Labour Party Comes Out Swinging at Britain’s New Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak

Oct 26, 2022 · 80 comments
RCS (Princeton Junction)
I would like to remind Mr. Starmer, that Labor Party’s last two Prime Ministers were Gordon Brown (2010 - 2016) and Tony Blair (1997 - 2010) - it really proves that the Labor Party leaders are failing to create a zeitgeist in the UK. Additionally, let’s also not forget that Suella Braverman was born in an Immigrant family of Indian descent. I would also like to mention the following relevant points about Sunak’s his family’s hardworking immigrant background: 1. Sunak comes from a middle class family of Indian parents 2. Sunak is the first UK PM of Indian descent 3. Sunak’s father-in-law, Narayan Murthy is a highly successful scientist and an entrepreneur from India. Mr. Murthy founded “Infosys”, a very prominent multinational Information system corporation from India. Even though, he is a multi-billionaire now - he came out of very middle class roots. Additionally, UK’s current economic woes are not due to Sunak’s leadership. Let’s not forget about the disastrous economic impact of Brexit and even more recently, the ineffective leadership of Liz Truss. Ergo, let’s give Sunak a chance - let’s not dismiss his leadership so prematurely. Yes, he is wealthy but we must not forget his excellent academic records and his most unlikely ascent to being UK’s first PM of Indian descent. This is definitely a breakthrough for DIVERSITY. Bottom line: Sunak became the UK PM against all odds, by dint of his hard-work, brilliance and above all CHUTZPAH.
David Osborne (Vancouver, BC)
I think Labour leader Starmer’s comments ought to have been “[Sunak] first, party second, country third.” He’s the best the Tories have (who’s willling to run) but his career ambitions are as gargantuan as those of Ms. Truss.
CK (Georgetown)
I was surprised during the previous round of Tory election in September 2022 that Liz Truss beat Rishi to the leadership. The Tory members at large value ideology over competence has bad consequences for UK. I wish Rishi all the best and hope that he rule will restore people's confidence in technocrat leadership and reject populist leadership.
Spider (Scotland)
Starmer huffed and puffed but failed to rattle the debutante. Opinion polls are just opinion polls, nothing more. 24 hours is a long time in politics.
Quilp (New York)
Such delicious irony, to observe Sunak and Braverman's dubious mission to lead a mostly bigoted Tory party out of their own Brexit spawned quagmire, while convincing the party's rabid right wing that they are willing to be the proud faces of its project to curb immigration from certain jurisdictions.
Reasonable (Spain)
Unfortunately, there's no chance Rishi will be gone before the next election. Zero. He's demonstrably incredibly competent; self made (well, mostly) and engineered the defeat of Boris; and predicted with chilling accuracy the mortgage rate rise of a Truss leadership. He's young and confident; and has the convervatives truly fired up. The irony of the racist undertones of Brexit is that it led to the election of the first non-white Prime Minster; and it is particularly sweet. He may well make Brexit work and turn the UK into another Norway; but he'll have to make compromises; I hope that his fascist statments about channeling funds away from poorer communities was all for show, but evidence would suggest from his previous role as Chancellor, that this may not be the case; we'll see. It will make it much harder to reverse Brexit; but ultimately, the EU project is clearly the first stirrings of world government; and all walls eventually fail, Mexican wall, the Berlin wall, these artificial barriers which keep communities "apart" can never be sustained in the long term as we become ever more connected, in my opinion.
See_Things_Clearly (Boston)
I don't see how any leader can steer the U.K. through the Scylla and Charybdis of Brexit and the Ukraine War without the need for substantial shared sacrifices, including by those with the most wealth and privilege. Alas, it is predictable that the upper classes will never agree to being taxed out of some of their lucre for the sake of the common good. Yet they will be perfectly content to see the poor and working class crushed under austerity measures Sunak, a proud Thatcherite, will no doubt justify as necessarily painful. Anyone worth 780 million pounds is ipso facto out of touch with the reality of life for most Britons and should not have been chosen to represent them.
Alvaro Ortiz (Naples, Fl)
Britain gave the Timon to a guy that does not know there is a Timon to guide.
Mary (Other world)
I love the witty back and forth of parliament. Can you just imagine what trump would look like having to deal with wit?
marrtyy (manhattan)
Starmer... give the guy a chance to govern first. Too much... too soon and by the way toooooo cliched.
