Rishi Sunak Says "Mistakes Were Made" By Liz Truss In First Speech As Prime Minister
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Downing Street after being invited by the King to form a government
Rishi Sunak has acknowledged that "mistakes were made" by his predecessor Liz Truss, and appealed to the country to trust him to lead the UK through economic crisis in his first speech as Prime Minister.
Sunak has succeeded Liz Truss in No 10 after he was invited by King Charles earlier this morning to form a government.
Speaking in Downing Street this morning, Sunak paid tribute to Truss, and said she was "not wrong" to seek to drive economic growth.
"It is a noble aim and I admired her restlessness to create change but some mistakes were made," he said.
"I have been elected as leader of my party and your Prime Minister, in part to fix them, and that work begins immediately."
He became Prime Minister after he was the only leadership candidate with a sufficient number of backers to make it onto the ballot and won the contest unopposed yesterday afternoon, without the Conservative membership getting a vote. Penny Mordaunt dropped out with only minutes to go before the deadline when she did not get the backing of 100 colleagues.
He takes office less than two months after he lost the summer leadership election to Truss, when he secured 43 per cent of the vote among the party membership.
The former chancellor had already called for "stability and unity" and pledged to lead with “integrity and humility” after he was elected as Conservative leader yesterday, following a turbulent few weeks of party in-fighting.
He also committed to earn the public's trust, and promised that "this government will have integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level.
"Trust is earned and I will earn yours," he said.
He warned that there will be "difficult decisions to come," but pointed to his experiences at the top-levels of government during the Covid pandemic, notably "doing everything I could, to protect people and businesses, with schemes like furlough".
"There are always limits, more so now than ever, but I promise you this: I will bring that same compassion to the challenges we face today," Sunak continued.
"The government I lead will not leave the next generation your children and grandchildren with a debt to settle that we were too weak to pay ourselves."
Former prime minister Boris Johnson congratulated Sunak following his speech, and called on the party to give their "full and wholehearted support".
Sunak's resignation as Johnson's chancellor in the summer was one of the first major departures in a series that ultimately led to Johnson's downfall.
French president Emmanuel Macron also offered his congratulations, and said that "together we will continue working to tackle the challenges of the moment, including the war in Ukraine and its many consequences for Europe and the world."
Earlier today, Truss said that the UK must make the most of “Brexit freedoms to do things differently” as she bid farewell from Downing Street.
She also appeared to stand by the controversial economic policies that ultimately led to her downfall, and did not offer any apology for their consequences.
Truss resigned on Thursday after just 45 days in office having U-turned on almost all of her policy agenda after the catastrophic "mini-Budget" contributed to soaring interest rates and sinking the value of the pound.
"We need to take advantage of our Brexit freedoms to do things differently. This means delivering more freedoms for our citizens, and delivering power to democratic institutions, she said.
"It means lower taxes, so people can keep more of the money they earn, and it means delivering growth that will lead to more job security, higher wages and greater opportunities for our children and grandchildren."
Sunak will be hoping to restore some calm to the country’s economy after Truss’s time in office, and it is expected that he will begin his Cabinet reshuffle this afternoon, as he tries to shore up support across the factions of the party.
A fiscal announcement is currently scheduled for next Monday, when the Chancellor is due to give an update on the country’s tax and spending plans for the coming months.
Sunak said yesterday that "the United Kingdom is a great country", but warned of the "profound economic challenge" the country faces, in comments that he reiterated on Downing Street today.
Sunak is the first British Asian to become Prime Minister , in a moment that has been hailed as "historic" by the Conservative Friends of India.
The 42-year-old will also be the first British Prime Minister to practice a non-Christian faith, and the second from an ethnic minority after Benjamin Disraeli – Prime Minister in the 19th Century – who was born into a Jewish family, and became an Anglican at age 12.
Born in Southampton to parents of Punjabi descent, Sunak has taken the oath of service in the House of Commons on the Bhagavad Gita, a sacred Sanskrit text.
In a statement the Conservative Friends of India group called the news “a historic moment”.
They added: “His appointment as the Leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister of our great nation, is testament to the values of both Britain and the Conservative Party. Today reflects that Britain is a forward-looking country."
One senior Tory figure said this morning that she anticipates the party will "settle down" following Sunak's appointment.
“We all understand that we’ve now really got to get behind Rishi, and in fairness that’s exactly what the party has done," former justice minister Victoria Atkins told LBC this morning.
Former party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith also made a plea for a more united front, telling the BBC that there is “a great desire to stop now having an argument in an empty room” and appealed to MPs to focus on getting the economy “back fully on track” before the next election.
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