Story Courtesy: The NY Times
Rishi Sunak would have every right to be smug.
Throughout the summer, Mr. Sunak, Britain’s former finance minister — and now the front-runner for prime minister — warned against the economic policies of Liz Truss as he competed with her for the nation’s top job, and then lost. From the first television debate, when he described her plans as a “fairy tale,” to the final days of the contest, when he said he “struggled to see” how Ms. Truss’s tax cuts and spending plans would “add up,” he sounded the alarm.
For the past six weeks, Mr. Sunak has been lying low as his economic predictions have played out at a dizzying speed. Investors balked at Ms. Truss’s widespread tax cuts and increased borrowing; the pound slumped; government borrowing costs soared; the mortgage market was upended; and the central bank had to intervene. After just 44 days as prime minister, Ms. Truss resigned last week with her economic agenda in tatters.
Mr. Sunak’s relatively gloomy attitude over the summer, warnings about inflation and strict adherence to fiscal conservatism may have cost him the opportunity to be named prime minister in September. But less than two months later, these same characteristics and accurate prognosis of the effects of Ms. Truss’s program have eased his pathway to Britain’s top job.
After Boris Johnson, the former prime minister, took himself out of the running on Sunday, Mr. Rishi Sunak has cemented his commanding lead in the contest.
“He clearly comes with the huge advantage” of being able to say everyone was warned, said Jill Rutter, a former civil servant and a senior fellow at the Institute for Government, a London-based research group.
“The United Kingdom is a great country, but we face a profound economic crisis,” Mr. Sunak said in a statement on Sunday, announcing that he was running. He added that he wanted to “fix our economy” and that he had a track record of delivery.
Mr. Sunak’s office declined a request for an interview on Sunday evening after Mr. Johnson’s withdrawal. But, in a tweet, Mr. Sunak praised Mr. Johnson for Brexit and the coronavirus vaccine rollout.
“I truly hope he continues to contribute to public life at home and abroad,” Mr. Sunak added.
Rise in Politics
Mr. Sunak’s rise in politics has been uncommonly rapid. In early 2020, at just 39 years old, he was catapulted into the position of chancellor of the Exchequer, in Britain’s treasury department, by Mr. Johnson. He has held a seat in Parliament only since 2015. Mr. Sunak became the nation’s most popular politician after spending hundreds of billions of pounds on emergency pandemic measures, including paying people’s wages and arranging generous grant and loan programs for businesses.
For a long time Mr. Rishi Sunak was considered Mr. Johnson’s heir apparent. But then his political star suddenly started to fall earlier this year.
His efforts to shrink the vast pandemic-era public spending were met with a drop in popularity and policy U-turns. In March, as inflation started to bite in Britain and fears grew over a cost-of-living crisis, Mr. Sunak announced only limited support to help vulnerable households. Two months later, he came up with a more generous plan that offered every household hundreds of pounds in discounts off energy bills.
The criticism of Mr. Sunak has been intensified by his wealth. Photographs of him wearing designer clothes and using “smart” coffee mugs that cost hundreds of dollars and revelations that he owned a Peloton exercise bike have created an image of someone who is out of touch with a population squeezed by the highest inflation rate in four decades.