Rishi Sunak: First 100 Days As PM

How has the third Prime Minister in 12 months faired in his new role?

Rishi Sunak
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I don’t know about you, but if you’re like me you may have completely forgotten that Rishi Sunak is the Prime Minister of the UK.

Where Johnson was never one to shy away from a photo op if he could wear a high-vis jacket, and Liz Truss would cease to exist if whatever she was doing wasn’t being captured on camera, Sunak has been rather conspicuous by his media absence.

His allies argue that he’s not been doing the media rounds as he’s “busy running the country”, his critics cite his less than stellar performances in front of the camera – remember him being unable to use a contactless card machine when paying for petrol he put in a car that wasn’t his? Or his robotic delivery when he accepted the non-elected role as Prime Minister?

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To be fair to Sunak, he did have a big steaming pile of poop to fix after Liz Truss/Kwasi Kwarteng’s disastrous mini budget[1]The Guardian: The mini-budget that broke Britain – and Liz Truss so his first job was to stabilise the markets but despite stopping the free-fall it still wasn’t plain sailing for Sunak.

Inflation

Sunak inherited double digit inflation rates but since taking over he and his Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, seem to have done little to alleviate the affects it’s having on every day Britons.

Sunak nor his Chancellor are not showing any of the bold decision making we sure during the COVID-19 lockdowns. Sunak after all introduced the furlough scheme that helped millions of businesses and workers survive while they were unable to work.

There was also the “Eat out to help out” scheme but perhaps the less said about that the better[2]Full Fact: Did Eat Out to Help Out cause Covid to spread?.

Sunak has pledged to “Halve inflation this year”[3]Evening Standard: Rishi Sunak pledges to slash inflation in half this year as PM outlines vision in major speech, although he hasn’t said how he plans to do that, and the Bank of England thinks inflation has peaked so this is probably why Sunak was happy to make this pledge in a speech at the start of January 2023.

Fuel Prices & Cost Of Living

Yet another factor affecting millions of Britons that Sunak has barely acknowledged.

The government has been slow to move on fuel pricing and hasn’t really offered anything on top of the package that Sunak announced back in May 2022 when he was Chancellor[4]Daily Mail: Rishi throws another £15BILLION at cost-of-living crisis: Worst-off Britons get up to £1,650 and EVERY home – including Sunak’s – will see bills cut £400 as MPs voice … Continue reading.

The Government has extended the existing scheme into 2023/24 but the payments won’t begin until April 2023[5]GOV.UK: Millions of low-income households to get new Cost of Living Payments from Spring 2023 and many are arguing that’s far too late to help people with the cost of winter fuel payments.

Strikes

Sunak’s government seems unwilling (or unable) to sit down to talks with the various unions that are striking.

What started out with the RMT union striking over poor working conditions, being made to work weekends and not receiving proper compensation, this gradually escalated to other sectors with Royal Mail, Teachers, Nurses and Ambulance drivers all balloting for strike action.

Sources have stated that the Government have failed to sit down for talks with several unions[6]Sky News: Ministers ‘dangerous and irresponsible’ for not talking to striking nurses – as union warns people will die and instead the government have been looking to introduce new legislation to make it difficult to strike or impose rules on how unions treat pay offers from the Government[7]Independent: Chancellor on collision course with unions over strikes.

SeatbeltGate

Rishi Sunak became the second sitting Prime Minister in history (after Boris Johnson), and the second in 12 months to be issued a fixed penalty notice for breaking the law.

This is also the second fixed penalty notice Sunak has received after he was fined for attending a party for Boris Johnson’s birthday during the “PartyGate Lockdown saga“.

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Sunak was filmed in a social media clip released in January 2023 in the back of his ministerial car addressing the camera while not wearing a seatbelt.

In the UK you must wear a seatbelt in any car seat unless certain circumstances apply (such as a medical exemption – being Prime Minister and filming a TikTok does not count).

If you are caught (which Sunak was, in glorious 4K thanks to him posting the footage online) you can be fined £100, which rises to £500 if the matter goes to court.

Zahawi’s Tax “Affairs”

Former Chancellor, and then Conservative Party Chair Nadim Zahawi’s tax affairs had been under scrutiny in the media for some time.

Many outlets had been claiming that even before he was appointed Chancellor by Johnson (and then famously turning on the embattled PM 6 hours later telling him to resign) Zahawi had been under investigation by HMRC (The UK body responsible for taxation).

Zahawi denied this and even threatened at least one journalist with a libel suit for looking into the matter. The issue is that of a conflict of interest as being appointed Chancellor would effectively made Zahawi in charge of the department tasked with investigating him.

At a Prime Minister’s question time session in late January 2023, Sunak was asked about the matter and stated that Zahawi “has already addressed this matter in full and there’s nothing more that I can add”[8]BBC News: PMQs: Rishi Sunak quizzed about Nadhim Zahawi tax allegations.

