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The new helmsman at Downing Street

By Editorial Board
11 November 2022   |   3:55 am
Rishi Sunak assumes the United Kingdom’s new Prime Minister in what appears a continuing political spectacle. He succeeded Liz Truss who had spent barely 45 days in office before resigning under the full weight of inability to manage her country’s public affairs.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (Photo by Wiktor Szymanowicz / ANADOLU AGENCY / Anadolu Agency via AFP)

Rishi Sunak assumes the United Kingdom’s new Prime Minister in what appears a continuing political spectacle. He succeeded Liz Truss who had spent barely 45 days in office before resigning under the full weight of inability to manage her country’s public affairs. On October 25, Sunak, 42, became the new occupant of 10 Downing Street, London. He is the third to do so within a period of fewer than two months.

Truss had succeeded Boris Johnson who was forced to resign from office due to ethical blunders and a floundering economy aggravated by Brexit. She came up with a package to revamp the economy based on text-book neoliberal prescriptions that would have seen tax cuts for the wealthy and increased debt. Indeed, her policy had already begun to trump the value of the pound. The consequence saw a shock wave run through the economy and compelled her to resign for being unable to deliver on her promise. In her own words: “I was elected by the Conservative Party with a mandate to change this. We delivered on energy bills and on cutting National Insurance. And we set out a vision for a low tax, high growth economy that would take advantage of the freedoms of Brexit… I recognise though, given the situation, I cannot deliver the mandate on which I was elected by the Conservative Party.” As it turned out, it became the lot of Sunak to bail out a Tory party in crisis based on his perceived economic managerial ability.

The apparent leadership crisis in the UK needs to be put in context. According to available information from experts’ analyses, the country currently reels under economic crises, namely, spiking energy prices, double-digit inflation, falling living standards, and increasing budget deficit. The current economic crises derive from the past, especially under the Thatcher administration that pioneered what came to be known as neoliberal fundamentalism that saw industrial Britain metamorphose into the financial capital of Europe. The financial edifice crumbled under the global financial crisis of 2008. Although it sought to extricate itself from this crisis by standard neoliberal measures, namely, austerity, instead of a focus on productivity but failed as real wages fell and causality was sought in externality that held bureaucrats in Brussels, immigrants, asylum seekers culpable, and Brexit was seen as a way out to economic rebound.

The foregoing is the mess that the British are contending with at the moment. It has been well analysed as a crisis of Late Capitalism by Dan Nabudere, the late Ugandan radical scholar. While dissecting the global economic crisis of 2008, he noted that “The present financial crisis afflicting the global economy should not be seen from the narrow focus of the credit crunch and its relationship to the subprime mortgage crisis in the Western countries, especially the U.S. The crisis goes to the very foundations of the global capitalist system and it should be analysed from that angle. What is at the core of the crisis is the over-extension of credit on a narrow material production base. This is in a situation in which money has become increasingly detached from its material base of a money commodity that can measure its value such as gold… The over-expansion of credit that has taken place since then, especially with the globalisation of the world economy, has meant that a lot of paper money and monetary instruments in the form of derivatives and ‘future options’ have lost any relationship to the ‘fundamentals’ in the material production of the world economy.”

For the United Kingdom, PM Sunak is the answer. The burden of leadership has fallen on his lap. He promised “a stronger NHS, better schools, safer streets, control of our borders, protecting our environment, supporting our armed forces, leveling up and building an economy that embraces the opportunities of Brexit, where businesses invest, innovate and create jobs.” Besides, he will have to oversee tax hikes and cut public spending and curb inflation and government debt.

However, observers worry that his conservative ideology, which is welded to the programme of bundling illegal migrants and asylum seekers to detention in Rwanda is likely to affect people of colour. Nevertheless, there is a section of the global audience that seems to be elated that Sunak, an African of Asian descent is now the PM of Britain.

Although Britain has a long history of multiculturalism that is even the embodiment of the British monarchy, Sunak is in Downing Street because of the British economic crisis over which he is summoned by the Tory leadership to rally. This is also made possible by the dynamics of the British parliamentary system, and the 1922 Committee, a sort of caucus of backbenchers, known also as the Conservative Private Members’ Committee, influential with power to organise leadership challenges to their own Prime Minister as well as select the next party leader. Beyond ethnicity, Sunak is an establishment thrown up to do the bidding of the British ruling class. While the view exists that his administration is a continuation of the “Conservative cabinet of chaos,” we, however, wish him success in his new job.