Sunak becomes UK’s youngest and first Hindu PM
Rishi Sunak, the former chancellor of the exchequer, has become the UK’s youngest and first Hindu prime minister after winning the Conservative Party leadership contest. He was appointed by the Queen at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday morning, following the resignation of Liz Truss, who lasted only 49 days in office. Sunak, 42, is also the first prime minister of Asian heritage and the first to be born in the 1980s.
Sunak delivered his first speech as prime minister outside 10 Downing Street, where he vowed to fix the “mistakes” of Truss’s leadership and to make “difficult decisions” ahead. He said Truss was “not wrong” to want to drive up growth, but admitted that “some mistakes were made” during her brief and chaotic tenure. He said he was elected to “fix them” and that his work began “immediately”.
Sunak also pledged to unite the country, to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic, to deliver Brexit, to strengthen the Union, and to level up the regions. He said he would lead a “one-nation Conservative government” that would work for the whole of the UK. He also thanked his predecessor for her service and praised her as a “trailblazer” for women in politics.
Cameron returns to Cabinet as Foreign Secretary
One of the most shocking moves of Sunak’s Cabinet reshuffle was the appointment of former prime minister David Cameron as Foreign Secretary, despite not being an MP anymore. Cameron, who resigned as prime minister in 2016 after losing the Brexit referendum, will be made a life peer in order to fulfil his duties. He will be the first former prime minister to serve in a Cabinet since Harold Macmillan in 1970.
Cameron’s appointment has sparked outrage across Scotland, given that he was the one who instigated the Brexit referendum that saw Scotland dragged out of the EU against its will. SNP MP Mhairi Black said the nation will be “appalled” by the move, while former first minister and Alba leader Alex Salmond said it was a sign that Brexit had been an “expensive and desultory disaster”.
Cameron will not be able to take departmental questions in the Commons, as he is not an MP. He will, however, still be accountable to Commons select committees as a minister. The Speaker of the House of Commons, Lindsay Hoyle, said he has commissioned advice from parliamentary officials to ensure the Foreign Office’s work is scrutinised “effectively” by MPs. Cameron has already met India’s external affairs minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar within hours of his appointment.
Braverman sacked as Home Secretary, Cleverly takes over
Another major casualty of Sunak’s reshuffle was Suella Braverman, who was sacked as Home Secretary after criticising the Metropolitan Police’s handling of pro-Palestinian marches in The Times. Braverman, who was appointed by Truss in September, had accused the police of being “too soft” on protesters who waved flags of proscribed terrorist groups and chanted anti-Semitic slogans.
Braverman was replaced by James Cleverly, who was re-appointed as Foreign Secretary by Truss last month. Cleverly, who is of mixed British and Sierra Leonean heritage, is seen as a loyal ally of Sunak and a rising star in the party. He will face a crucial Supreme Court judgement this week on the government’s plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda, which has been challenged by human rights groups and lawyers.
Other key appointments and departures
Sunak also made several other changes to his Cabinet, some of which were expected and some of which were surprising. Here are some of the key appointments and departures:
- Jeremy Hunt remains as Chancellor of the Exchequer, a role he has held since July 2019. Hunt, who was the runner-up in the 2019 Tory leadership contest, is widely regarded as a safe pair of hands and a competent manager of the economy.
- Dominic Raab has been appointed Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary, a promotion from his previous role as Leader of the House of Commons. Raab, who was the first to challenge Truss for the leadership, is a staunch Brexiteer and a former lawyer. He will oversee the government’s plans to reform the Human Rights Act and the judicial review system.
- Therese Coffey has left her post as Environment Secretary, but it is understood that she was pushed to go by the Prime Minister. Coffey, who was appointed by Boris Johnson in 2019, had faced criticism for her handling of the climate crisis and the COP26 summit. She was replaced by Steve Barclay, who moved from Health Secretary to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
- Nadhim Zahawi has been appointed Minister without Portfolio and Party Chair, a role that will see him coordinate the government’s policies and communications. Zahawi, who was previously the Vaccines Minister, is credited with overseeing the successful rollout of the Covid-19 vaccination programme in the UK. He will also be responsible for preparing the party for the next general election.
- Jacob Rees-Mogg has resigned as Business Secretary, a role he was given by Truss in September. Rees-Mogg, who is the leader of the influential European Research Group (ERG) of Tory MPs, said he wanted to return to the backbenches to focus on his constituency and his family. He said he would continue to support Sunak from outside the Cabinet.
Meta Description: Rishi Sunak has reshuffled his Cabinet after becoming the UK’s youngest and first Hindu prime minister. He has appointed David Cameron as Foreign Secretary and sacked Suella Braverman as Home Secretary.