishness helped him to achieve professionally as a banker and as a politician, what he is today. So his total outlook toward India would be a pragmatic one, not an emotional one.

One can't see him undoing what his predecessors had done in the past. But perhaps a new king and a new prime minister might be able to start a new chapter in bilateral relations and may change the overall view of the British polity towards India and Indians in the UK.

Only time would tell. (KB/IANS)

(Asad Mirza is a political commentator based in New Delhi)

Related Stories

No stories found.