Britain’s New Prime Minister Rishi Sunak Must Lead as a Conservative

COMMENTARY Europe

Britain’s New Prime Minister Rishi Sunak Must Lead as a Conservative

Oct 27, 2022 2 min read
COMMENTARY BY
Nile Gardiner, Ph.D.

Director, Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom and Bernard and Barbara Lomas Fellow

Nile Gardiner is director of The Heritage Foundation’s Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom and Bernard and Barbara Lomas Fellow.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak leaves 10 Downing Street for his first Prime Minister's Questions on October 26, 2022 in London, England. Jeff J Mitchell / Getty Images

Rishi Sunak, the new British Prime Minister, has huge shoes to fill. The former Chancellor of the Exchequer was propelled to power following a swift leadership contest within the ruling Conservative Party, the political home of both Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher.

Sunak faces immense challenges, including soaring inflation, a cost of living crisis, a mounting energy crisis, and the large numbers of illegal migrants crossing into the United Kingdom from across the English Channel.

Sunak must lead as a conservative, pledge to advance economic freedom, secure Britain’s borders, protect Brexit and commit to increasing British defense spending to 3 percent of GDP. Economic freedom, British sovereignty, a strong national defense, and secure borders are vital.

The U.K. must also stand up to Putin’s Russia and Communist China, and end the futile Biden and EU-led efforts to revive the disastrous Iran nuclear deal. Sunak has never been a leader on foreign policy, but the continuing war in Ukraine and growing Chinese threats to invade Taiwan will weigh heavily on his time in office, as will continuing tensions with the European Union over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

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Sunak faces a resurgent Labour Party, with an average poll lead of 20 to 30 percentage points, as well as the specter of Scottish Nationalism, with the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) pressing to hold another referendum on Scottish independence. The British Government does not have to hold another general election until at least the end of 2024. But if it falls, an early general election holds the frightening prospect of a left-wing Socialist Government, possibly in coalition with the Scottish nationalists, one that could threaten the future of Brexit and the very fabric of the United Kingdom itself.

It is unfortunate that Boris Johnson did not decide to run for the leadership of the Conservative Party. The former Prime Minister would very likely have won the leadership contest if he had stood. The grassroots would have strongly backed him in the final round, had they been given a chance to do so. But the scale of opposition among many Conservative MPs to his return would have made it difficult to steer legislation through the House of Commons. 

Johnson is the most consequential British Conservative since Lady Thatcher and will continue to play a big role in the future of British conservatism. He delivered Brexit against all odds following the stunning 2019 Conservative election victory, and led the free world in standing shoulder to shoulder with the people of Ukraine following the barbaric Russian invasion.

For now, at least, the Boris Johnson era is over, and the Liz Truss era barely existed at all. What happens next in the U.K. really matters for the United States. Great Britain is America’s closest friend and ally. A powerful Britain on the world stage is in America’s firm national interest.

The U.S. and U.K. can only lead the free world with a firm belief in the principles of liberty that have sustained them for centuries as champions of freedom. The stakes are extremely high. As British Prime Minister, Sunak must advance these principles and ensure that Britain does not disastrously end up two years from now in the hands of a socialist Government that would wreck the British economy and potentially the Anglo-American Special Relationship as well.

This piece originally appeared in Fox News