Case Study Rishi Sunak

Premiership (2022–present) Following Truss's resignation, Sunak, as the Leader of the Conservative Party, became prime minister on 25 October 2022, after accepting King Charles III's invitation to form a government. He is both the first British Asian and the first Hindu prime minister of the United Kingdom. After the chaos of Johnson’s scandal-stuffed time in office and the nightmare Truss weeks in Downing Street, Sunak’s No. 10 operation has attempted to emphasize the new leader’s competence and apparent capacity for problem-solving. 

Many of Sunak’s cabinet members have been in cabinet before, with several having done their current role under Johnson and/or Truss. Sunak has also brought back people who served under David Cameron and Theresa May, presumably to help with party unity and stability.  The cabinet reflects Sunak's desire to show continuity with 'traditional' Conservative attitudes to the economy after the disaster of Truss's mini budget. However the Truss supporter have been largely purged. 

Sunak, a former hedge fund manager and reputedly the UK's wealthiest ever prime minister, and his heiress wife, Akshata Murty, have an estimated worth of about £529m in the latest Sunday Times rich list, a fall from £730m in 2022.  This presents him with a problem when inflation and pay demands emphaise the difficulties of most people.

The legacy of past government decisions and a sense that the Conservative have been in power too long provide the context to Sunak's permiership.


Gavin Williamson

Gavin Williamson resigned in November 2022 after allegations that he had used improper language to Wendy Morton and had bullied several staffers during his time as a Cabinet minister under Theresa May, to avoid being a distraction for Sunak's government. At Prime Minister's Questions on 9 November, Sunak said it was "absolutely right" that Williamson had resigned and said: "I obviously regret appointing someone who has had to resign in these circumstances"

Nadhim Zahawi

Nadhim Zahawi's tax arrangements attracted public attention in January 2023.[108] Sunak asked Laurie Magnus, the Independent Adviser on Ministers' Interests, to investigate Zahawi's personal financial arrangements and declarations. The report identified seven breaches of the Ministerial Code and was published on 29 January 2023. Sunak dismissed Zahawi immediately after he was found to have breached the Ministerial Code by failing to disclose that he was being investigated by HM Revenue and Customs while he served as chancellor under Johnson.

Dominic Raab

The Cabinet Office told officials at No 10 there were informal complaints about Dominic Raab's behaviour before Sunak made him deputy prime minister according to The Times. In 2023, Raab faced an independent investigation into complaints arising from his prior tenures as Lord Chancellor and Foreign Secretary under Boris Johnson while eight complaints were being formally investigated over his bullying. Sunak stated he did not know about formal complaints but his press secretary did not confirm or deny whether Sunak knew of informal complaints. On 14 December 2022, eight accusations of bullying were being formally investigated. On 21 April 2023, Raab resigned as Deputy Prime Minister the day after Sunak received the report into Raab's behaviour, which found that he had bullied civil servants.

Seatbelt incident

In January 2023, Sunak was issued a fixed penalty notice by Lancashire Constabulary after a social media video of him failing to wear a seat belt in a moving vehicle was published. Sunak apologised for the incident and said he made a "brief error of judgment". It was the second time Sunak got a fixed penalty notice while in government. During his chancellorship in April 2022, he received one in relation to Partygate.

Despite Sunak’s efforts to present himself as a fresh start, voters appear disillusioned with the Conservatives after their 13 years in government, with polling showing a sustained, double-digit lead for the opposition Labour party ahead of a looming general election next year. 

 November 2023 -Sunak Brings Back the old Guard

Sunak dismissed Suella Braverman from her position as Home Secretary on 13 November 2023. She had previously been dismissed from the same position by Sunak's predecessor Liz Truss in October 2022. According to The Guardian, the trigger for her sacking was an article she wrote and published in The Times on 8 November 2023, which included a statement that there was "a perception that senior police officers play favourites when it comes to protesters" and were tougher on rightwing extremists than pro-Palestinian "mobs". The Guardian reported that the Prime Minister's office had asked for changes to be made to the article, but not all were implemented. She was replaced by the Foreign Secretary James Cleverly. Sunak's previous tolerance for her increasingly acts of disloyalty and her blatant camapigning for his job was an indication of his weakness and a result of the deal he had done with her to become leader and PM.

As the chart above shows the sacking of Braverman was an opportunity for Sunak to gamble on a move to the centre by bringing back David Cameron and promoting moderate loyalists. This will anger the right wing of the party. The centre is the best place to win votes but a divided party is one of the best ways of alienating voters, so Sunak is gambling that the right will hold their fire until after the election.

An early sign that this may not be the case is Suella Braverman's resignation letter which was unusual in its vitriol