Rishi Sunak, UK’s next PM, faces major economic problems

Oct 23, 2022, 1:43 PM | Updated: Oct 24, 2022, 10:59 am

Members of the public look through the gates at Downing Street in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Fo...

Members of the public look through the gates at Downing Street in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Former British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is frontrunner in the Conservative Party's race to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)


              Members of the public look through the gates at Downing Street in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Former British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is frontrunner in the Conservative Party's race to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
            
              Journalists wait outside Downing Street in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Former British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is frontrunner in the Conservative Party's race to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
            
              Number 10 Downing Street is seen through the lens of a television camera waiting outside the office in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Former British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is frontrunner in the Conservative Party's race to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
            
              The Union flag flaps in the wind outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Former British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is frontrunner in the Conservative Party's race to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
            
              Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee, announces that Rishi Sunak is to become the new leader of the Conservative party in the Houses of Parliament in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. (Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP)
            
              Conservative Party leadership candidate Penny Mordaunt, left, and Andrea Leadsom arrive at the BBC studios, in London, Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022. While the opposition Labour Party is demanding an election, the governing conservatives are pushing on with choosing another prime minister from within their own ranks, which they have the right to do because of the way Britain's parliamentary democracy works. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
            
              Conservative Party leadership candidate Rishi Sunak leaves the campaign office in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Former British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is frontrunner in the Conservative Party's race to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. (AP Photo/Aberto Pezzali)
            
              Rishi Sunak gestures as conservative MPs greet him after arriving at the Conservative Party leadership contest at the Conservative party Headquarters in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Rishi Sunak will become the next Prime Minister after winning the Conservative Party leadership contest.(AP Photo/Aberto Pezzali)
            
              Conservative Party leadership candidate Rishi Sunak leaves his campaign office, in London, Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022. Former British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is frontrunner in the Conservative Party's race to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
            
              Conservative Party leadership candidate Rishi Sunak leaves the campaign office in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Former British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is frontrunner in the Conservative Party's race to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. (AP Photo/Aberto Pezzali)
            
              Britain's Rishi Sunak, centre, poses for a photo with members of the 1922 Committee, in the Houses of Parliament, after it was announced he will become the new leader of the Conservative party, in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022.  Former Treasury chief Sunak, is set to become Britain’s next prime minister after winning the Conservative leadership race. (Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP)
            
              Rishi Sunak, centre, gestures as conservative MPs greet him after arriving at the Conservative Party leadership contest at the Conservative party Headquarters in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Rishi Sunak will become the next Prime Minister after winning the Conservative Party leadership contest.(AP Photo/Aberto Pezzali)
            
              Rishi Sunak, centre, waves after winning the Conservative Party leadership contest at the Conservative party Headquarters in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Former British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is frontrunner in the Conservative Party's race to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. (AP Photo/Aberto Pezzali)
            
              Members of the public look through the gates at Downing Street in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Former British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is frontrunner in the Conservative Party's race to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
            
              Journalists wait outside Downing Street in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Former British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is frontrunner in the Conservative Party's race to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
            
              Britain's Rishi Sunak, centre, poses for a photo with members of the 1922 Committee, in the Houses of Parliament, after it was announced he will become the new leader of the Conservative party, in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022.  Former Treasury chief Sunak, is set to become Britain’s next prime minister after winning the Conservative leadership race. (Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP)
            
              Number 10 Downing Street is seen through the lens of a television camera waiting outside the office in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Former British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is frontrunner in the Conservative Party's race to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
            
              The Union flag flaps in the wind outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Former British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is frontrunner in the Conservative Party's race to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
            
              Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee, announces that Rishi Sunak is to become the new leader of the Conservative party in the Houses of Parliament in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. (Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP)
            
              Conservative Party leadership candidate Penny Mordaunt, left, and Andrea Leadsom arrive at the BBC studios, in London, Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022. While the opposition Labour Party is demanding an election, the governing conservatives are pushing on with choosing another prime minister from within their own ranks, which they have the right to do because of the way Britain's parliamentary democracy works. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
            