Terry F (Cambs UK)
@marrtyy Rush! has been a member of the Government for years and as Chancellor had to take questions from opposition for many years. He is a failed Chancellor now with PM title but incapable of leading a united Tory party; even his backbenchers are split over his position. In British politics, it's the duty of His Majesty's Loyal Opposition to oppose and hold to account the PM and Government. It's how it works over here.
Andy (UK)
@marrtyy Prime Minister's Questions happens every week, do you expect the leader of the opposition to chat with him about the weather or something? It's part of his job to hold the government to account, regardless of how new the Prime Minister is.
Person 27 (Alaska)
Sunak’s job is to stay in the post long enough to destroy the remaining environmental, labor and other protections offered by Brexit, and so as much damage to the NHS as possible in the next year. After that, they’ll wait four or five years for their propaganda to do it’s magic and take power again.
John Roosevelt (London)
Labour is up by 33 points in the polls but 24 months is a lifetime in politics Also, Sunak is more charismatic and appealing than Starmer. If he continues Hunt's pivot towards moderation he could win
John Roosevelt (London)
The shrewdest political moves are also the best for the British economy Sunak should Eliminate non-dom status Eliminate pension triple lock Support a windfall tax on banks and energy companies Raise taxes on the very wealthiest Brits All of the above will both help balance the books AND improve the Tory's political prospects
Dean (London)
Some type of property wealth tax would be helpful as well. Agree with you
Bluelotus (LA)
Mr. Sunak presents himself as a sensible economist, but he supported Brexit. He presents himself as a figure of financial responsibility and tough economic sacrifices while his obscenely wealthy family dodges its taxes. He presents himself as the new face of a multi-cultural Britain while he keeps Truss' far right home secretary and plots to immediately deport refugees to their authoritarian home countries in flagrant violation of standing law. He presents himself as a compassionate alternative to Truss when he's just a different flavor of Thatcherite, one whose only answer is austerity, instead of one whose only answer is tax cuts. He presents himself as a sincere truth teller as he now takes his country's highest office with no platform, no media engagement, and no electoral mandate from anyone, not even the arch-conservative base of his own party. He gets away with all of the above for the moment because the Anglosphere media loves his act as the sober adult in the room, and because they will grade him on the most generous of curves after the laughable Liz Truss. But sooner or later the people of the United Kingdom will have their say. And at the stroke of the Tories' political midnight, the glittering image will vanish, revealing just another fairy tale, another wilted, decomposing head of lettuce.
Ash (Dc)
@Bluelotus Jeez, that was almost poetic!
justice (anywhere)
redweather (Atlanta)
@Bluelotus Isn't it amazing how often Conservative politicians must insist on how they are not what everyone knows them to be. Must be exhausting.
AKA (Nashville)
Britain (and US) are not producing good mainstream political leaders. Britain is now showing the way that bureaucrats are the way to go, and democracy will hand over reins to the most merited. This is the reality of the new world order that promotes immigration and integration.
Sergio Santillan (Madrid)
The "new" Tory government is the same old Tory government, nothing has changed.
HKGuy (Hell's Kitchen)
I don't get this attack on the government leader because he's wealthy (and his wife far wealthier). FDR came from wealthy Knickerbocker aristocracy, and JFK's father was one of the wealthiest people in the country.
Aidan (Seattle)
@HKGuy it might be different if he was actually supporting policies that would limit the wealth and power of the wealthy to benefit the masses rather than increase it at the expense of others
TakeThis Waltz (Eurasia)
When your billionaire wife claims non-domiciled status while you are finance minister, and when heating your pools costs more than people make in a year, of course your wealth will be an issue. Diversity in gender, race and religion is all very well, but when all our leaders are millionaires (and make even more money through via their public roles), democracy has a problem.
kk (nc)
@HKGuy Also, all this adoration of the royal family ? aren't they all rich too ? And entitled ?
Fred (SI)
I wasn't aware of the whole "non-dom" issue until Sunak came along, but it shows how the UK has become "money launderer to the world," as someone once put it. It also shows how the once-great nation of empire, which the sun never set on, is but a shadow of its former self. The UK would do well to "get real" about what it has become: one of the most overpopulated and poorest countries in Western Europe that NEEDS the help of other countries. It needs to rejoin the EU, stop sheltering stolen wealth, and start concentrating on making things again. This is the country that started the industrial revolution and gave us the railroad.
