LONDON – Rishi Sunak became Britain’s third prime minister in two months on Tuesday, entrusted with confronting a looming economic catastrophe, a feuding political party, and a severely divided society in one of the most difficult situations any new leader will face.
King Charles has asked the 42-year-old former hedge fund manager to form a government, and he will aim to halt the infighting and strife at Westminster that has frightened investors and concerned international allies.
He will soon address the country from Downing Street and then begin assembling his cabinet of senior ministers.
Sunak, one of parliament’s wealthiest members, will have to make severe expenditure cutbacks to cover a 40 billion pound ($45 billion) hole in the national budget caused by an economic downturn, rising borrowing rates, and a six-month scheme to help people with their energy bills.
Sunak will face mounting demands for an election if he deviates too far from the policy agenda that elected the Conservative Party in 2019, when then-leader Boris Johnson committed to spend massively in the nation.
Sunak’s appointment, according to economists and investors, will calm markets, but they caution that he has few simple alternatives when millions are facing a cost-of-living crisis.
“With a recession in 2023 becoming more likely and the next general election only two years away, Rishi Sunak should expect a hard premiership,” Scope ratings agency Eiko Sievert told Reuters.
Sunak has cautioned his colleagues that if they do not assist lead the country through the growing inflation and record energy bills that are causing many individuals and companies to cut back on spending, they will face a “existential disaster.”
“We now need stability and togetherness, and I will make it my first mission to bring our party and our nation together,” he declared after his MPs elected him on Monday.