London, October 24 (The Guardian): UK Prime Minister-elect Rishi Sunak told his conservative party MPs that Britain is “going back to serious, pragmatic traditions of Conservative government.”
Sunak told MPs that his ambition was to have a “highly productive UK economy” stressing a commitment to levelling up and the pledges of the 2019 manifesto. He said the party backed “low taxation” but said it had to be affordable and deliverable.
He said a stable and productive economy would be the engine that drove a well-funded health and education service, as well as delivering on net zero and said it would be an “environmentally focused government.”
Sunak said there would be “no early election” though he said that opposition parties would inevitably clamour for one. He said that he would ask the British people for space and time to resolve the problems the country is facing.
There was no commitment to spending cuts, but Sunak said it would be a “tough period” for the government. Stressing a need for stability, MPs said they inferred that Sunak would ask Jeremy Hunt to stay on as chancellor. “Time is not on our side, we have no time to lose,” Hoare said.
Iain Duncan Smith, a prominent backer of both Johnson and Liz Truss, said it was right that a decision had been made quickly. He said: “ There is no more messing around, it is time to end the psychodrama and get on with governing. He said it was time to end personality politics. He knows now we have to deliver what we promise. His first priority is to stabilize the economy and get that moving, then all the other things we promise to do, make the most of Brexit, levelling up in left-behind areas.”
Jake Berry, the Conservative party chair, has put out this statement about Rishi Sunak’s election as Tory leader.
“I’d like to congratulate Rishi Sunak on becoming the new leader of our party. Now is the time for the whole party to come together and unite four-square behind Rishi, as he gets on with the vital work of tackling the challenges we face as a country. The time for internal debates is well and truly over, and led by Rishi Sunak, I know we can and will deliver on the priorities of the British people.”
Former prime minister Theresa May said Rishi Sunak has her “full support.” In a tweet which might be taken as an implicit criticism of the alternative scenario – in which Boris Johnson was back at Downing Street – she adding that Sunak will provide the “calm, competent, pragmatic leadership” which the UK needed.
Action for Children, a charity which protects and supports vulnerable children and young people, has urged Rishi Sunak to prioritise the 3.9 million children living in poverty in the UK. The charity added: The simplest way to do this is for the Prime Minister to stand by his promise earlier this year, to keep benefits in line with inflation.
The group said that more than 30 activists had occupied parliament. It added on Twitter: “While the government is in chaos, almost 7 million people are facing fuel poverty.”
“We need the next government to deliver a proper windfall tax to insulate homes and keep people warm this winter.”
Greenpeace said campaigners from Greenpeace and Fuel Poverty Action entered the Palace of Westminster as tourists and visitors and were occupying the central lobby, linking arms, reading testimonies from people struggling with bills and unfurled a banner reading “chaos costs lives”.
Greenpeace UK’s co-executive director, Will McCallum, said: Rishi Sunak should have realised by now the huge mistake he made by blocking plans for warmer homes and failing to properly tax fossil fuel giants. People need permanently lower bills and a safe climate, and that means more renewable energy, more financial support, a nationwide street-by-street insulation programme, and a proper tax on the energy profiteers to pay for it.
Ruth London, from Fuel Poverty Action, called for support for their “energy for all” proposal, giving each household enough free energy to cover basics such as heating, cooking and lighting, paid for windfall taxes, ending fossil fuel subsidies and higher prices for excess energy use.
The Green party has added its voice to those calls for a general election, which is now coming from sources ranging from the Labour party through to former Tory minister Nadine Dorries.
Green party co-leader Adrian Ramsay said: The country cannot afford more divisive infighting amongst a few elitist Conservatives whose policies are failing people struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.
Even Conservative party MPs and members have been excluded from the vote this time. People need to be democratically involved in finding solutions. This must include a general election, and the opportunity to elect more Greens committed to a more equal society and solving the environmental crisis.
Election calls were coming from the right as well, with the leader of the Reform party UK, Richard Tice, seeking to capitalise on discontent among Conservative party members aggrieved at missing out on a chance to vote for their leader.
“We have a prime minister appointed by acclamation. His party members rejected him. Democracy is in peril,” he claimed.
Rishi Sunak has been accused by Labour’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, of “dodging scrutiny” as she reiterated Labour’s calls for a general election after the former chancellor was officially declared the new Conservative leader on Monday.
She said: The Tories have crowned Rishi Sunak as prime minister without him saying a single word about how he would run the country, and without anyone having the chance to vote.
This is the same Rishi Sunak who as chancellor failed to grow the economy, failed to get a grip on inflation, and failed to help families with the Tory cost of living crisis. And it’s the same Rishi Sunak whose family avoided paying tax in this country before he put up taxes on everyone else.
“With his record – and after Liz Truss comprehensively beat him over the summer – it’s no wonder he is dodging scrutiny. Rishi Sunak has no mandate and no idea what working people need. We need a general election so the public get a say on the future of Britain – and the chance for a fresh start with Labour.
There has been relief, from a cybersecurity perspective, that a leadership election at short notice involving thousands of Conservative party members has been avoided.
Problem with Online Voting
Ciaran Martin, a former head of Britain’s Nation Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), said: “We must realise that political parties are tiny organisations, akin to charities. They are not governments. They’re not geared up to hold votes on which so much depends, especially online, especially at a week’s notice.”
“It would be worth both major parties & others working with the relevant experts in government elsewhere to prepare for future contests. We’ve had more than half a decade of concerns about electoral interference and for me the fundamental challenge is that whilst political parties are powerful, their organisational capacity is tiny compared with a government or large company,” added Martin, a professor of practice at the Blavatnik school of government at Oxford University.
Experts had warned hackers from rogue states could attempt to discredit the Conservative leadership contest with spurious claims about the integrity of an online members’ vote.
If there were two candidates remaining in the race after Monday, Tory party members would have taken part in an online vote to decide the new prime minister.
The NCSC, an arm of the GCHQ spy agency, contacted the Conservative party over its leadership voting preparations last week, having also intervened before the previous leader ballot.
That August intervention resulted in the party enhancing security around the voting process, but it is understood that NCSC did not advised changes to the voting system this time.
Jamie Collier, a consultant at the cybersecurity firm Mandiant, said last week: “There could be an attempt at sowing disinformation after the vote.”
Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, has congratulated Rishi Sunak on becoming PM – and called for an early general election.
Sunder Katwala, who runs the British Future thinktank, which focuses on issues relating to immigration, identity and race, says Rishi Sunak’s appoinment as PM is a historic moment. He says:
Rishi Sunak becoming the first British Indian prime minister is an historic moment. This simply would not have been possible even a decade or two ago. It shows that public service in the highest office in Britain can be open to those of all faiths and ethnic backgrounds. This will be a source of pride to many British Asians – including many who do not share Rishi Sunak’s Conservative politics.
Most people in Britain now rightly say the ethnicity and faith of the prime minister should not matter. They will judge Sunak on whether he can get a grip on the chaos in Westminster, sort out the public finances, and restore integrity to politics.
But we should not underestimate this important social change. When Sunak was born in Southampton in 1980, there had been no Asian or black MPs at all in the postwar era. There were still no black or Asian Conservative MPs when he graduated from university in 2001.
Sunak reaching 10 Downing Street does not make Britain a perfect meritocracy. While there is more to do, this is a hopeful sign of progress against the prejudices of the past. National politics has set the pace and business, public services and charities should accept the challenge to reflect modern Britain too.