David Parker (London)
“Non-dom” status has existed in UK tax law practically as long as income tax itself. Historically, the largest group of beneficiaries and most vocal supporters of the system have been wealthy US citizens who for whatever reason have chosen to live for long periods in Britain and did not wish to pay UK income or capital gains tax on income or gains arising in the US. Over the last 15 years the rules have been tightened, and from 2017 anyone who has been resident in the UK for 15 years or more, no matter where domiciled, is required to pay UK income and capital gains tax on world wide earnings and gains. Mrs Sunak, domiciled in India, continued to benefit from her non-dom status because she had not yet crossed the threshold of 15 years residence in the UK.
See_Things_Clearly (Boston)
@Fred You bemoan how the U.K. is but a "shadow of its former self" and praise it for beginning the Industrial Revolution. But such a rose-colored view of halcyon days fails to mention hundreds of years of British imperialism, a cause of untold suffering around the world (for example, in India and the American colonies). As for the Industrial Revolution, one has only to turn to the writings of Charles Dickens to get a much more subdued picture of the time when Britain was made "great," to use a much-abused word, by the invention of the steam engine and all that came after it.
Michael Skadden (Houston, Texas)
Yes, but let's see if Starmer adopts a real social democratic agenda and doesn't play footsie with the rich and capitalists such as Sunak (as did Blair), and has a real program to help the poor and middle class who so much need help. Labour's problem is that they abandoned their core constituency -the working class-, just as Democrats did here and then they wonder why they lose to demagogues such as Boris Johnson or Donald Trump respectively
PeterH (left side of mountain)
Labor took a swing and missed. They are hopeless
Labour Party has been hibernating for years.
Concerned Citizen (Usa)
Labour talks about diversity but is unable to replicate it at the top. Leadership election now.
Andy (UK)
@Concerned Citizen It is most emphatically NOT the time for a leadership election. People seem to like Starmer and Labour are +30 ahead in the polls. The short-term priority is to get the Tories out, preferably by an early election. Sunak has no mandate, after all. Once Labour are in government, they can work on their diversity and I'll happily support it.
Carl Zeitz (Lawrence NJ)
The son of immigrants appoints a daughter of immigrants as Home Secretary, a post that emphasizes her vicious anti-immigrant beliefs and lets her act on them. What miserable people. What misery is the British government? A misery for all but the upper class and xenophobic newcomers who want to be so British. A pox on Britain.
JS (Minnesota)
Party first, country second. Why does that sound so familiar?
Candiru (NYC)
is there a new countdown lettuce yet?
See_Things_Clearly (Boston)
@Candiru Your witty comment brought a much-needed laugh. Thanks.
Expat (Hoboken, NJ)
Sunak has no authority and no mandate. Call elections now. You can’t have 3 prime ministers under the same mandate. The line that he got beat by a head of lettuce was brilliant. That will get repeated. His wife’s non-dom status should be a disqualifying issue. I, an immigrant to the UK, decided that it was not right for someone wanting citizenship to request non-dom status. Is his wife even a UK citizen?
man1234 (America)
How ironic that Great Britain is now run by Indians who are immigration hard-liners.
Sean (NOLA)
@man1234 That's 2022 in a nutshell! Next up: Right-wing Latinos in the US boldly attacking immigration. Just wait. God help us.
M Ford (USA)
Why does it have to be a war?
Mike Persaud (Queens, NY)
Labor Party on the attack in first 24-hours. Give him a chance. Sunak opposed Kwarteng's plans - saying, "he struggled to see where it adds up" and couldn't. PM Sunak was right. He is onto something. LP should hold their horses for at least 3-months
TakeThis Waltz (Eurasia)
The tories can't claim to be governing on the basis of the 2019 election and still expect to be given a chance.
Andy (UK)
@Mike Persaud "LP should hold their horses for at least 3-months" While Sunak forces austerity on us again?! Public services and the NHS are already at breaking point, and you think Labour should wait 3 months before speaking against it?? That would be a betrayal of this country's working class and the people most likely to put Labour back into office.
Kate (Wales)
@Mike P. The function of the opposition is to highlight the flaws in any policy that is being put forward. Why should they be ‘given a few months’ when they have been in government for 12 years including Sunak being Chief Finance Minister for most of the last 3 years.
