While it would probably need a magic wand (or many!) to erase the problems facing the UK in one swift stroke, PM Rishi Sunak has already set the country on a path of course correction.
By Nichola Marie
This October, Rishi Sunak completed a year as Britain’s first Indian-origin Prime Minister. He had taken charge at 10 Downing Street in turbulent times with the country facing several domestic and global challenges. He replaced outgoing PM Liz Truss, infamous for her disastrous mini-budget, who became the shortest-serving PM in UK history. Truss herself replaced the scandal-hit Boris Johnson. In this furiously rocking boat, PM Sunak has been the proverbial calm in the storm.
Delivering For The Public
A year in office and there was zero jingoistic chest-thumping from his end. In a video posted on social media, Sunak said, “We’ve achieved a lot in the year since I became PM. But be in no doubt, there’s so much more to do. I know this year has been tough. And there is still work to be done to help hardworking families across the country, but I’m proud of the steps we’ve made.” Calm, sensible, competent, dignified, respectful, pleasant and pertinent – it’s how the world is increasingly coming to see and know PM Sunak over his past year in office.
As spokesman Max Blain plainly put it, Sunak is “focused on delivering for the public rather than marking an anniversary.”
Praising the party leader on his one-year milestone, the governing Conservative party chairman, Greg Hands, maintained, “When Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister a year ago today, he took immediate action to support families with the cost of living, paying half their energy bills. Since then we have made good progress towards halving inflation, growing the economy, reducing debt, cutting NHS waiting lists, and stopping the boats.”
Hands added, “But for the last 30 years, the Prime Minister recognises that there has been too much short-term political decision-making, politicians taking the easy way out, ducking the hard choices, rather than fixing the underlying problems. The Prime Minister has proven he is the only person who is determined to change that.”
In addition to external challenges posed by the RussiaUkraine conflict followed by the Israel-Hamas conflict, at home Sunak faces inflation and cost of living pressures. With the UK preparing for a general election next year, there is also the anti-incumbency factor at play against the Conservatives. Opinion polls worryingly show the Conservatives trail between 15 and 20 points behind the Labour party.
In a speech made in January 2023, PM Sunak outlined his top priorities, setting goals for his Government. These were, namely –
• Halving inflation to ease the cost of living and give people financial security.
• Growing the economy, creating better-paid jobs and opportunities across the country.
• Ensuring that national debt is falling to secure the future of public services. • Reducing healthcare backlog.
• Passing new laws to stop small boats, making sure that if you come to this country illegally, you are detained and swiftly removed.
What Britain’s first lady Akshata Murty said about her PM husband
Early in October this year, as Rishi Sunak prepared to deliver his maiden speech as UK Prime Minister to the Conservative party conference in Manchester, he received a surprise introduction from his “best friend” – wife Akshata Murty.
In a personal and warm speech, the 43-year-old media-shy heiress, fashion designer and venture capitalist made some interesting revelations. Daughter of Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy, she told the gathered party members about what drives her husband and joked about his love for romantic comedy films.
She began by sharing that the PM had “no idea” what she was going to say. “Yes, you are absolutely right, I am not on the agenda for today. A bit of a surprise addition shall we say and a surprise for my husband too, who has no idea what I am going to say,” she told the gathering in Manchester.
“The reason why I’m here is really quite simple. And it’s because Rishi and I are each other’s best friends. It gives me the greatest pleasure to introduce you to a wonderful father, my best friend and your Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak,” she said.
“I’m afraid he does love a good rom-com. The cheesier, the better, even,” she said to applause. “You’ll be relieved to hear that episodes of ‘Emily in Paris’ are not informing his outlook on the EU.”
Mentioning that she and Rishi met when they were 24 and both studying abroad in America, she said, “Right from the very beginning, I was struck by two things about him… his deep love for his home, the United Kingdom, and his sincere desire to ensure as many people as possible have a chance to have the opportunities he was lucky enough to have had. It completely energised him. Being with Rishi was the easiest decision of my life.”
She told the Conservative conference that what most drew her to her husband was his “honesty, integrity and firm understanding of right from wrong. …We’re one team, and I could not imagine being anywhere else than here today, with all of you to show my support to him and to the party.”
Interestingly, while Murty has appeared with Sunak on diplomatic trips this year, including to India for the G20 Summit, and Japan, she has rarely taken centre stage at a major event. The couple are the richest ever occupants of 10 Downing Street. An Indian citizen, Murty owns shares in Infosys worth roughly $600 million as of April ‘23. The couple are parents to daughters Krishna and Anoushka.
The report card a year later definitely shows improvement. The market calmed. Sunak also managed to mend relations with the European Union, which had frayed during Britain’s acrimonious divorce from the bloc. Importantly, inflation, which peaked at 11.1% in late 2022, was down to 6.7% in September. Though marginal, the economy is now growing by around 0.5% per annum.
Analysts see Sunak as having reinvented himself as a shakethings-up leader, making the moves that make a difference. He announced that he was slowing moves to phase out fossil fuels in order to save taxpayers money. An over-budget high-speed railway project was also curtailed. He has also announced plans to effectively ban smoking for the next generation with a gradual ban on buying cigarettes. As he himself told delegates at the Conservative conference, he was making “long-term decisions for a better future.”
Elections next year will show if he will be the one to guide the UK into that future. And he is evidently giving it his best shot. The video released by Sunak’s office recounted the achievements of the past year, while also telling viewers to “watch this space” for more wins. Sunak’s many supporters in the land of his forebears are expecting nothing less!