              Conservative Party leadership candidate Rishi Sunak leaves the campaign office in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Former British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is frontrunner in the Conservative Party's race to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. (AP Photo/Aberto Pezzali)
            
              Conservative Party leadership candidate Rishi Sunak leaves his campaign office, in London, Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022. Former British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is frontrunner in the Conservative Party's race to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
            
              Conservative Party leadership candidate Rishi Sunak leaves the campaign office in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Former British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is frontrunner in the Conservative Party's race to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. (AP Photo/Aberto Pezzali)
            
              Britain's Rishi Sunak, centre, poses for a photo with members of the 1922 Committee, in the Houses of Parliament, after it was announced he will become the new leader of the Conservative party, in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022.  Former Treasury chief Sunak, is set to become Britain’s next prime minister after winning the Conservative leadership race. (Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP)
            
              Members of the public look through the gates at Downing Street in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Former British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is frontrunner in the Conservative Party's race to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
            
              Journalists wait outside Downing Street in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Former British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is frontrunner in the Conservative Party's race to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
            
              Britain's Rishi Sunak, centre, poses for a photo with members of the 1922 Committee, in the Houses of Parliament, after it was announced he will become the new leader of the Conservative party, in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022.  Former Treasury chief Sunak, is set to become Britain’s next prime minister after winning the Conservative leadership race. (Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP)
            
              Number 10 Downing Street is seen through the lens of a television camera waiting outside the office in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Former British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is frontrunner in the Conservative Party's race to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
            
              The Union flag flaps in the wind outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Former British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is frontrunner in the Conservative Party's race to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
            
              Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee, announces that Rishi Sunak is to become the new leader of the Conservative party in the Houses of Parliament in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. (Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP)
            
              Conservative Party leadership candidate Penny Mordaunt, left, and Andrea Leadsom arrive at the BBC studios, in London, Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022. While the opposition Labour Party is demanding an election, the governing conservatives are pushing on with choosing another prime minister from within their own ranks, which they have the right to do because of the way Britain's parliamentary democracy works. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
            
              Conservative Party leadership candidate Rishi Sunak leaves the campaign office in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Former British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is frontrunner in the Conservative Party's race to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. (AP Photo/Aberto Pezzali)
            
              Conservative Party leadership candidate Rishi Sunak leaves his campaign office, in London, Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022. Former British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is frontrunner in the Conservative Party's race to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
            
              Conservative Party leadership candidate Rishi Sunak leaves the campaign office in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Former British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is frontrunner in the Conservative Party's race to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. (AP Photo/Aberto Pezzali)
            
              Britain's Rishi Sunak, centre, poses for a photo with members of the 1922 Committee, in the Houses of Parliament, after it was announced he will become the new leader of the Conservative party, in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022.  Former Treasury chief Sunak, is set to become Britain’s next prime minister after winning the Conservative leadership race. (Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP)
            
              Journalists wait outside Downing Street in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Former British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is frontrunner in the Conservative Party's race to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
            
              Britain's Rishi Sunak, centre, poses for a photo with members of the 1922 Committee, in the Houses of Parliament, after it was announced he will become the new leader of the Conservative party, in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022.  Former Treasury chief Sunak, is set to become Britain’s next prime minister after winning the Conservative leadership race. (Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP)
            
              Number 10 Downing Street is seen through the lens of a television camera waiting outside the office in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Former British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is frontrunner in the Conservative Party's race to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
            
              Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee, announces that Rishi Sunak is to become the new leader of the Conservative party in the Houses of Parliament in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. (Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP)
            
              Conservative Party leadership candidate Penny Mordaunt, left, and Andrea Leadsom arrive at the BBC studios, in London, Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022. While the opposition Labour Party is demanding an election, the governing conservatives are pushing on with choosing another prime minister from within their own ranks, which they have the right to do because of the way Britain's parliamentary democracy works. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
            