Monterey Sea Otter (Bath (UK))
British politics has been like a scene out of the Marx Brothers' Duck Soup for as long as the Conservatives have been in office. The irony is that each and every failing Tory prime minister - and we've had three in just the last six weeks - has the brass neck to accuse us of being Marxists. As Groucho famously quipped: "Gentlemen, Chicolini here may talk like an idiot, and look like an idiot. But don't let that fool you. He really is an idiot." As for Rishi Sunak - Winchester; Oxford; Goldman Sachs; marriage to the heiress of a billionaire - I'll employ a soccer metaphor: "Born 3-nil up at half time, they behave like they've scored a hat trick".
See_Things_Clearly (Boston)
@Monterey Sea Otter Good post. You remind me of a comment from one of our wittiest progressive pundits here across the pond, Jim Hightower (from the very red state of Texas, no less), who once used a baseball metaphor to lower the boom on George W. Bush: "He was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple."
Caroline (Los Angeles)
The British pillaged India for hundreds of years, and now Labour, which is almost totally white as a party, wants to double tax Indians living in Britain, on income generated in India--taking that tax money away from a country that still experiences the vestiges of British colonialism. It's rich....Does no one see the irony.? Sunak's wife is an Indian citizen.
David Parker (London)
There is a double tax treaty between India and the UK. Any tax that she is required to pay in India (at 10 or 12 per cent) on interest and dividends which she has received in India will be fully credited against her liability to pay UK income tax. There is therefore no double taxation. Every advanced country in the world (save the US) taxes on the basis of residence, not nationality, and that is the basis recommended by the OECD in its Model Tax Code. The UK contains a multitude of citizens from practically every country in the world, all of whom pay UK income tax because they have chosen to live here and benefit from the advantages of the rule of law in a liberal democracy.
Kate (Wales)
@Caroline. Labour is not ‘almost totally white as a party’. Where do you get that from?
Caroline (Los Angeles)
@David Parker Technically Sunak's wife, who is an Indian citizen, is not being double taxed, but she is being shamed into paying a higher tax and to Britain, which had pillaged India for centuries, because she is married to Rish Sunak. She was doing nothing illegal and there are thousands of foreigners in Britain paying taxes as she did to other countries, through tax agreements. This has nothing to do with paying for living in a liberal democracy, and last time I looked, India is a democracy, whether you like the current government there or not.
David Martin (Paris)
He doesn’t seem so bad. If he can bring their nation some stability, why not ? Boris had a lot of good advice during the pandemic. He pointed out the best way to assure that you have washed your hands well is to sing the « Happy Birthday to you » song twice. After you have done that, you can rinse with water and dry them with a towel. Boris was full of a lot of good ideas. But this guy seems better.
kitty (Cls)
@David Martin This has to be the joke of the day! Boris and his 'good' ideas....
Northern D (Canada)
Politics as usual. The opposition party attacks the government defends but after all the issues of late there should be an early election and people will have the final say.
Tracy (Liverpool)
@Northern D Ilive in the uk. We will have a general election in 2024 as it should be. When the fiasco Blair created when Labour were in power and he had to stand down. No one was given a say and Gordon Brown became PM... Labour have selective memory when it suits!
Steve Hunter (seattle,wa)
This sounds like the same chaos on our side of the pond. Brexit is at the core of Britain's economic problems and there are no easy fixes.
PM (faraway)
Mr. Sunak is always going to be a hostage to his own party, and conservative voters in general, because he has come to power sort of unelected. His personal tangles, including his wife's tax avoidance, as well as the anger of Johnson supporters who feel that he backstabbed Boris, are other headwinds he will face. All these things will drain his confidence and control, so vital given the fractious state of his party. I think he will lead his party to a certain defeat in the next general election, whenever that is. Liz Truss, the former PM, got beaten by a lettuce. Mr. Sunak will be lucky if he can avoid a similar fate. In any case, sooner or later, he is going to face a tragic defeat.
AKA (Nashville)
Sunak is a bureaucrat and his selection is timely. He is young and will keep his job as long as possible, as the elections will doom the Conservative Party. All things on the table, including tax status for foreign citizen residents will be addressed. But the problems of Britain are systemic; it needs to come to terms with a second world status.
dave godinez (Kansas City, Mo.)
