Rishi Sunak won the contest to become Britain’s prime minister without making a single speech about policy.
His lack of rhetoric since the contest for Britain’s top job began last Thursday has inevitably created a demand for detail about his policy platform, particularly given the country’s economic crisis. The war in Ukraine, Britain’s delicate relationship with the European Union following Brexit and how he would approach immigration and climate change are also areas where there is an appetite for answers.
As a former chancellor of the Exchequer, he is known for spending during the pandemic that was designed to shield households and businesses from the economic fallout of the virus. But his plan to tackle Britain’s highest inflation in 40 years and a slowing economy isn’t as clear.
In a brief Twitter statement on Sunday to announce his candidacy, he said that, while Britain was a great country, it faced a “profound economic crisis” that he would fix. But the statement, in which he said he would implement the Conservative Party’s 2019 election manifesto, gave no details about how he would do that or approach other areas.
Political commentators have put his reticence to elaborate down to criticism he received in July, when he released a slickly produced campaign video outlining his plans to succeed Boris Johnson, then the prime minister. His rivals pounced on it as evidence that he had been preparing to run for the top job even while Mr. Johnson was still in office.
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The campaign that followed, which he ultimately lost to Liz Truss, ran for nearly two months and provided a window into his platform.
On a campaign website from this summer, www.ready4rishi.com, he issued a 10-point plan for Britain, covering areas as diverse as tackling crime, cutting backlogs in the National Health Service and transforming education. But it was scarce on details.
Bullet point No. 4, for example, Delivering on Brexit, said simply “Scrapping all E.U. laws that hold the economy back before the next election.” It gave no hint of how he would negotiate with Brussels over the set of rules called the Northern Ireland Protocol, a dispute that has rumbled on for years.
Mr. Sunak voted for Brexit in 2016 and said in August that he would support a bill that would unilaterally override the Protocol, but he preferred a settlement negotiated with Brussels.
Over the summer, a series of televised debates with Ms. Truss, who eventually lasted just six weeks in the job, gave him an opportunity to flesh out those headlines. On one point, Ukraine, he pledged “total support” for the country in its war against Russia.
Two other issues are less clear. Climate change was not listed in Mr. Sunak’s 10-point plan, though on this summer’s campaign trail, he said he was committed to the government’s goal of reaching zero carbon emissions across the country’s economy by 2050. Activists say it should be faster and that, as chancellor, he had pursued policies that impeded the fight against climate change.
And on the National Health Service, Mr. Sunak spoke on the campaign trail about finding further efficiencies and savings in the systems, but he didn’t tackle ways to reduce long hospital waiting lists or tackle the pay and conditions of health care workers who are threatening to go on strike.
That would take money, which will be his biggest challenge given the economic crisis.
Source: NY Times