Except there was more for Sunak to add when it turned out that Zahawi had, in fact, been found to have settled with HMRC for tax avoidance which he said the HMRC had “concluded that this was a ‘careless and not deliberate’ error.”[9]Bournemouth Echo: Nadhim Zahawi releases statement to address tax ‘confusion’.

The settlement was thought to be around £5 million, but what through more salt on the wound for Zahawi, and by extension Sunak, what the HMRC chief’s comments that “There are no penalties for innocent errors in your tax affairs.[10]The Mirror: HMRC chief suggests Tory Chairman Nadhim Zahawi did not make ‘innocent’ tax error”.

Sunak appointed an ethics advisor to look into the matter who swiftly concluded that Zahawi had committed a “serious breach” of ministerial code[11]The Telegraph: Findings of the Nadhim Zahawi tax affairs investigation – in full and the Conservative Party Chair was promptly sacked.

The whole affair made Sunak look indecisive as rumours of Zahawi’s tax issues had been circulating for months before it became widespread news in the media.

Suella Braverman

Just days before the end of the shortest stint in Prime Ministerial history, Liz Truss forced Suella Braverman to resign from her post as Home Secretary after it was found that she had used her personal email on at least six occasions to send out official documents [12]The Mirror: Suella Braverman admits she used personal email SIX times for official documents – a clear breach of ministerial code and security protocols.

It was surprising then that Sunak re-appointed Braverman – one of the most controversial Home Secretaries in Conservative party history – back to the position of Home Secretary when he was installed as Prime Minister just six days after she quit.

Dubbed “Leaky Sue” by colleagues, Braverman repeatedly emailed documents to people using her personal email account so that she could get opinions on policy documents from people not involved in the matter[13]Time: Britain’s New Prime Minister Is Already Facing His First Crisis.

There’s also her poor handling of the migrant overcrowding at the Manston migrant centre, and to add to the misery it’s now emerging that at least 116 unaccompanied migrant children[14]BBC News: Channel migrants: 116 children missing from UK hotels (and some reporting over 200[15]LBC: Minister admits 200 child asylum-seekers are missing from UK hotels as Home Office called for crisis talks) are missing under Braverman’s watch.

Raab Bullying Row

In another blow surrounding one of Sunak’s top ministers, Dominic Raab, Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary, has been accused of bullying with at least 24 civil servants making complaints about the politician[16]The Mirror: Dozens of civil servants involved in bullying complaints against Dominic Raab.

In one case he was described as being so angry he took tomatoes out of his salad and hurled them[17]LBC: Upset Ministry of Justice staff accuse Raab of hurling Pret salad during tirade about briefings (what is it with politician getting annoyed and hurlinf tomato related items?[18]HuffPost: Trump Broke Dishes, Splattered Wall With Ketchup During Election Fit, Aide Says.

Raab has been under investigation from at least November last year[19]BBC News: Dominic Raab: Bullying investigation extended to include third complaint so these latest revelations will be even more problematic for Sunak.

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Gavin Williamson

Williamson was forced to quit Sunak’s cabinet after it emerged he sent bullying WhatsApp messages in what was called “unethical and immoral” after he sent an swear-word filled message to Chief Whip Wendy Morton after not being invited to attend the Queen’s funeral[20]The Guardian: Gavin Williamson quits cabinet after claims of ‘unethical and immoral’ behaviour.

The War In Ukraine

Unlike Johnson who seemed to visit Ukraine at the mere whiff of a political scandal, Sunak has only visited the country once.

While Sunak has offered over £50 million in aid to Ukraine and has recently said he will be sending Challenger 2 tanks[21]BBC News: UK to send Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine, Rishi Sunak confirms Sunak has taken a much more subtle approach to dealing with the conflict.

This is in stark contrast to Boris Johnson who is still making visits to the country[22]BBC News: Former UK PM Boris Johnson makes trip to Ukraine which obviously has nothing to do with him trying to deflect from the issues surrounding his appointment of the BBC Chairman Richard Sharp after he helped Johnson secure a loan.

COP27 – Sunak v King Charles

Sunak’s green credentials were already being questioned after he removed Alok Sharma’s (President of COP26) cabinet position – seen as a snub to the importance of the position[23]The Business Magazine: Reading MP Alok Sharma loses Cabinet post.

When COP27 was announced Sunak stated that he would not be attending as he needed to concentrate on “matters at home”, King Charles III then said he was hosting a reception for around 200 politicians and campaigners[24]BBC News: COP27: King Charles hosts meeting ahead of climate summit after being banned by Sunak from attending[25]The Express: King Charles blocked from attending COP27 by Sunak despite ‘champing at the bit’ to go – although Sunak’s team blamed “Logistics”[26]Reuters: Logistics meant King Charles could not go to COP27, Sunak’s spokeswoman says.

This then seemingly forced Sunak into his first U-Turn of his tenure as he had to backtrack and agree to attend the COP27 summit[27]The Guardian: Rishi Sunak U-turns on decision not to attend Cop27 climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh.

