Rishi Sunak starts as prime minister with pledge to fix mistakes made by Truss

Labour claims reinstatement of Suella Braverman as home secretary ‘grubby’ and undermining of Sunak’s promise of integrity

New UK prime minister Rishi Sunak has pledged to lead a government of “integrity, professionalism and accountability” and to remedy the mistakes made by his predecessor, Liz Truss, which led to economic chaos in Britain.

In his first address as prime minister in Downing Street, he struck a solemn tone and said the government would need to make “difficult decisions” to address a profound economic crisis.

Mr Sunak appointed a broad-based cabinet, drawn from all shades of the 357-member parliamentary party, which he said would be based on competence and experience rather than loyalty. There was a strong element of continuity to the cabinet he appointed. Some of the most senior members of Ms Truss’s cabinet retained their positions, including chancellor of the exchequer Jeremy Hunt, foreign secretary James Cleverly, defence secretary Ben Wallace and the leading figure of the Tory right, Suella Braverman.

Ms Braverman was reinstated to the key role of home secretary, only six days after she resigned from the position after breaching the ministerial code. She emailed sensitive government documents using her personal account. The breach came to light after she sent the documents to the wrong recipient.


‘Tory chaos’

The Labour Party immediately seized on her reappointment, claiming it undermined Mr Sunak’s claim of a government of integrity. Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said her appointment was given in return for supporting Mr Sunak in the leadership contest rather than Boris Johnson. “It is more of the same Tory chaos and ripping up the rulebook for your friends,” Ms Cooper told the BBC. “It was one of those grubby deals that have been done to secure his coronation.”

Taoiseach Micheál Martin congratulated Mr Sunak on his appointment and urged him to move quickly to substantive engagement with the EU. “I am committed to a strong and deep British-Irish relationship and I look forward to early engagement with prime minister Sunak on the important issues we face on these islands and globally,” he said.

The Northern Ireland secretary, Chris Heaton-Harris, was reappointed to his role, notwithstanding his support for Mr Johnson during the leadership campaign. With little prospect of the Democratic Unionist Party entering power-sharing, Mr Heaton-Harris is likely to announce fresh Assembly elections on Friday. He is scheduled to meet Sinn Féin northern leader Michelle O’Neill to discuss the impasse on Wednesday.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said Mr Heaton-Harris’s reappointment was welcome. “We’ve made a great start with the secretary of state and his team, and it’s time to press on,” he said.

‘Economic stability’

In his statement delivered soon after his official appointment by King Charles III at Buckingham Palace, Mr Sunak criticised the policies pursued by Ms Truss.

“Some mistakes were made, not borne by ill will or bad intentions, quite the opposite in fact. [But they were] mistakes nonetheless.”

Mr Sunak said he had been elected in part to fix them and that work would begin immediately.

“I will place economic stability and confidence at the heart of this government’s agenda.”

Before choosing his new cabinet, he fired 10 of Ms Truss’s, including business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg.

A number of Mr Sunak’s closest allies were appointed to key roles. Former foreign secretary Dominic Raab was appointed as deputy prime minister and secretary of state for justice; Oliver Dowden was named as the new head of the cabinet office; and Mel Stride became works and pensions secretary. In addition, another senior figure, Michael Gove, returned as levelling up secretary. His role is to oversee investment for the less prosperous parts of the United Kingdom.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times