At the Queen’s funeral held a few days ago, 47-year-old “youngest female prime minister” Elizabeth Truss read a passage of the “Bible” and bid farewell to “eldest monarch” Elizabeth II. A month later, she appeared in front of the Prime Minister’s Office at 10 Downing Street and announced her resignation. She, who has provoked public grievances for her radical tax cuts and “throwing the pot” colleagues, failed to become the “new Mrs Thatcher”, but became the UK’s shortest-term prime minister with 45 days in power, and was ridiculed by the British media as “the term still remains.” No lettuce has a long shelf life.”
She was replaced by former chancellor Rishi Sunak, 42. On October 24, he won the election for the leadership of the British ruling Conservative Party, winning the position. This Indian “post-80s” with a neat suit and elegant hairstyle ushered in “the greatest honor in his life” and set two records for the United Kingdom: the first Asian prime minister and the youngest prime minister in more than 200 years.
Truss tweeted his congratulations: “You have my full support.” But Sunak “owns” another mess: an economic crisis costing Britain hundreds of billions of pounds, a broken Conservative Party. In the context of the Fed’s tough interest rate hikes, the turbulent situation in Russia and Ukraine, and the new crown pneumonia epidemic, what can he do?
”Britain is a great country, but is facing a serious economic crisis,” billionaire Sunak tweeted on October 23. “That’s why I want to be the leader of the Conservative Party and the next prime minister.”
The race was first among Conservative MPs. If there is no result, another all-party vote. On the same day, former Prime Minister Johnson, who is regarded as Sunak’s main rival, announced his withdrawal from the competition, while Mordaunt, the former defense minister and the leader of the Conservative Party of the House of Commons, only attracted more than 20 supporters, far from the threshold of 100. Sunak ended up being the only candidate to meet the threshold, automatically winning.
Sunak lost to Truss in the race to replace former Prime Minister Boris Johnson more than a month ago. Unexpectedly, Truss just took a “Prime Minister’s Experience Card”, and the loser in September will “fight ashore again” in October. At that time, King Charles III of England was still on his way back to London from his private estate in Sandringham. The coronation of the 74-year-old king himself will not be held until May next year, and now it is time to experience the taste of appointing a new prime minister.
On October 24, the handover could not be made in time. The next morning, Truss delivered a speech at the Prime Minister’s Office and went to Buckingham Palace to bid farewell to the king. The new party leader Sunak then “entered the palace to visit the king” and accepted the official appointment of the king. Described by the BBC as “steady, disciplined, and unassuming”, he finally couldn’t hide the joy on his face. After all, his parents only moved from India to the UK in the 1960s. Although it was a “sixty years of feng shui rotation”, this good fortune came really fast.
Sunak is a devout Hindu and visits a Hindu monastery almost every week. Everyone thinks that he may be blessed by the Hindu god of wealth, Kubera, who is in charge of wealth and good fortune. In addition to the identity of immigrant descendants and the skin color of South Asians, the biggest label on his body is money. His father is a general practitioner and his mother is a pharmacist who also runs a pharmacy. His parents sent him to a boarding school at Winchester School, which he said had brought him an “intellectual transformation” and put him “on a different path”. After being admitted to Oxford, he got a job in investment banking as a sophomore, and later worked for Goldman Sachs and a hedge fund, and co-founded an investment firm. His father-in-law is Narayana Murthy, co-founder of Indian tech giant Infosys. At the beginning of 2022, Sunak and his wife Akshata Murthy have a combined wealth of more than 730 million pounds (about 5.98 billion yuan).
Sunak was elected as a Conservative MP in 2015 and entered the political arena. In 2018, he was appointed Deputy Secretary of State for Local Government Affairs. In July 2019, he was appointed as Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Dispute and resign.
The former finance minister has been ridiculed by the British media for his “money smell”. He once wore a set of thousands of pounds of custom suits and brand-name leather shoes to inspect the construction site. He was ridiculed as “not very grounded” and exuded “elite arrogance”. He has also sparked controversy by saying he “has no working-class friends”. The British “Guardian” sarcastically said that it sounds unrealistic to let Sunak lead the UK through a “cost of living crisis” as a rich man.