              Conservative Party leadership candidate Rishi Sunak leaves his campaign office, in London, Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022. Former British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is frontrunner in the Conservative Party's race to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
            
              Conservative Party leadership candidate Rishi Sunak leaves the campaign office in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Former British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is frontrunner in the Conservative Party's race to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. (AP Photo/Aberto Pezzali)
            
              Britain's Rishi Sunak, centre, poses for a photo with members of the 1922 Committee, in the Houses of Parliament, after it was announced he will become the new leader of the Conservative party, in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022.  Former Treasury chief Sunak, is set to become Britain’s next prime minister after winning the Conservative leadership race. (Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP)
            
              The Union flag flaps in the wind outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Former British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is frontrunner in the Conservative Party's race to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
            
              The media begins to gather outside of 10 Downing Street in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Former British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is frontrunner in the Conservative Party's race to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
            
              The Union flag flaps in the wind outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Former British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is frontrunner in the Conservative Party's race to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
            
              The media begins to gather outside of 10 Downing Street in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Former British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is frontrunner in the Conservative Party's race to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
            
              The Union Flag flaps in the wind outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Former British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is frontrunner in the Conservative Party's race to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
            
              Number 10, Downing Street as seen through the lens of a television camera waiting outside the office in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Former British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is frontrunner in the Conservative Party's race to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
            
              People walk past the Houses of Parliament in the background in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Former British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is frontrunner in the Conservative Party's race to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. (AP Photo/David Cliff)
            
              The Union flag flaps in the wind outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Former British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is frontrunner in the Conservative Party's race to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
            
              The media begins to gather outside of 10 Downing Street in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Former British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is frontrunner in the Conservative Party's race to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
            
              The Union Flag flaps in the wind outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Former British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is frontrunner in the Conservative Party's race to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
            
              Number 10, Downing Street as seen through the lens of a television camera waiting outside the office in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Former British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is frontrunner in the Conservative Party's race to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
            
              People walk past the Houses of Parliament in the background in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Former British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is frontrunner in the Conservative Party's race to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. (AP Photo/David Cliff)
            
              The Union Flag flaps in the wind outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Former British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is frontrunner in the Conservative Party's race to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
            
              Conservative Party leadership candidate Rishi Sunak leaves his home in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Former British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is frontrunner in the Conservative Party's race to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. (AP Photo/David Cliff)
            
              Conservative Party leadership candidate Rishi Sunak arrives at the campaign office in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Former British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is frontrunner in the Conservative Party's race to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. (AP Photo/Aberto Pezzali)
            
              Conservative Party leadership candidate Rishi Sunak leaves his home in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Former British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is frontrunner in the Conservative Party's race to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. (AP Photo/David Cliff)
            
              Conservative Party leadership candidate Rishi Sunak arrives at the campaign office in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Former British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is frontrunner in the Conservative Party's race to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. (AP Photo/Aberto Pezzali)
            
              Conservative Party leadership candidate Rishi Sunak leaves his home in London, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Former British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is frontrunner in the Conservative Party's race to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. (AP Photo/David Cliff)
            
              Conservative Party leadership candidate Penny Mordaunt speaks to the media as she leaves the BBC studios, in London, Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

LONDON (AP) — Former Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is set to become Britain’s first prime minister of color after being chosen Monday to lead a governing Conservative Party desperate for a safe pair of hands to guide the country through economic and political turbulence.

The challenges facing the U.K.’s third prime minister this year are enormous: He must try to shore up an economy sliding toward recession and reeling after his predecessor’s brief, disastrous experiment in libertarian economics, while also attempting to unite a demoralized and divided party that trails far behind the opposition in opinion polls.

In his first public statement, Sunak said “the United Kingdom is a great country, but there is no doubt we face a profound economic challenge.”

“We now need stability and unity, and I will make it my utmost priority to bring our party and our country together,” said Sunak, who at 42 is Britain’s youngest prime minister for 200 years.

