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Rishi Sunak becomes British Prime Minister after meeting King Charles III

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He inherits nothing less than an economic emergency, one that critics say helped his Conservative Party create through a decade of austerity and then Brexit. The UK is now mired in a disheartening cost of living crisis, meaning millions of people are already struggling to eat and heat their homes – and it’s likely to get worse this winter.

His bitterly divided party is also deeply unpopular, meaning Sunak will be tasked with stabilizing his fortunes, as well as markets horrified by Truss’ now-backed-out plans for unfunded tax cuts.

“Rishi Sunak really faces an absolutely gigantic challenge,” Tim Bale, a professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London, told NBC News. “He has really big problems that are not only economic, but of course also electoral.”

Truss’s disastrous tenure helped Sunak take power not long after he lost a previous leadership contest to her. But even in a matter of weeks, Truss has undoubtedly made her successor’s job more difficult.

She attempted to implement a series of free-market capitalist policies, including tax cuts for high earners, which caused the markets to panic and ultimately spell her demise.

Despite leaving office with an approval rating of just 6%, according to one poll, her farewell speech was more provocative than apologetic. Her brief time as prime minister had convinced her, she said, “more than ever that we must be brave and face the challenges we face.”

For Sunak, those challenges are not only the daunting domestic crises, but also issues such as Russia’s war in Ukraine.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has relied on British military support, was one of the first world leaders to congratulate him on Tuesday.

President Joe Biden described Sunak’s leadership as a “groundbreaking milestone,” while leaders from India and elsewhere also welcomed the news.

Mo Abbas contributed.


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