The UK: can Rishi Sunak bring stability?

Britain has a new prime minister: former Chancellor of the Exchequer and multimillionaire Rishi Sunak was invited by King Charles III to form a government and presented his cabinet on Tuesday. Europe's press voices varying expectations.

Open/close all quotes
The Irish Times (IE) /

A return to rational thinking

The Irish Times is relieved:

“For the first time in several years, there is a reasonable prospect of Britain having a PM who thinks, talks and behaves in a normal and rational way. There is unlikely to be a repeat of Johnson's Brexit-fuelled assault on Britain's democratic institutions and values. Likewise, there won't be a repeat of Truss's ideology-driven fooling around with the British economy. Sunak faces huge problems and may make mistakes. However, they are likely to reflect errors of objective judgment rather than the preconceived ideological fantasies of recent years.”

Naftemporiki (GR) /

Labour won't let up

Sunak must prepare himself for tough opposition, Naftemporiki stresses:

“Polls currently put Labour 30 points ahead of the Conservatives. Will the new Tory leader become popular enough to regain the lead? As a technocrat who comes from the world of the markets and the City, he will certainly reassure the financial markets. But what about the voters? That is the big question. After all, the Labour Party has already launched tough opposition on social issues. Labour has waited more than a decade to return to power and the opposition will be fierce. Whatever Sunak does.” (UA) /

Kyiv will miss PM's spontaneous visits

Serhiy Taran, director of the International Democracy Institute, reflects on on how the PM's personality will affect relations with Ukraine:

“One problem could be that Sunak focuses too much on domestic issues. ... Spontaneous visits to Kyiv by the British prime minister at crucial moments in history, like those made by Johnson, are unlikely. Otherwise, however, Sunak fully supports his predecessor's position and stresses that a decisive response to Putin's aggression is one of Johnson's achievements.”

Frankfurter Rundschau (DE) /

The face of a tolerant society

The Frankfurter Rundschau is delighted that for the first time a non-white personwill hold Britain's highest government office:

“Sunak may come from the wealthy middle class and have had a classic Tory career - but his face in Downing Street stands for an open society that is tolerant despite all Brexit frictions. Many European allies lag far behind Britain in integrating their minorities. In British politics, it is once again the Conservatives who are breaking new ground in terms of personnel. The country has had three female prime ministers so far, all of them Tories. Now it has a person who is a visible representative of an ethnic minority. The opposition Labour Party looks old in comparison.”

The Guardian (GB) /

Easing social hardship not a priority

Those in need can expect little support from the former investment banker, The Guardian warns:

“The new prime minister is the richest man in parliament. Despite having no popular mandate, he did little to reassure people who are worried sick about rising costs or lengthening NHS waits. The emergency is real. Yet Mr Sunak seems intent on turning off household support for energy bills next April. He plainly thinks that meeting an arbitrary target of reducing national debt is more important than saving people from penury. ... The big winners from his arrival in office will be the owners of UK government bonds. ... While the City profits, voters will pay through austerity.”

Le Temps (CH) /

Little room to manoeuvre

This will be no easy ride, Le Temps stresses:

“The prime minister inherits a catastrophic economic situation. His room for manoeuvre is extremely limited. It's hard to imagine him pursuing any other policy than an inevitably unpopular austerity. ... The multi-millionaire politician Rishi Sunak will have difficulties convincing the [Labour] voters conquered by Boris Johnson within two years. If he is hounded out of office before then, there will be no avoiding new elections in a country that prides itself on being one of the oldest democracies in the world.”

Polityka (PL) /

New PM will be more cautious

Polityka believes that with Sunak as prime minister calm will return to the country:

“Economically, Sunak will act rather cautiously and try to reverse the course set by Liz Truss with her post-Thatcherist policy. The markets will welcome his appointment with relief and the pound will stabilise. ... Sunak is also likely to refrain from further isolating the UK from key partners, including the US. He will maintain his support for Ukraine and he is expected to respond to the energy crisis by partially subsidising bills for the poorest households. Otherwise, it will all remain the same.”

Lrytas (LT) /

A lesson for all populists

Politics on credit just doesn't work, concludes Nerijus Mačiulis, an economist at Swedbank, on Lrytas:

“The British drama is a good example of how populism and handing out gifts is possible, although certainly not advisable, as long as central banks keep the printers running. But if they have to fight inflation, this limits a government's room for manoeuvre - and Eurozone countries should bear this in mind. Governments that want to bail out everyone in turn with money they don't have may soon find themselves in a situation from which they themselves will have to be bailed out.”