In April 2022, British media revealed that Sunak’s wife used her status as a “non-UK tax resident” to evade tens of millions of pounds of British tax. He himself was also exposed as a permanent resident of the United States, “does not love England, and is not even British in the eyes of most people.”
Although not perfect, the conservative Sunak is more of a “firefighter” than Truss, who “will pave the way for this country to go bankrupt.” In the eyes of analysts, the Conservative Party hopes to avoid an early election with a quick fix, in order to maintain continuity in power and prove that it still has the ability to govern. Sunak had led the Ministry of Finance to deal with the economic crisis during the new crown pneumonia epidemic. Among them, the stimulus plan of 12 billion pounds (about 99.1 billion yuan) and the rescue plan of 350 billion pounds (about 2.89 trillion yuan) were popular among the people. support, and hence the name “British Economic Jedi”.
It is worth mentioning that Sunak issued a warning to his predecessor Truss: large-scale tax cuts will affect market confidence. He accused Truss of tax cuts without funding support, is “fairy tale economics”, but failed to attract attention. Now that he is prime minister, Truss’s lessons cannot be forgotten.
In July this year, Truss participated in the Conservative Party leadership election, proposing a political vision of “low taxes, high growth”. After she was appointed prime minister on September 6, she was eager to fulfill her campaign promise and announced the most radical tax cut plan in the UK since 1972, with a scale of up to 45 billion pounds (about 369.5 billion yuan). At that time, the Bank of England was adopting a radical monetary tightening policy (interest rate hike), while Truss launched a radical fiscal expansion policy (tax cut).
On July 26, 2022, Sunak, left, and Truss participate in a televised debate for the Conservative Party leadership in London.
At present, inflation in the UK is at the highest level in 40 years, and the public faces a serious cost of living crisis. In such a large environment, Truss’s actions quickly caused huge shocks, and the UK was on the verge of a “Lehman moment”: the stock market fell across the board, the pound plummeted, inflation continued to be high, government bonds were sold, and the British financial market lost more than 500 billion pounds
Some analysts believe that behind his reckless actions are his belief in the economic dogma of his political idol, Margaret Thatcher, and his ambition to be a reformer. However, the welfare state system in Margaret Thatcher’s era was basically complete and could make up for the financial deficit. At present, the British economy is facing a recession. Truss did not explain how to fill the fiscal loophole brought about by the tax cut, and underestimated his bold attempt. impact in the short term.
Moreover, Truss’s tax cut proposal is regarded as “protecting the rich and sacrificing the interests of the poor”, which goes against the current social consensus in the UK.
Under the dual pressure of the market and public opinion, Truss pulled the Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwarten out of the “top thunder”. She claimed that the decision to remove the top income tax rate was Kwarten’s decision, and the cabinet did not know beforehand. On October 14, Truss urgently recalled Kwarten, who was attending an international conference in the United States, and hurriedly announced his dismissal, and Hunter took over as Chancellor of the Exchequer.
On August 8, 2022, Sunak (first from the left) participated in the election campaign for the leadership of the British Conservative Party, and showed his people-friendly image on the street.
Some interpretations said that the dismissal of Kwarten was “one of the most cowardly political actions” by a British prime minister over the years, which was neither kind nor responsible. “Such a major event cannot be decided by the Minister of Finance. Take a step back and say, the Prime Minister does not participate in such a major event. Where is the leadership? How to win the trust of the people?” said Qian Feng, director of the research department of the National Institute for Strategic Studies at Tsinghua University.
In order to further “fire the fire”, Truss publicly apologized, saying that he “wanted to do too much and was too hasty”, and completely overturned the previous policy. The new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Hunt, is in charge of getting the job done. This inevitably left the British with the impression that their governance was capricious. According to Kong Yuan, an associate researcher at the Institute of European Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, after a series of policy turns, Truss’s credibility as prime minister has gone bankrupt. A British columnist wrote an article saying that more and more British media are “fanning the flames” and discussing “When will Trus fall from power” every day, leading readers to think so too.
Correspondingly, support for the Conservative Party has fallen again and again, and the number of MPs calling for Truss to resign has grown exponentially. The lawmakers began to “force the palace”, hoping that she would publicly admit her mistake and step down in order to save the public opinion crisis. At this time, Truss knew that he was unsustainable and announced his resignation on October 20.
