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The Revolving Door of 10 Downing Street

The British Conservative Party is facing a range of unprecedented issues: the harsh realities of a post-Brexit United Kingdom, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the subsequent need for economic recovery. As a result, the country has had five different leaders in seven years, accentuated in 2022 by three separate leaders within just seven weeks.

Rishi Sunak is now the first Prime Minister of Indian descent and the youngest leader of Britain in over 200 years. He takes the job at a time when England faces a slate of issues, including a looming recession. Mr Sunak has not become Prime Minister via a general election but instead through an inter-party vote. Since the Second World War, there have been more Prime Ministerial changes through these inter-party votes than in general elections. So, is this revolving door of leadership what the Conservatives meant by the “Getting Britain Moving” slogan at their recent party conference? How did it get to this point?

The start of this unstable time for Conservative leaders began with the resignation of David Cameron after the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. Mr Cameron said this was an act of “economic self-harm” to the U.K. and therefore would not be its leader anymore. This opened the door for Theresa May to win the inter-party vote and become Britain’s second female leader. Theresa May and her successor Boris Johnson, while both coming to power on the back of these inter-party elections, reaffirmed their position as Prime Minister by calling for general elections and defeating Jeremy Corbin. Despite winning these elections, both leaders were eventually forced to resign due to a lack of confidence within the party. Upon the resignation of Boris Johnson, Liz Truss was voted into power. She, however, did not get the chance to solidify herself as the people’s choice of leader as she was forced to resign only seven weeks into the job. That makes Rishi Sunak the fifth leader of Britain in seven years. The question remains whether he will be able to turn around this tumultuous time in Conservative politics or whether he will become just another statistic in the history books.

Rishi Sunak’s first task as Prime Minister must be to win over the trust of the British public who are reeling after having three different leaders within the span of three months. In order to do this, he must firstly stabilise the British economy after the disastrous “mini-budget” that his predecessor implemented, and reassure the global financial markets that England is an economically safe place. This will be a priority in his first official budget as leader of England. If he does not reassure the financial markets, his budget will be a tough sell to the Conservative heartland.

While there does not need to be an election in Britain until 2024, if Rishi Sunak does not deliver an adequate budget and introduce positive policies in order to bring confidence back to the Conservative party, there will be growing calls for an early election. Then it would be a difficult and uphill battle for the Conservatives to be re-elected into 10 Downing Street as they are a party in disarray with no clear policy objectives at this moment in time. The Labour Party, which has not been in power since 2010, would be decided favourites in a future election. They offer stability and a clear political agenda for Britain in the post-COVID world and in how to handle the delicate situation with the Northern Ireland border in the wake of Brexit.

It is up to Rishi Sunak to steady the ship as Britain is facing a cost-of-living crisis and a looming recession coupled with the ongoing European energy crisis. Unless he successfully manages these problems, it is more than likely that political pundits will be predicting his resignation. Only time will tell if Rishi Sunak can be the saviour of the Conservative party and halt the crisis that they are in the midst of, or if the revolving door of 10 Downing Street will keep spinning.