The Current State of United Kingdom Politics

The Current State of United Kingdom Politics

Adya Jha, Online Features Editor

The political climate in the United Kingdom over the past few months has been particularly turbulent. In just three months the UK has had three different prime ministers; these rapid changes in leadership have resulted in a whirlwind of political activity that has been difficult to track. However, the resignation of Liz Truss in October and the election of Rishi Sunak soon after have, for now, lead to an uneasy political balance.

It would be an understatement to say that the past few months have been out of the ordinary for the UK. For context, Boris Johnson served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and head of the Conservative Party from 2019 until his resignation in July 2022. The country enjoyed relative stability for almost three years; however, after Johnson’s premiership was tarnished by a series of scandals and the subsequent mass resignations of political officials, he announced his own resignation in July 2022. Johnson’s resignation led to a tight election between foreign secretary Liz Truss and Chancellor of the Exchequer (the UK equivalent to a secretary of the treasury in the US) Rishi Sunak. To be clear, this was not a general election; the entire UK public did not vote on who would succeed Boris Johnson. The race between Sunak and Truss was decided only by “card-carrying” members of the Conservative party, the party currently in power in Parliament. Liz Truss emerged with the majority of votes, succeeding Johnson as Prime Minister. 

Unfortunately, Truss’s tenure as Prime Minister was as tumultuous, if not more, than that of Boris Johnson: her introduction of a comprehensive economic plan that involved widespread tax cuts for the rich resulted in markets crashing around the world and the steep devaluation of the pound, the UK’s currency. It’s crucial to note that the United States and United Kingdom are quite different from each other when it concerns elections: junior Ashlyn Du shares that “one thing that’s really interesting about the UK’s elections is the fact that its Prime Minister can basically be booted at any time if Parliament wants them gone.” Du is referring to a vote of no confidence, in which Parliament essentially votes on whether or not the Prime Minister should stay in power; often, the Prime Minister resigns to prevent this vote of no confidence from proceeding. Liz Truss, whose plans were ill-received by Parliament and the UK public, faced a vote of no confidence and thus, after mounting political pressure on all sides, resigned on October 20, 2022, an act that made her the shortest serving Prime Minister in the history of the United Kingdom. After a brief interlude, Rishi Sunak, who had previously been defeated by Truss just months before, emerged as her most likely successor. On October 25, 2022, Sunak was appointed Prime Minister of the United Kingdom by King Charles III. Junior Michael Arnwine commented on the historic quality of Sunak’s win: “Rishi Sunak being the first Asian Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is a very big deal in a country that is more than 80% white.” For now, the United Kingdom has seemed to have begun to settle back into its usual routine of political bickering and infighting—but in the context of the turbulence of these past few months, this tense peace is definitely a welcome development for the British public.