The rise of Rishi Sunak to the top job in British politics is remarkable.
Just seven weeks ago he was comprehensively beaten by Liz Truss in the Conservative party’s leadership contest. Today, after emerging victorious in a leadership contest that was fast-tracked out of the wreckage of her short premiership, he is only an audience with King Charles III away from Downing Street.
The man who served as Boris Johnson’s finance minister for two and a half years, only to resign and bring down Johnson’s government, now faces the unenviable task of picking up a reeling nation after Truss’s disastrous tenure.
He will do so, it’s fair to assume, by implementing the economic plan that he outlined during his failed leadership bid earlier this year. Sunak criticized Truss’ plans to slash taxes and fund day-to-day spending through borrowing, saying it would cause economic havoc.
He was proved right when Truss’ government implemented her plans in a “mini-budget,” which caused the pound to fall to its lowest level in decades and collapsed bond prices, sending borrowing costs soaring and pushing pension funds to the brink of insolvency.
As Sunak also predicted, rising interest rates drove up mortgage repayments, and lenders scrambled to pull their products from the market, dashing the hopes of many prospective homeowners almost overnight.
Britain’s international reputation had already taken a hit before Truss came to office. The endless scandals that ultimately forced Johnson from office, on top of his repeated threats to break international law over the Brexit deal he personally agreed with the European Union, had not made world leaders well-disposed towards the UK.
Sunak’s accession can be directly attributed to the chaos of the past few months. He is seen as a safe pair of hands, having won wide praise for his handling of the economy during the Covid-19 pandemic, helping businesses and citizens with big government spending programs that saved many livelihoods. His job now is clear: To bring calm.
Unfortunately for Sunak, he has inherited a political party that has spent the past few years tearing chunks out of itself. The Conservative party of 2022 is defined by factionalism and split loyalties that made it ungovernable for both Johnson and Truss.