xi's moments
Home | Europe

Sunak takes the helm at critical time for UK

By CHEN YINGQUN | China Daily | Updated: 2022-10-26 10:50

Pressure is on new PM to ease economic troubles and unite party, analysts say

Britain's new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak waves outside Number 10 Downing Street, in London, Britain, October 25, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

Former finance minister Rishi Sunak on Tuesday became the United Kingdom's third prime minister this year, inheriting a daunting pile of problems including an economy heading for recession, analysts said.

Sunak, 42, became Britain's new prime minister on Tuesday after meeting King Charles III in Buckingham Palace. He is the country's first prime minister of Indian origin and the youngest in more than 200 years.

He replaced Liz Truss, who held the job for only 45 days, making her the shortest-serving prime minister in British history. She was forced to resign after overseeing a calamitous tax-slashing budget that sparked economic and political turmoil.

In a public address on Monday, Sunak said: "We now need stability and unity, and I will make it my utmost priority to bring our party and our country together."

Kong Yuan, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of European Studies, said Sunak's leadership could stabilize the situation in the UK but might not bring dramatic change.

"Sunak has a couple of difficult tasks he needs to tackle urgently," he said. "His top priority is solving the economic crisis, with inflation exceeding 10 percent, owing to soaring energy tariffs and food prices."

The new prime minister will also need to maintain the balance of public finances in the UK. "One major problem facing the UK is that it has a large amount of debt," Kong said.

"Government spending will have to be cut as a measure to reduce expenditure, though it's expected to encounter a lot of pressure. Raising taxes will be another measure, though opinion is hugely divided on what kind of tax should be raised."

The Conservative Party's frequent change in leadership this year has shown that members are divided, damaging the party's public image — a problem that Sunak will need to address, he said.

'More turmoil ahead'

Kong said that Sunak has been chosen at a challenging time for the UK, and if he is unable to improve things, the country may face more turmoil. His Hindu identity presents the openness and inclusiveness of the UK society, but also there may be controversy among people dedicated to preserving local culture.

Ding Chun, director of the Center for European Studies at Fudan University, said the UK's high inflation and surging living costs are key challenges that have upset the public. In addition, Brexit has badly affected the British economy, society and political sector, and the Russia-Ukraine conflict has made the situation worse.

Since Brexit, Conservative Party members have lacked consensus on future development, leading to infighting. This summer, members chose Truss over Sunak, signaling that they were still not ready for a Hindu to lead the party, he said.

Ding said the recent chaos has seriously weakened the party, and if the situation continues, it could face a fight for its survival.

"Sunak becoming prime minister showed that the party has realized it needs to respond to the public's needs; that is, whoever becomes prime minister will have to truly deal with the economic problems and reduce living costs. Election slogans no longer work," he said.

He said it may be the party's last chance to promote internal unity and consolidate its ruling position.

Besides domestic problems, Sunak also faces external challenges such as relations with the European Union, Ding added.

When asked at a daily briefing on Tuesday to comment on Sunak becoming prime minister, China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said that China's position on developing China-UK relations has been consistent and clear.

Maintaining and developing bilateral relations is the common responsibility of both countries and serves the common interests of the two peoples, he said.


Global Edition
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349