Illustration by Aakif Rattu

Rishi Sunak’s Tumultuous Road Ahead: Crisis and Representation

Can Britain’s unelected new Prime Minister, its first nonwhite leader, do the unthinkable and pull Britain out of its economic crisis?

Nov 13, 2022

Truss out. Sunak in. After just 44 days in office, the former Prime Minister (PM) of the UK, Liz Truss, has left office. Rishi Sunak is now the third PM in less than five months. The former Chancellor is the very first PM of colour, the first Hindu, Asian, and youngest PM in the UK’s history. A Diwali gift to the UK? It is indeed a historic day in breaking the glass ceiling. But of course, not everyone is happy. Great feats don't come without great controversy. Rishi Sunak has a net worth double that of King Charles III, making him the richest person to ever hold the office. What does it mean for the UK, with its general public struggling economically and facing austerity policies spearheaded by Sunak?
The UK is going through an immense economic and energy crisis right now. The Bank of England is struggling to keep inflation rates below two percent, the pound (GBP) is mirroring the value of the dollar (USD), and energy bills are skyrocketing. There’s much to complain about and a lot of questions to ask. And does Sunak have the chance to answer them? As Britain’s first brown Prime Minister, many racists are simply unhappy that he is in power. A caller on the LBC radio show said that 85 percent of the English are white so they just want to see a PM who looks like them.
Party leaders should give Sunak a breather for at least a month, because they’ve already been breathing down his neck. Sir Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour party, is the first on any occasion to speak ill of the Tory party. It’s his job, after all, to direct the Labour party and ensure that they have a chance at the next election. Boris Johnson’s win on behalf of the Conservative party in 2019 reinforced the fact that Labour won’t win the PM seat anytime soon. Let’s be honest here: there isn’t going to be a Labour government in the very near future, and getting Rishi out is only going to make matters worse for the entire country. We saw how bad it was when Truss lost her Cabinet ministers one by one and then resigned. The UK economy depends on Sunak having a chance to lead and executing it in good faith. Another general election is the last thing needed. It’s true that Rishi was not elected but appointed. He was voted by Tory MPs only, and not by all MPs or by the citizens of the country. After the shambles of Tory leadership over the last few years perhaps the people deserve a say. But right now we need to unite. The Bank of England stated recently that the UK is facing a “very challenging” economic outlook and a historically long recession. We can’t afford to waste time on the typical marketing schemes and political campaigns of MPs fighting amongst each other for the top spot. The general opinion, I assure you, is “we don’t care who it is at this point, just get it done.” As a country, we need to make it through this together and survive. That’s what it has come to.
Rishi’s judgments as leader are rightly questioned based on his net worth. He hasn’t had a similar upbringing to most Brits, and he probably doesn’t fully comprehend the scope of the NHS. But he worked hard to get here, and most of his wealth comes from his wife, daughter of the Founder of Infosys. When was the last time Britain had a PM who wasn’t wealthy? I think the gross income of our leaders is not our dearest concern right now. Besides pressing economic issues, it might be more important to discuss his political facade. As a former Cabinet minister, he knows the game very well. Standing out from the great symbolism of his achievement is the same Conservative politician mindset, spewing out the same political agenda and generalised assurances of the last few years. He could very well be the same failed Tory forerunner in a different skin. His chosen team in particular is very unsettling. Priti Patel, the Home Secretary with Ugandan Indian parents, has shown no remorse for her harsh policies in deporting immigrants to Rwanda. Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary with Indian-Mauritius and Indian-Kenyan parents, has been quoted as saying “the British Empire was a force for good.” Kemi Badenoch, Secretary of State for International Trade with Nigerian parents, has made it illegal for schools to talk about white privilege, and used Black History Month to defend Britain's colonial history. What we may be seeing here is the unfortunate case where racial diversity is in fact counteracting social good. I really hope Rishi doesn’t do the same, but his selection of the Cabinet members says otherwise.
It is important to reiterate just how phenomenal and historical this last year has been regarding India’s relationship with the UK. India now has a higher GDP than the UK, there are more Indians than any other non-UK born resident in England, it’s the 75th anniversary of Indian independence and of the Partition, Queen Elizabeth II died, and of course Rishi Sunak is now Prime Minister. As days go by, I come further to the realisation as to where we are right now. It is incredible that we finally have an Indian sitting in No. 10 Downing Street. Churchill would have never ever imagined it.
Hopefully, King Charles and PM Sunak will work well together. Charles has a controversial history within the Royal Family himself, being much more vocal than the rest of his family. But over my lifetime I’ve seen him change significantly. He’s matured a lot, he’s now grounded himself, he has a great interest in youth engagement, environmental conservation and charity work, and after the passing of his mother he’s far more dutiful to the Monarchy than ever before. He has giant shoes to fill, but there’s no better role model than his mother, and he’s been training for this moment his whole life. He will most definitely be more vocal than Queen Elizabeth, but hopefully for good reasons. Both Charles and Rishi are equally fresh faces for their important positions in the UK. Destiny has bound the two nations, UK and India, together for more pivotal milestones and decisions.
Right now, Rishi looks to be doing a decent job and it’s only been a few weeks. Recently, he’s gone back on his decision to not attend the COP27 climate summit in Egypt. He’s now acknowledging the global climate situation, but perhaps decided to attend not out of empathy, but embarrassment. Nonetheless, he now needs to urgently push Britain to meet climate targets, especially after the country is failing to pay roughly £300 million to climate funding bodies. He is still in his “probationary period” whereby he’s taking serious measures to get the country back in order, but simultaneously trying to appease his Tory Cabinet, most of whom are a lot older than him. We judged Liz Truss very quickly in her 44 days, but are still waiting to see what Sunak’s leadership brings. Rishi must stand in for longer. The country, the GBP, and the world economy can’t afford another resignation.
(Honestly, I’m just waiting for him to give India back the Kohinoor as his next move. He’s most definitely got enough money to replace it with an identical replica).
Devjoy Dev is a Contributing Writer. Email them at
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