The task is daunting
After Truss left the prime minister’s office, the UK appeared to be back on track with Johnson’s resignation this summer. Facing the mess, what tricks does Sunak have?
For him, the top priority after taking office is to stabilize the economy. Chancellor Hunt, appointed by Truss on October 14, is likely to remain in office. In the view of industry insiders, Sunak is unlikely to risk angering the market again, but will continue to pursue the fiscal austerity policy proposed by Hunter. According to the “Guardian” previously reported, Sunak is more inclined to “fiscal prudence” policy, has hinted that he will further cut public spending, prioritizing the problem of fiscal deficit, while in terms of economic policy, Sunak promised to “return to traditional conservative economic values” and ease financial regulation to provide long-term capital for businesses.
However, to gradually emerge from the economic woes, the premise is to reunite the Conservative Party. “Otherwise, the implementation of many policies will be strongly opposed by dissidents within the party.” Kong Yuan said. For example, at present, inflation in the UK is relatively high and the supply chain is tight. One of the main reasons behind it is the lack of labor. Although Sunak supports Brexit, he is also aware of the positive effect of introducing European immigrants to ease the labor shortage. However, populist forces within the Conservative Party will not agree to ease immigration policy. Sunak will also encounter obstacles in handling relations with the EU. “To stabilize the economy now, it is necessary to maintain good communication and exchanges with the EU. However, there are a considerable number of ‘Euroskeptics’ in the Conservative Party, which will inevitably block relevant policies.” Kong Yuan said.
In the long run, according to the normal timetable, the next general election in the UK will be at the end of 2024. For Sunak, it will not be easy for Sunak to win the approval of voters in future general elections. “After Johnson’s ‘unreliable’ and Truss’ recklessness, the patience of British voters is running out.” Qian Feng said.
Since 2016, the UK has replaced four prime ministers, Cameron (top left), Theresa May (top right), Johnson (bottom left) and Truss (bottom right).
Some analysts believe that the British party system is in an unstable stage of change and reorganization, and Truss’ short-lived cabinet is part of this change. It is precisely because of this that the current British Prime Minister’s throne seems to have become a “hot potato”.
”British politics has changed so fast, it’s dazzling, and it has almost become a farce.” Kong Yuan said.
Regarding recent British politics, British political journalist Alan McGuinness tweeted: “My four-month-old son has gone through four Chancellors of the Exchequer, three Home Secretary, two Prime Ministers (and soon a third In fact, before Truss, three consecutive British prime ministers
had been ousted before their term expired. In 2016, Cameron launched the referendum to leave the European Union and resigned after “playing out”; Teresa May was ordered to take office to deal with Brexit, but found it difficult to complete, and was forced to resign in 2019; Johnson was in Downing Street during the epidemic He held a party and promoted the scandalous deputy party whip. In July this year, he was collectively “forced” to step down.
In Qian Feng’s view, Britain’s “six years and five phases” are comparable to Japan’s “ten years and nine phases” at the beginning of this century. “Since the Cameron government opened the ‘Pandora’s Box’ on Brexit, the British political arena has been plunged into extreme turmoil.”
Post-Brexit market shocks, short-term irreversible inflation, inadequate infrastructure, energy shortages, intensified The cost of living crisis… “Many British people are laughing at themselves. Britain is now a joke in the world. Everyone is very dissatisfied with this, and they still feel a little shameless.” A senior reporter based in the UK said.
Some critics also said that after the UK hastily left the EU, some politicians did not properly handle domestic livelihood issues, but actively followed the US to “show their muscles” against China. What is the benefit to the British people?
Some scholars believe that the British Prime Minister has changed many times in six years, which reflects a reality: as long as the Conservative Party can continue to hold a majority in parliament, it can continue to govern through internal replacement. The votes support the legitimacy of the Conservative Party’s governance in form, but there is a “black hole” in the ruling ability of the ruling party, which is very unfavorable for the country’s prospects.
The frequent changes of prime ministers also seem to show that British voters now expect not a stable political leader but a “doomsday savior”. As Qian Feng said, from the revolving door in the UK to the riots on Capitol Hill in the United States, the chaos of Western democracy may also be a microcosm of the problems of the Western political system.