London: Rishi Sunak marked his 100th day in office as the first non-white British Prime Minister Thursday with a slick new video for social media pledging to deliver change, amidst multiple challenges, including spiralling inflation.
The UK’s first Indian-origin Prime Minister took charge at 10 Downing Street a day after Diwali last year October 25 in the wake of intense political turmoil following the unceremonious exit of his predecessors – party-gate scandal-hit Boris Johnson and the country’s shortest-serving Prime Minister Liz Truss.
Since then, Sunak has laid out his top priorities with a particular focus on cutting soaring inflation to tackle the crippling cost of living crisis in the aftermath of the Covid pandemic and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict.
“Others may talk about change. I will deliver it,” he wrote on Twitter Thursday.
The accompanying video captures a montage of his historic selection for the top job as the “youngest in modern history”, aged 42, and also the first non-white politician at No. 10 Downing Street. It goes on to reiterate his new year commitments of five key priorities: to halve inflation, grow the economy, reduce debt, cut National Health Service (NHS) waiting lists and stop the illegal migration via small boats crossing the English Channel.
Among the scenes of his meetings with key world leaders, there is shot of him shaking hands with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the G20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia, last November where the two leaders greenlit the UK-India Young Professionals Scheme – a reciprocal scheme offering 3,000 18-30-year-old degree-educated youth visas every year to live and work in either country for two years.
“I know first-hand the incredible value of the deep cultural and historic ties we have with India. I am pleased that even more of India’s brightest young people will now have the opportunity to experience all that life in the UK has to offer – and vice-versa – making our economies and societies richer,” he said at the time.
Sunak, who is married to Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy’s daughter Akshata Murty, has also committed to working towards a free trade agreement (FTA) with India but reiterated that his government would not compromise “quality over speed” after the Diwali deadline set for the deal was missed due to the political turmoil in the UK.
On the domestic front, Sunak faces multiple challenges and pressures, including having to recently sack Conservative Party chair Nadhim Zahawi as a minister without portfolio in his Cabinet after an investigation found he had breached the ministerial code over his tax affairs.
He faced intense Opposition pressure over the issue and continues to be challenged over his decision to keep his deputy prime minister, Dominic Raab, in the post while he is being investigated over multiple bullying allegations by civil servants.
“Integrity is really important to me,” he said recently, pledging to “take whatever steps are necessary to restore the integrity back into politics”.
“The things that happened before I was prime minister, I can’t do anything about. What I think you can hold me to account for is how I deal with the things that arise on my watch,” he added.
Besides, his government is facing some of the biggest strikes in British history as nurses, teachers, transport workers and civil servants take industrial action demanding better pay and working conditions.
The spectre of Brexit, which also marked its third anniversary this week after Britain formally left the European Union (EU) January 31, 2020, continues to loom large over his leadership as he works on signing off on a new deal over the Northern Ireland Protocol. The unresolved issue of goods traded between the UK region and EU member-state Ireland has continued to cause great discontent on all sides.
All this comes against the backdrop of the governing Conservative Party trailing 20 or more points behind Opposition Labour in opinion polls. A poor show for the Tories in the upcoming May local elections could spur calls for yet another change of party leader ahead of general elections expected next year.
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