Sunak officially becomes UK PM after meeting King Charles, pledges to clean up mess left by Truss

Rishi Sunak became Britain’s third prime minister in two months on Tuesday, tasked with tackling a mounting economic crisis, a warring political party and a deeply divided country in one of the greatest challenges to confront any new leader.

The 42-year-old former hedge fund boss was asked to form a government by King Charles, and will seek to bring an end to the infighting and feuding at Westminster that has horrified investors and alarmed international allies.

Rishi Sunak, said he would try to fix the mess left by his predecessor, restore faith in politics and tackle a “profound economic crisis” but warned the country there would be difficult decisions.

Standing in front of his Downing Street office, Sunak paid tribute to Liz Truss, whose economic programme roiled the markets, saying the mistakes she made were not “born of ill will or bad intentions”.

He also took aim at another predecessor, Boris Johnson, by saying the mandate the Conservatives were handed at the 2019 election won by the former prime minister was not the property of one individual, and he would be guided by its promises.

“I want to pay tribute to my predecessor Liz Truss … Some mistakes were made. Not born of ill will or bad intentions. Quite the opposite in fact. But mistakes nonetheless,” he said.

“And I have been elected as leader of my party and your prime minister, in part to fix them. And that work begins immediately. I will place economic stability and confidence at the heart of this government’s agenda. This will mean difficult decisions to come.”

Appealing to a pubic facing rising energy and food prices, Sunak, one of the wealthiest lawmakers in parliament, said he fully appreciated how hard things were for many.

“All I can say is that I am not daunted. I know the high office I have accepted and I hope to live up to its demands,” he said.

“So I stand here before you ready to lead our country into the future. To put your needs above politics, to reach out and build a government that represents the very best traditions of my party. Together we can achieve incredible things.”

Sunak, one of the richest men in parliament, will have to find deep spending cuts to plug an estimated 40 billion pound ($45 billion) hole in the public finances due to an economic slowdown, higher borrowing costs and a six-month programme of support for people’s energy bills.

With his party’s popularity in freefall, Sunak will also face growing calls for an election if he moves too far from the policy manifesto that elected the Conservative Party in 2019, when then leader Boris Johnson pledged to invest heavily in the country.

Economists and investors have said Sunak’s appointment will calm markets, but they warn that he has few easy options when millions are battling a cost of living crunch.

“With a recession in 2023 now increasingly likely, and the next general election in only two years’ time, Rishi Sunak can expect a challenging premiership,” Eiko Sievert at the Scope ratings agency told Reuters.

Sunak has warned his colleagues they face an “existential crisis” if they do not help to steer the country through the surging inflation and record energy bills that are forcing many households and businesses to cut back spending.

“We now need stability and unity, and I will make it my utmost priority to bring our party and our country together,” he said as he was elected by his lawmakers on Monday.

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