Sunak will be the first British prime minister with South Asian roots and its first Hindu leader — a milestone for a country with an extensive colonial past, and one that is still contested.

Elected party leader on the major Hindu festival of Diwali, Sunak takes over from Liz Truss, who quit last week after 45 tumultuous days in office. His only remaining rival, Penny Mordaunt, conceded and withdrew after failing to reach the nomination threshold of 100 Conservative lawmakers needed to stay in the race.

Sunak will now be asked by King Charles III to form a government and becomes the prime minister in a handover of power from Truss on Tuesday.

Victory is vindication for Sunak, who lost out to Truss in the Conservative election to replace former Prime Minister Boris Johnson over the summer when party members chose her tax-cutting boosterism over his warnings that inflation must be tamed.

Truss conceded last week that she could not deliver on her plans — but only after her attempts triggered market chaos and worsened inflation at a time when millions of Britons were already struggling with soaring borrowing costs and rising energy and food prices.

The party is now desperate for someone to right the ship after months of chaos — both during Truss’ short term and at the end of Johnson’s.

As finance minister, Sunak steered the economy through the coronavirus pandemic, winning praise for his financial support for laid-off workers and shuttered businesses.

He now faces the huge challenge of calming markets and trying to tame inflation at a time of weakened government finances, a worsening economic outlook and a wave of strikes. Treasury chief Jeremy Hunt, appointed by Truss 10 days ago, is due to make an emergency budget statement Oct. 31 — if Sunak keeps him in the job.

Britain also faces broader economic problems stemming from the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the country’s exit from the European Union in 2020. Sunak was a firm supporter of Brexit.

Sunak was cheered wildly by Conservative lawmakers during a packed private meeting in Parliament minutes after he won the contest on Monday.

Former Cabinet minister Chris Grayling said Sunak had urged the party “to unite and fix the problems the country faces” and had got “a rapturous reception.”

Therese Coffey, who was Truss’ deputy prime minister, said the whole party should support Sunak now.

“We need to get behind him,” she said.

But Sunak still faces resentment from supporters of Johnson for quitting the government in July, a move that helped topple the then-leader. His background as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs and his wife’s vast wealth — she is the daughter of an Indian billionaire — also fuel a sense he is out of touch with the struggles of ordinary people.

He takes the reins after Truss’ proposal for aggressive tax cuts that would be paid for through government borrowing pummeled the value of the pound, drove up the cost of government borrowing and home mortgages, and forced emergency Bank of England intervention. Truss executed a series of U-turns and replaced her Treasury chief but faced rebellion from lawmakers in her party that obliterated her authority.

In the lighting-quick contest to replace her, Sunak’s position strengthened after Johnson dramatically quit the race on Sunday night, ending a short-lived, high-profile attempt to return to the prime minister’s job he was ousted from little more than three months ago amid ethics scandals.

The prospect of a return by Johnson had thrown the already divided Conservative Party into further turmoil. He led the party to a thumping election victory in 2019, but his premiership was clouded by scandals over money and ethics that eventually became too much for the party to bear.

He threw in the towel late Sunday despite insisting he was “well placed to deliver a Conservative victory” in the next national election.

The Conservative Party turmoil is fueling demands for a national election. Under Britain’s parliamentary system, there does not need to be one until the end of 2024, though the government has the power to call one sooner.

Currently that looks unlikely. Opinion polls say an election would spell disaster for the Conservatives, with the left-of-center Labour Party winning a large majority.

Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London, said the Conservative Party is “not out of the woods yet” even after choosing Sunak.

“And certainly I think voters, while possibly they may give Rishi Sunak a little bit of a bounce, a little bit of credit for not being Liz Truss, are certainly out of love with the Conservative Party as a whole,” he said. “So I don’t expect this to make an enormous amount of difference to the opinion polls.”

___

Associated Press writer Danica Kirka contributed to this story.

___

Follow all AP’s reporting on British politics at https://apnews.com/hub/british-politics

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Rishi Sunak, UK’s next PM, faces major economic problems