Disappointment At The Polls

Sunak’s appointment didn’t appear to appease certain voters as he lost by-election seats in the City of Chester (2nd December 2022) and Stretford and Urmston (16th December 2022) to Labour.

What’s Next For Sunak?

Further scandal could be heading the Conservatives way as it emerged that the BBC Chair helped Boris Johnson secure an £800,000 which is now being investigated – the BBC chair Richard Sharp also referred his own appointment (by Johnson) for investigation.

There is also an inquiry to be held into Johnson by the Commons Privileges Committee[28]BBC News: Partygate returns: MPs’ investigation looms for Boris Johnson which could heap further pressure on Sunak’s government.

There is also looming trouble for Sunak with MP for North West Leicestershire, Andrew Bridgen, being suspended for posting a tweet comparing vaccines to the holocaust[29]BBC News: Andrew Bridgen suspended as Tory MP over Covid vaccine comments.

Bridgen has also threatened to sue fellow MP Matt Hancock[30]The Guardian: Andrew Bridgen to sue Matt Hancock over criticism of Covid vaccine remarks after Hancock accused Bridgen of spouting “antisemitic, anti-vax, anti-scientific conspiracy theories” over the vaccine.

He is still sitting as an independent MP while a formal investigation is being carried out.

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This is bound to raise a headache for Sunak as Bridgen is a controversial figure in the Conservatives having previously been found to have lied under oath in a dispute over a family business[31]The National: Andrew Bridgen: Tory MP ‘lied’ about conduct in family feud.

Along with Bridgen, there has been an underlying issue of sexual misconduct within the Conservatives that successive leaders have tried (and failed) to brush under the carpet.

It remains to be seen how many more skeletons will be forced out of many closets in the next portion of Sunak’s tenure as leader of the Conservatives.

One thing that is certain though: Sunak cannot continue to remain and invisible PM and will need to publicly take the reins to steer his party away from the sleaze, bullying allegations and misconduct that has plagued his first 100 days in charge.

How do you think Sunak is doing? Let us know in the comments below.

References

References
1 The Guardian: The mini-budget that broke Britain – and Liz Truss
2 Full Fact: Did Eat Out to Help Out cause Covid to spread?
3 Evening Standard: Rishi Sunak pledges to slash inflation in half this year as PM outlines vision in major speech
4 Daily Mail: Rishi throws another £15BILLION at cost-of-living crisis: Worst-off Britons get up to £1,650 and EVERY home – including Sunak’s – will see bills cut £400 as MPs voice fury at ‘un-Tory’ U-turn on windfall tax for surging energy firm profits
5 GOV.UK: Millions of low-income households to get new Cost of Living Payments from Spring 2023
6 Sky News: Ministers ‘dangerous and irresponsible’ for not talking to striking nurses – as union warns people will die
7 Independent: Chancellor on collision course with unions over strikes
8 BBC News: PMQs: Rishi Sunak quizzed about Nadhim Zahawi tax allegations
9 Bournemouth Echo: Nadhim Zahawi releases statement to address tax ‘confusion’
10 The Mirror: HMRC chief suggests Tory Chairman Nadhim Zahawi did not make ‘innocent’ tax error
11 The Telegraph: Findings of the Nadhim Zahawi tax affairs investigation – in full
12 The Mirror: Suella Braverman admits she used personal email SIX times for official documents
13 Time: Britain’s New Prime Minister Is Already Facing His First Crisis
14 BBC News: Channel migrants: 116 children missing from UK hotels
15 LBC: Minister admits 200 child asylum-seekers are missing from UK hotels as Home Office called for crisis talks
16 The Mirror: Dozens of civil servants involved in bullying complaints against Dominic Raab
17 LBC: Upset Ministry of Justice staff accuse Raab of hurling Pret salad during tirade about briefings
18 HuffPost: Trump Broke Dishes, Splattered Wall With Ketchup During Election Fit, Aide Says
19 BBC News: Dominic Raab: Bullying investigation extended to include third complaint
20 The Guardian: Gavin Williamson quits cabinet after claims of ‘unethical and immoral’ behaviour
21 BBC News: UK to send Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine, Rishi Sunak confirms
22 BBC News: Former UK PM Boris Johnson makes trip to Ukraine
23 The Business Magazine: Reading MP Alok Sharma loses Cabinet post
24 BBC News: COP27: King Charles hosts meeting ahead of climate summit
25 The Express: King Charles blocked from attending COP27 by Sunak despite ‘champing at the bit’ to go
26 Reuters: Logistics meant King Charles could not go to COP27, Sunak’s spokeswoman says
27 The Guardian: Rishi Sunak U-turns on decision not to attend Cop27 climate summit
28 BBC News: Partygate returns: MPs’ investigation looms for Boris Johnson
29 BBC News: Andrew Bridgen suspended as Tory MP over Covid vaccine comments
30 The Guardian: Andrew Bridgen to sue Matt Hancock over criticism of Covid vaccine remarks
31 The National: Andrew Bridgen: Tory MP ‘lied’ about conduct in family feud

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