As I had reported last week, British politics have taken many significant turns in the past few months, the most recent being Former Conservative Prime Minister Liz Truss announcing her resignation on October 20, marking the shortest premiership in Britain. 4 days later, Rishi Sunak, former member of Parliament and Chancellor of the Exchequer who had run against Truss in the September Prime Minister race, was selected for this position by the Conservative Party.
However, now that the political situation in Britain has somewhat settled down with a new leader selected, PM Sunak still faces many challenges in other sectors of society. All of these issues were promised to be solved by Truss, but with her ineffective cabinet and a stressfully short premiership, she was not able to fulfill her duty.
Leaders can come and go as they and their (for the most part) self-centric beliefs please, but the people of Britain are still being adversely affected by the chaotic transitions of power. Now that we have established that these impacts are trickling down from a core source, the British government and the Conservative Party, and that Britons are the ones facing its ramifications in all facets of life, it is imperative for us to scrutinize the situation in hand with an essential question: What exactly are these effects? What does Liz Truss leave behind for PM Rishi Sunak and the rest of Britain to take on?
As is concomitant with most historical abdications of short-lived power, one of the most pressing issues that Truss only exacerbated before being overwhelmed with her position of high authority was economic turmoil. With their highest inflation rate in 40 years at 10.1% and a looming recession, Britain is preparing for the worst possible economic situation which is a combination of the two: stagflation. Furthermore, a forecast from EY finds that this situation in the U.K. economy will continue until the summer of 2023 at the minimum. Due to these prolonged toxic effects, we can expect to see both high price levels for goods and services, the result of inflation, and high unemployment levels or decreased real income yielding from inflation. This means that while prices for necessities like food and utilities increase, the wages needed to buy them decrease. As one would expect, combining these excruciating circumstances is not exactly the expectation of a stable, growing economy. The current path of Britain’s economy has led many economists to claim them to have “morphed into a stagflation nation,” with Rabobank continuing to say that in their 2023 forecast, “British GDP is expected to grow just 0.2%.”
When faced with this situation, Truss had originally proposed an economic program that was centered around unfunded tax cuts. Within days, she received massive backlash from economists and market analysts from around the world with PBS blaming this “divisive plan” as the sole reason that “sent the pound tumbling.” She tried to desperately defend it by making the situation seem like a global economic problem and pointing fingers at the export turmoil caused by the Russia-Ukraine war, but only received more negative comments, ultimately becoming the largest factor to her resignation. Sunak must now ensure that he carefully understands the problem in order to make effective yet decisive solutions. Fortunately for Britons, he was the finance minister between February 2020 and July 2022 when the entire world was going through repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, and according to Reuters, “He criticized Truss’ tax-cutting agenda, saying he would instead only cut taxes once inflation had been brought under control.”
Now this list of Britain’s plights and barriers could go on and on, but there is one last, paramount problem that we must discuss: labor union strikes. As I established in my explanation about stagflation, the cost of living has only drastically increased and Britons are losing more hope everyday as they are lacking governmental consistency and elected officials aren’t displaying their ability to be both effective and decisive, putting their campaign and political beliefs ahead of all other concerns. The last major public sector strike was in 2011 in protest at pension reforms. When Kevin Rowan, head of organization and services at the Trades Union Congress, was asked to expand about the potential for union strikes this year, he said “There is a level of anger like I’ve never known.” While this may seem somewhat minor, it is important to notice that there are 5.5 million people in the UK public sector and their wages cost almost £200 billion a year. This is the same as a quarter of all of Britain’s taxes, showing how essential these workers are to the function of government.
This anger has only been building up since the possibility of Truss becoming the next Prime Minister was first discussed; back in early June, 50,000 rail workers walked out demanding better pay and terms. Now, however, when the economy is worse than ever, Sunak must find a way to appease the British public employment sector while handling the economy. At first, Sunak has taken a very authoritative approach by proposing a straight-up ban on strikes and protests. WSWS claims that Sunak is attempting to win the trust of the “financial oligarchy, whose main demand is that the government step up their attacks on the working class.” Many analysts list this as the main reasoning behind Sunak’s actions.
Very clearly, in the midst of economic trouble, government distrust, and public sector union strikes, PM Sunak must find a way to navigate through these tough times and show his constituents and fellow British citizens that there is light at the end of the tunnel. But, in order to find this light, he must be decisive and effective when it comes to policy because without a strong leader, Britain’s mayhem will not settle down anytime soon.