On October 25, Rishi Sunak was appointed Prime Minister of the United Kingdom by King Charles III after winning the Conservative Party leadership election the day before. The election was triggered by the resignation of Sunak’s predecessor Liz Truss, who stepped down after her devastating economic plan ruined financial markets and caused a governmental crisis. Sunak, who is now Britain’s third prime minister in 2022, faces the difficult job of fixing Britain’s economy, reuniting his party, and restoring public trust in the British government.
Due to these troubling times, many feel Sunak is not up to the task. His political record has come under heavy scrutiny in the past few weeks, with many focusing on his history of slashing benefits from Universal Credit, which is a form of welfare the UK government provides to people with low income. Despite these valid criticisms, I still believe that Sunak is the right man for restoring Britain’s financial state.
Sunak has previously served as Chancellor of the Exchequer from 2020 to 2022, giving him valuable experience working at the helm of Britain’s economy. As chancellor, he did an excellent job in handling Britain’s finances during COVID-19 by implementing big spending programs that helped businesses and citizens alike. His response to the pandemic has garnered him praise, and his furlough schemes ensured that millions of employees could take time off while still getting paid.
Given his experience, I believe Sunak is the most qualified member of the Conservative Party to serve as prime minister and the most likely candidate to stabilize an economy headed for a recession. Moreover, Sunak accurately predicted in August that Truss’s plans to cut taxes would end in disaster. He warned that increasing the budget deficit would skyrocket interest rates and drastically lower the pound, which quickly proved correct. Sunak’s appointment will likely mean a return to classic Tory economic policy: focusing on getting inflation under control before introducing tax cuts.
In addition, Sunak has already demonstrated shrewd judgment and a remarkable ability to lead in the early days of his administration. He has made major changes to Truss’s cabinet, which includes the removal of 11 members, but has also retained the services of a key few. Overall, Sunak has chosen people with high levels of experience in government, which sends a signal of stability to the British people. Sunak’s competency, eye for detail, and high level of confidence is just what Britain needs at this precarious moment.
Sunak’s appointment also carries symbolic weight. He is the first Hindu prime minister of the UK and the first racialized person to hold the office. Given that Sunak is of Indian descent, his appointment is seen as a groundbreaking milestone and a cause of celebration by racialized people worldwide.
Following Queen Elizabeth’s passing on September 8, England has come under more scrutiny for its colonial past. There’s no denying that the British empire has left behind a legacy of racism and oppression. In particular, it has been criticized for the crimes and thefts it has committed toward India, among other former colonies.
Finally, students here at U of T can also benefit from Sunak’s appointment because Canada’s relationship with Britain is likely to improve as a result of it. According to Tony McCulloch, a professor of North American studies at Oxford University, “[Sunak] will be much more traditional, much steadier… in foreign policy.” As a result, Canada’s negotiations with Britain over a new free trade deal will likely achieve greater stability.
Overall, there is no doubt that Sunak has a formidable task ahead of him — his country is in horrible economic condition; his party is highly divided and in desperate need of unity; and the country at large is in turmoil, with many angry at rising costs and interest rates. However, due to his background as chancellor, brave leadership, and high level of confidence, Sunak is the right man for the job. As he said outside of his residence at 10 Downing Street on the day of his appointment, “I fully appreciate how hard things are… all I can say is that I am not daunted.”
Rubin Beshi is a second year student at Woodsworth College studying political science and English. Beshi is The Varsity’s international affairs columnist.