Rishi Sunak is ahead in race to replace PM Boris Johnson

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By: Arun Srivastava

The modesty of the UK Chancellor of Exchequer Rishi Sunak has been earning him praise across the country for his assertion that he is “definitely not interested” in being the Prime Minister of the country.  People appreciate this rare kind of gesture from Sunak. But at the same time feel that he would have to have a relook at his stand and cannot ignore the interest of the country

At the time when the UK was faced with the worst nature of crisis due to wide spread of coronavirus, he has surfaced as the only hope of the Brits. Amid the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic, Sunak has been under a spotlight and has been watched more closely than the rest of the politicians. Being the Finance Minister he has been charged with supporting the country’s economy and workforce. In recent months, he has earned himself the nickname ‘Dishy Rishi’ because of his schemes like Furlough, Kickstart and Eat Out to Help Out.

While Boris Jonson preferred to follow the safe path of lockdown, Sunak ensured that people are not left to lurch and to attain this mission he explored other financial measures to not allow the livelihood events to dry. It was his economic package that steered the UK through the first wave of coronavirus and earned him plenty of stock among Tory MPs.

In recent days, Johnson’s government has implemented a new three-tier lockdown strategy in an effort to stem the rise in fresh Covid-19 cases across England. But Labour leader Kier Starmer has called out the PM, insisting that the country should be put under a “circuit breaker” national lockdown for two weeks. On his part the Labour leader called on Sunak to deliver an economic package to cover those who lose work over this period, and Northern Ireland has already leapt on the idea with a four-week lockdown.

During his stay as the Chancellor of Exchequer he has become Britain’s most popular politician. His support for the economy during the pandemic has been praised by both the rightwing tabloids and the leader of the TUC. His speeches stray far beyond his brief, into prime ministerial passages about his personal values and the national character. At a time when the leading economises of the world were not sure as to how the idea of furlough would help them protect the people, Sunak took a major decision which saved the Brits.

Leading theatre producer Nica Burns has praised chancellor Rishi Sunak’s extension of the furlough scheme until March as a “major step forward” for England’s theatres. She said extending furlough would be “incredibly helpful for business planning and for people’s mental health”. Sunak was clear if you cannot maintain your workforce because your operations have been affected by coronavirus (COVID-19), you can furlough employees and apply for a grant to cover a portion of their usual monthly wage costs where you record them as being on furlough.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will remain open until 31 March 2021. From 1 November 2020 they can claim 80% of an employee’s usual salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month. All employers with a UK bank account and UK PAYE schemes can claim the grant. You do not need to have previously claimed for an employee before the 30 October 2020 to claim for periods from 1 November 2020. Employers can furlough employees for any amount of time and any work pattern, while still being able to claim the grant for the hours not worked.

Senior official of the British Chambers of Commerce, Andrew Bailey also confessed that the furlough scheme “has been successful” and that he supported the chancellor’s decisions, not wanting to “tie his hands”. He said: “We have moved from a world of generalised employment protections, to specific and focused areas.” Bailey noted that at the peak of the crisis, about 30% of private sector employers were using the furlough scheme, but it was now used most heavily by industries such as hospitality, retail and culture. “[Furlough] has helped manage the shock, to firms and to labour [but now]the use of it, as far as we can tell, is more concentrated,” he said.

Sunak in recent weeks has freely declared himself frustrated with the restrictions, such as the new 10 p.m. curfew for pubs, and told Parliament that the country must learn to “live without fear.” It was a line that went down well with Tories who fear that the economic damage will blight the country long after the virus fades.

Sunak is a Hindu whose grandparents hail from Punjab. His parents had emigrated from East Africa and he has spent his childhood in the UK. He has served in Theresa May’s second government as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Local Government. He was a supporter of Boris Johnson’s campaign to become Conservative leader and after Johnson was elected, he appointed Sunak Chief Secretary to the Treasury. His appointment has coincided with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, however, he has been leading the Treasury’s response to the ongoing crisis since his appointment.

Sunak is the new favourite to replace Boris Johnson as the next prime minister of the United Kingdom. What is quite significant a whole lot of the Conservative Law Makers have extended their support to him as they feel the country will be safe hands. Meanwhile speculations have also started floating in the political circle that Boris Johnson could quit as leader once Brexit is achieved in January.  But on his part steering clear rumour Sunak has declared that he does not want to take over as prime minister as he praised a “close personal friendship” with Boris Johnson.

Interestingly he acknowledged disagreements but spoke warmly of his relationship with Johnson. In fact their wide differences on many important national issues has sparked of the rumour. This has largely been fuelled by Boris’s decision to stay away from the Commons when the Chancellor unveiled his winter economy plan last month. In fact some of the Conservative backbenches have added to the speculation by talking Sunak’s prospects as leader following disquiet over Johnson’s handling of the corona virus pandemic. They claim that the Conservative leaders and the Law Makers were feeling disquiet at the manner in which Johnson was running the government.

Sunak’s name featuring as the possible replacement to Johnson has simply disheartened the supporters of the Labour Leader Starmer, who has been nursing the view to come to the power during the next election as the people were getting angry and frustrated with the failures of Johnson.  But a change would mar his chances. Sunak could be a problem for Labour leader Starmer. He has already been facing huge rebellion in the party and the re-induction of Jeremy Corbyn has further complicated the situation for him.

Keir Starmer’s leadership has been largely built around Johnson’s inadequacies: constantly highlighting them, and suggesting Starmer would perform better. In Sunak with Johnson relegated to a symbolic role, Starmer would have to confront a politician who is in some regards his mirror image who has had a substantial career outside Westminster.

Rishi Sunak, is preparing to announce a renewed squeeze on public sector pay in next week’s government spending review in response to the economic shock of the coronavirus pandemic. Government sources said an announcement on pay restraint would be part of the mini-budget  as part of plans to launch a Whitehall savings drive to tackle record levels of government borrowing incurred during the crisis. (IPA Service)

 

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