AJIT KUMAR JHA
Rishi Sunak is having a punchy first few weeks as PM. Having made crystal clear that ‘some mistakes were made during the 45 days former Prime Minister Liz Truss’s regime lasted, Sunak has reappointed Home Secretary Suella Braverman, also of Indian origin. Braverman was sacked by Truss for breaking the ministerial- code towards the end of her short term.
Same age as Sunak, 42-year-old Braverman, a barrister and a former Attorney General for England and Wales, had earlier supported Liz Truss’s candidacy for PM and opposed Sunak’s candidacy. The fact that he reappointed Braverman is not because of her Indian origin but because a moderate conservative Sunak is carefully cultivating the rival Boris Johnson camp, the ultra-conservatives, within the Tory Party. Smart move if the ultimate goal is to unite the Conservatives. This move offers stability after the turmoil of the past which had split the Tories into rival camps, both sides plotting to overthrow the other, in the process committing hara-kiri.
The new PM has retained two of the three great offices of state the same as Truss: James Cleverly is still Foreign Secretary and Jeremy Hunt remains Chancellor of the Exchequer, while Suella Braverman returns after her reappointment as Home Secretary.
Sunak has given Ben Wallace – who returns to his Defence brief – some assurance on defence spending. Wallace has threatened to resign if defence expenditure doesn’t meet 3 per cent of GDP by 2030. Another careful and suave strategic move by a sober and smart Sunak! Both the moves to accommodate rivals within the party are clear steps towards ushering in unity within a badly divided Tory Party.
While some Tory leaders are gainers, others are losers. Some key Tory leaders (especially from the ultra-conservative camp) will be feeling humiliated by this cabinet reshuffle. Sunak, for instance, refused to promote his rival Penny Mordaunt beyond her graveyard slot as Leader of the Commons. Remember Mordaunt had put her candidacy for the Prime Minister’s post after Truss was forced to resign. Mordaunt and former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson remain Sunak’s key shatrus (enemies).
“Mordaunt will be particularly sore that she hasn’t risen any higher while Nadhim Zahawi, who had to pivot particularly awkwardly from supporting Boris Johnson after he pulled out of the race to backing Sunak, is now party chairman,” reports Spectator, the British Conservative magazine.
Sunak has consistently argued that he does have a proper mandate because he would be pursuing the promises set out in the 2019 Tory Party manifesto. Sunak claimed that even Boris Johnson would recognise that this mandate wasn’t his personally: it was the mandate for the Tory Party.
With a frustrated and desperate Bojo still on the backbenches, conniving with his two favourites ladies, Truss and Mordaunt, Sunak needs to keep triply alert about his “trio of shatrus.” A soft approach for some rivals combined with a hard approach towards backstabbers is where the ultimate balance lies.
Moreover, with three former prime ministers on the backbenches ready to embarrass the Government at the drop of a hat and majority Tory Party leaders convinced of losing the next election, Sunak has a very tough balancing act on the tightrope. The punchy few weeks for the new Government, like the honeymoon days, may just prove to be temporary. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]