Rishi Sunak marks 100 days as UK prime minister as problems mount

LONDON: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak There are angry unions on his left, nervous Conservative lawmakers on his right and, in the middle, the millions of voters he must win over to avoid election defeat.
It is a difficult situation for Sunak, who will mark 100 days in office on Thursday, more than double the days of his ill-fated predecessor. Shoes Liz. Appointed leader of the Conservative Party after Truss’ massive tax cut plan caused panic, Sunak, 42, calmed financial markets and averted an economic meltdown as he assumed this position on October 25.
Next, Britain’s youngest leader in two centuries – and the first prime minister of South Asian heritage – promised to tame soaring inflation, boost a sluggish economy, ease pressure on pressure on an overwhelmed healthcare system and “restore integrity back to politics” after years of scandals under former Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Easier said than done.
“The things that happened before I became prime minister, I can’t do anything about it,” Sunak told a group of medical staff this week. “What I think you can hold me accountable is the way I deal with things that come up on my watch.”
Jill Rutter, a senior fellow at the Institute for Government Studies, said Sunak had succeeded in overcoming the impression that the UK “has a government that is completely insane”.
“You would consider it the first thing that he has on his to-do list,” she said. “Otherwise, it’s a bit difficult to see concrete achievements.”
Sunak is a former UK Finance Secretary and his first priority is the country’s economic unrest. Gross domestic product remains smaller than it was before the coronavirus pandemic, and the International Monetary Fund forecast this week that the UK will be the only major economy to contract this year, down 0.6%.
Sunak blamed global forces – the disruption caused by the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Critics say the elephant in the room is Brexit, which has led to a sharp drop in trade between the UK and the European Union.
Sunak, a longtime supporter of Britain’s departure from the bloc, insisted on Wednesday that the cost of living crisis “has nothing to do with Brexit.”
Whatever the cause, Sunak has little economic room to maneuver. Annual inflation hit a four-decade high of 11.1% in October and remained at 10.5% in December. The UK is in the midst of its biggest wave of strikes in decades as nurses, healthcare workers, teachers, border officers and other workers looking to raise wages to offset rising living costs and the growing stress of keeping jobs in the public sector threadbare.
Meanwhile, one faction within the Conservative Party is pushing for an immediate tax cut to encourage growth, despite the damage caused by “Trussonomics” just a few months ago.
Lawmaker Iain Duncan Smith, a former party leader, said: “We need growth or our debts will get bigger and bigger. “Targeted tax relief will help get there.”
Sunak is fighting both the labor union and the Tories tax cuts. He argued that a double-digit public sector wage increase would push inflation even higher and that “the best tax cut right now is to cut inflation.”
Economists say UK inflation is likely to ease in 2023, allowing Sunak to meet one of its key commitments. Other goals may be more difficult to achieve.
He is seeking to improve relations with the 27-member EU and both sides have made progress in resolving a dispute over Northern Ireland’s trade rules that has burdened businesses and made regional government in Belfast to close.
But any deal would anger Conservative European skeptics, who are likely to see the resumption of relations with Brussels as a Brexit betrayal. A compromise has also been met with opposition from Northern Ireland’s British unionists, who argue that post-Brexit customs checks undermine Northern Ireland’s position in the UK.
Sunak has also struggled to get rid of the Conservative Party’s reputation of scandal and sleaze. A member of his Cabinet, Gavin Williamson, resigned in November over allegations of bullying. On Sunday, Sunak fired party chairman Nadhim Zahawi for failing to clear up a multimillion-dollar tax dispute. Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab is being investigated over allegations he bullied public servants.
The leader of the opposition Labor Party, Keir Starmer, accused on Wednesday that Sunak was “too weak” to tackle bad behaviour.
UK voters still do not have their say over Sunak, who was chosen as party leader by 355 Conservative members of Parliament. The government doesn’t have to hold a national election until the end of 2024, so Sunak may have time to be on his side.
Or, he might not. The Conservatives are trailing Labor by 20 points or more in opinion polls, and a poor result in local elections in May could spur calls for other leadership changes.
Some Conservatives yearn for the return of Johnson, whose last words before Parliament as prime minister – “Hasta la vista, honey” – hinted at a return.
Some analysts say it may be too late for any Conservative leader to avoid defeat. An Ipsos poll released this week, considered accurate to 4 percentage points, found that 66% of respondents wanted to change the ruling party. Only 10% think the Conservatives have done a good job.
Steven Fieldinga professor of politics at the University of Nottingham, compares the mood to the last years of Prime Minister John Major’s government, obliterated by Tony BlairThe landslide Labor election in 1997 ended 18 years of Conservative rule.
“People just wait for them to go,” Fielding said. “And the longer they stay there, the more upset (the voters) get with them.”
He said Sunak “is trying his best. But people don’t listen.”


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