The UK’s new prime minister Rishi Sunak—the third person in that position in as many turbulent months —faced his first day of questions in Parliament on Wednesday, October 26th.
Sunak took up the post on October 24th after just weeks of having been occupied by former prime minister Liz Truss, the replacement for Boris Johnson, who had resigned earlier in the year. The rotation of prime ministers is the Conservative Party’s attempt to retain its waning power.
Sunak quickly formed his cabinet, a combination of familiar faces, including former cabinet members sacked by Truss or Johnson but restored to office by Sunak.
In Parliament, Sunak faced backlash for reappointing Sue Braverman, a staunch right-winger of the party, as home secretary. She was appointed home secretary by former PM Liz Truss but was forced to resign from the role after it became known that she sent an official document from her personal email to a fellow MP, which constitutes a breach of ministerial rules.
The document she sent was a draft statement on migration, which was not only controversial but considered to have major implications for market-sensitive growth forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility.
How serious a breach it was and whether it was truly the cause of her resignation remains contested. Many MPs defended her action as a minor slip-up that happens frequently. Braverman was also outspoken in her criticism of Truss’s U-turn on her promised tax breaks and economic policy.
Sunak has called the incident an accident while his opponents have called for an investigation into her reappointment.
Significantly, Sunak has retained Jeremy Hunt as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Hunt was Truss’s replacement for her first appointed chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, and part of her about-face on economic policy. Sunak has promised a more austerity measure-type economic policy, the opposite of Truss’s initially promised policies.
Sunak’s main rival for the post of prime minister, Penny Mordaunt, has been reappointed Commons leader. She was the first to throw her hat in the race but then backed out paving the way for Sunak.
Other former cabinet members who were sacked by either Truss or her predecessor, Boris Johnson, have been reappointed by Sunak, including Dominic Raab, as Justice Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister, and Michael Gove as Levelling Up Secretary. Raab has been a consistent Sunak loyalist.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, former business secretary, resigned on Tuesday by sending Sunak a handwritten note. He has been opposed to Sunak and knew it was unlikely that he would be reappointed to the cabinet, but has happily returned to his seat in the backbench of Parliament. Several other cabinet members who were not supportive of Sunak have also joined Rees-Mogg in the back rows, demoted by the new prime minister.
“This morning I set out to the Cabinet the enormous task we face, and why I am confident that this government can rise to the challenge and deliver for the whole United Kingdom,” Sunak posted on Facebook Wednesday afternoon. “Now is the time to get to work and earn the trust of the British people.”