The world’s most renowned democracy faced quick changes in its Premiership’s position in the past few months with the resignations of Prime Ministers Boris Johnson in July and Liz Truss in October, and the appointment of the Indian-origin Commons member Rishi Sunak as the Leader of the Conservative Party and the first British Asian and Hindu Prime Minister of the country.

Sunak assumed the office of Prime Minister of the UK on the 25th of October with the support of 128 Conservative lawmakers. The former Prime Minister Boris Johnson had the support of 53 members while Penny Mordaunt turned stood third with the support of 23.

Government crises in the UK leading up to the transitions

The changes happened because of two major reasons that are taken quite seriously when it comes to the democratic values of British politics.

The first reason was Johnson’s controversial position as the Premier because of the Chris Pincher scandal. Also, he was accused of offensive remarks and his cabinet members also considered him a politician with a lack of “integrity.”

The remarks made Johnson a controversial politician due to his opinion regarding Hijab-clad Muslim women by comparing them with “Letterboxes” as well as accusations towards him of sexual misconduct.

Some important cabinet members resigned including newly elected Prime Minister Sunak along with other important Conservative Party members, including Ben Wallace. This made it difficult for Boris Johnson’s government to carry on with the duties

Secondly, the recession in the British economy became another major cause. The political uncertainty under the administration and the point of higher fuel costs and other commodities played a significant role.

There was a decline impacting the economy of the UK in the past two years of 2021 and 2022, lowering the per capita income. The Financial Times indicated that the UK had faced a 0.3 percent decrease in economic output.

Leading economist, Chris Williamson told Financial Times that, “price pressures had eased because of the economic downturn, the weak pound and high energy costs meant input cost inflation remained higher than at any time in the survey’s pre-pandemic history.”

There are already downfalls in the manufacturing and services sectors of the UK, as the political disturbance rose due to changes of terms in the 10th Downing Street.

The 45-day long-ruling Prime Minister, Liz Truss, appointed new cabinet officials and promised to bring reforms that will help the UK to fight the economic downturn.

The appointment of Liz Truss as Prime Minister after Johnson was celebrated as a way ahead for bringing economic progress to the UK on a popular level.

Therefore, her short-term as Prime Minister couldn’t initiate a good plan for the economy of the UK. Truss started radicalized plans for economic growth by imposing cancellation on tax cuts and setting barriers in the banking bonuses.

The plan that was initiated by the government of Truss in the parliament led to a downturn in the British economy. The policies that were initiated included reducing business taxes and removing barriers in the banking bonuses through financial reforms that further pushed toward the recession.

There was also a poor push by Truss to achieve her political agenda, as she promised to initiate the policies for rising household commodities and services. She also pointed out the support for corporate and business sectors by initiating a friendly mini-budget through tax cuts.

The steps in the shape of U-Turns by Truss’s government came out when she added that tax cuts in the businesses and households will cause the inflation rate to reach higher.

Truss did not get much support as MPs in the Conservative party rallied to remove her from the seat. It was because of her U-Turns in the shape of canceling the tax cuts.

She called herself the “fighter,” but the steps she took to improve the economy did not work well. Her plans were also flawed because she did not set a proper direction for them.

She had to face a crisis in her leadership as well because there were no capable or potential officials she appointed in her cabinet that could achieve the best in UK’s interests.

The newly appointed Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Sunak remained the Chief Secretary of the Treasury and has experience working in finance and economy.

The succession of Sunak to power will be another interesting chapter in the political and parliamentary history of the UK considering the state of its economic affairs. 

Rishi Sunak has to face the economic challenges not handled by the leading figures of his party despite being considered the hope for the country’s economic stability.

Banks and businesses are already in confusion due to Truss’s mismanaged financial measures and U-Turns.

Way Ahead 

Sunak’s administration is already facing a 10% rise in the inflation rate. There is also a downfall in the currency exchange rate of the British Pound, and almost every department of the UK is under public debt.

Therefore, the new administration under the former Chancellor of the Exchequer & Chief Secretary to the Treasury Sunak will focus on the stability of the interest rate.

It is because the new administration under Sunak will focus on cuts in the expenses of the governmental departments and imposing lower interest rates.

Sunak will focus on appointing special advisors to improve economic diplomacy and find credible solutions for fuel and energy adjustments.

In this regard, the rising in the power by Sunak led to positive developments in the stock markets, where the British Pound had started to show some little progress.

It is because that businesses and the financial communities also consider the background of Sunak as a potential aspect to bring in a positive change.

The calming of markets inside the UK is also a signal that the new PM’s appointment had given hope to the people and businesses that Sunak will take essential steps for fixing the surging inflation.

Therefore, dealing with the rising fuel and commodity prices in a successful manner will be a defining point of his political career as well as his credibility of being an expert economist.

Sunak’s way ahead in his quest to curb the economic problems will also be a major challenge for him and the Conservative Party because the party’s government under Johnson already had created chaos.

The cuts in social security by Johnson’s government shocked British households that impacted almost six million people. 500,000 among those six million were pushed towards poverty.

Therefore, bringing them back above will be a challenge for the position of Sunak. The pro-austerity stance of Sunak may make it more challenging for his new government as sustaining the former government’s position on social security of the people will continue pushing the people towards poverty.

He had already assured of the reviewing of budgets (costs on the departments/ministries including defense, administration, and industries) that were accredited to all the important ministries and sectors of the government.

However, the question remains whether he will be able to deal with the quick political changes, in which Sunak played a major role in bringing down a stronger dissent against the government of Boris Johnson.

Therefore, Sunak made credible and understandable promises to fix the economy and had shown a different political status than the former Prime Ministers, including Johnson and Truss.

He will continue some of the reforms that were taken by Truss, but will also try to make some improving steps by cutting back much of spending unlike the government of Johnson.


*The writer is a Fellow at The Diplomatic Insight, published by the Institute of Peace and Diplomatic Studies 

**The Diplomatic Insight does not take any position on issues and the views represented herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Diplomatic Insight and its staff.