Peston explains ‘extraordinary’ challenges facing Sunak as future PM

Rishi Sunak’s ‘first job’ may start Tory ‘civil war’ says Peston

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The next Prime Minister Rishi Sunak faces an “extraordinarily difficult” two years, political commentator Robert Peston has said, as the fate of the Conservative Party, and indeed the British public, now rests upon his ability to deal with a financial crisis crippling the economy. Prior to the coronation of Liz Truss, the role of prime minister was considered a poisonous chalice for all the problems the leader would inherit; after 44 days of chaos and a premiership that ostensibly exacerbated those issues, the size of the task ahead for Mr Sunak appears evermore monumental. Mr Peston suggested that aside from the £40billion “black hole” that must be filled with tax rises and spending cuts, Mr Sunak must concurrently deal with a “terrible relationship” with the European Union over the Northern Ireland protocol, as well as an immigration issue, to which the solution appears to be “splitting the party”, all the while putting together a cabinet that avoids “setting alight the Tory civil war again”. It is, he said, “an intray more challenging” than ever before. 

Mr Peston said: “It is an intray more challenging than for any prime minister I know. We have talked about the economy but it is an economic crisis. 

“In just a week, he will have to fill a black hole of £40billion with tax rises and spending cuts. That is going to split his party. 

“We have also got the problem of a terrible relationship with the European Union with that border through the Irish Sea through the Northern Ireland protocol, which he has to sort out. Another issue that divides his party. 

“There are huge problems with vacancies in the economy, which many of his colleagues say need to be filled by immigration, but then there are many in his party who do not want more immigration. 

“And then there is that problem, again very divisive for his party, about how to stop those asylum seekers risking their lives coming across the Channel. So, an extraordinarily, both politically and economically, difficult set of challenges.

“And the first thing he has actually got to do is put together a cabinet that unites his party. Now, he is somebody who, according to those closest to him, would rather appoint people on merit. 

“But he can’t just do that with this cabinet because he has to give jobs to people that represent the different factions in his party. 

“The Brexiteers of the European Research Group, the One Nation group, so, actually, even that first job, creating his cabinet, could set alight that Tory civil war again. 

“My goodness. What a set of challenges.” 

Mr Sunak, upon becoming the leader of the Conservative Party and the Prime Minister in waiting, told lawmakers in parliament on Monday that they faced an “existential crisis” and must “unite or die”. 

To the country, he said we faced a “profound economic challenge”.

One of the wealthiest politicians in Westminster, Mr Sunak, 42, will become the country’s youngest leader in modern times – and its third in less than two months – as he takes over during one of the most turbulent eras in British political history.

But Mr Sunak, who will be appointed Prime Minister by King Charles on Tuesday, will have to work hard to restore stability to a country reeling from years of political and economic turmoil and seeking to lead a party that has fractured along ideological lines.

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In the meantime, he must hold Britain’s dominant political party together having been accused of treachery earlier this year when he resigned from the cabinet of former leader Boris Johnson, triggering his downfall.

“We now need stability and unity, and I will make it my utmost priority to bring our party and our country together,” he said.

The multi-millionaire former hedge fund boss will be expected to make deep spending cuts to try to rebuild Britain’s fiscal reputation, just as the country slides into one of the toughest downturns in decades, hit by the surging cost of energy and food.

External issues aside, hanging over his future premiership is the sizable task of uniting a party seemingly bereft of community, while simultaneously convincing a British electorate who are, according to the latest polls, more interested in the first Labour government in 12 years, of the necessity and effectiveness of Conservative lawmaking.  

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