London, Jan 4 (IANS) Rishi Sunak, described as the “invisible” Prime Minister, emerged from the bunker on Wednesday with a public speech on the multiple crises facing the UK, amid the country staring at the deepest recession of all the world’s largest economies in 2023.
Addressing a gathering in east London, he pledged he will work “night and day” to make the situation better. He blamed the crisis on the legacy of Covid and the Ukraine war.
Sunak provided five promises: to halve inflation in 2023, grow the economy, make sure the national debt is falling, to ensure a fall in the National Health Service (NHS) waiting list, and to pass new laws to swiftly detain and remove illegal immigrants.
The UK’s coveted, completely free NHS has increasingly struggled under the higher demand over winter, because of staff shortages, aggravated by strikes by nurses and ambulance workers. Lives have been lost because of backlogs and delays.
Meanwhile, the Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) reading in Britain was the lowest for December in 31 months or since the depths of the economic crisis caused by Covid, as assessed by a S&P Global/CIPS survey.
Analysts at insurer Allianz Trade forecast that UK plc will shrink 0.9 per cent, buffeted by ill-winds of high energy bills and interest rates and increasing businesses insolvencies.
By comparison, the German counterpart is predicted to decline 0.7 per cent, and the French and US by 0.4 per cent and 0.3 per cent, respectively.
Inflation is the enemy of the common person in Britain, where the biggest minority ethnic group are people of Indian origin. The billionaires among them may not feel the pinch, but the Punjabi car factory worker and Gujarati corner-shop owner are certainly experiencing it.
However, the Indian-origin Briton who is politically wilting most – despite his wealth – is Sunak, catapulted as he was to the post of Premier 10 weeks ago. Indeed, the first half of 2023 could be make-or-break for this 42-year-old inexperienced, but diligent politician.
Lord Mervyn King, former Governor of the Bank of England (Britain’s central bank), recently asserted at a lecture that the second tranche of furloughs extended by Sunak as Chancellor of the Exchequer in 2021 had contributed to Britain’s current cost-of-living crisis.
King was speaking at the Clovelly Lecture organised by Honourable Zeenat Rous, a non-resident Indian. In effect, Sunak’s handling of the economy as Chancellor is being seen in some circles as a cause of the present problem.
While Sunak may have provided the additional furlough under instructions from his Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and certainly with his knowledge and consent, the knives are out for him from MPs and members of his Conservative party, who want Johnson back as leader.
Previously, the plotters and schemers were set to destabilise Sunak from the resumption of parliament next week. But the final push, according to the Daily Telegraph, may not now materialise until June or July.
In February, the Privileges Committee of the House of Commons is expected to take up the issue of whether Johnson knowingly misled parliament on the socialising that occurred at his office and residence at Downing Street in violation of laws prevailing during the Covid epidemic? While Sunak was also imposed a financial penalty by London’s metropolitan police for attending a function, if this committee indicts Johnson, his chances of a comeback would be virtually nullified.
Johnson’s backers are hoping there will be insufficient evidence to censure him. And with the Conservatives in for a hiding in the local elections in May – because of the economic climate – they plan to blame Sunak for the outcome, juxtaposed with a campaign that the party would endure a bloodbath under is uninspiring leadership in the scheduled 2024 general election.
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