Ho-hum, Mr. Starmer's attack lines to the new Conservative government are just standard issue Labour boilerplate, and would not have not been worth commenting on, except that this was the new Prime Minister's first question time. There's got to be someone with more pizazz out there in the Labour Party than Keir Starmer, when are they going to come forth?
Kat (UK)
I don’t want pizzazz, I just want competence.
Dan (Lafayette)
@dave godinez “Starmer's attack lines to the new Conservative government are just standard issue Labour boilerplate, and would not have not been worth commenting on, except that this was the new Prime Minister's first question time.” Well, that and the fact that the Tories have ruined the UK, tanked its economy for no reason other than a war on working class folks, and successfully turned it into a third world country.
Andy (UK)
@dave godinez Labour are +30 ahead in the opinion polls under Starmer, why would anyone risk the chance of ending 12 years of pain (for most of us) under the Conservatives in the name of 'pizazz'?
Mask Of Comedy/Tragedy (Northeast)
I think the Brits need a Labour government in order to start working on the issues at hand. An oligarch who leads a party bought and paid for by oligarchs will necessarily legislate in a particular way. I’m not sure one could expect anything different
C. Delmar (London)
Anyone watching PMQs today would see that the PM outshone and outclassed the leader of the Opposition. Hopefully Sir Keir will rise to the challenge, but not today.
Dan (Lafayette)
@C. Delmar Starmer was not going to debate Sunak into resigning and calling new elections today, and that was not his intent. He’s planting seeds.
Hobbes (Mead, CO)
The attack by the Labour Party on the appointment of an anti-immigration hardliner in the new government is exactly why Britain got Brexit. Uncontrolled immigration causes a decline in wages for the lower classes (see Paul Krugman, NYT 27 March 2006), and the lower classes revolted against the Labour Party who at one time actually represented them. This situation is analogous to our own in America, where the Republican Party gives lip service to the control of immigration and the Democratic Party essentially promotes open borders. Neither party in either country is serving the interests of the lower and middle classes.
Bascom Hill (Bay Area)
Trump decreased the $funding dedicated to border security. Obama deported more non-citizens than any other president. Like infrastructure week, Trump was never actually serious about border security, only in the hate associated with it.
TastetheDifference (Cwmbran, UK)
@Hobbes More Labour supporters voted against brexit than for it. The government sets the minimum wage, not immigration, or the EU. The truth is, the growth and prosperity we had came from immigration.
KW (Somewhere)
@Hobbes The Labour Party attacked Mr. Sunak for reappointing a minister that was fired because of her negligence. She was appointed as a quid pro quo for her support in the Tory leadership contest, despite having been fired by Liz Truss several days prior for her security breaches. Basically, the promise of accountability was bogus. Had nothing to do with her stance of asylum seekers. Neither the Labour Party in the UK, nor the Democratic Party in the US are for open borders. That’s a myth.
Robert Pryor (NY)
If Mr. Sunak and his Conservative’ followers choose Austerity, they will be "Politically Drawn and Quartered" by Labour, Liberals and the Scottish National Party. They need to go to a policy to fix the National Health, and Education system financed by selective taxes on the wealthy. Reestablishing trading with the EU by negotiating a new tariff system with the EU, its largest trading partner also should be a priority. The Conservative "bug-a-boo" about taxing the rich needs to be shelved for this round.
JS (Minnesota)
@Robert Pryor Too right; the UK can't survive without better managemnt of their relationship with the EU. Their wealth distribution is already at Europe's bottom and the Conservatives would happily do more to make it worse.
David Parker (London)
Labour would have to tread warily in promoting increased public expenditure at a time when there is a massive deficit in the public finances. The Conservatives would present themselves as the Party of sound and disciplined public finance. Tax revenue could be significantly increased only by higher taxation of the upper middle classes, that is business and professional classes. Any income over about $175,000 is already taxed at 40 per cent, and the imposition of even higher taxes on this group - who are not the super rich- would be political suicide. There is already a trade agreement with the EU, which required long and hard negotiation.
Rick (StL)
@Robert Pryor a new tariff system with the EU The problem is not tariffs, it's bureaucracy. The UK did not hire additional customs officers to allow for inspection of incoming goods. There are only spot checks on imports. On the export side, the right paperwork, or computer link, to each country of destination needs completion. The EU will soon start biometric ID checks on all non-EU entrants.
Colorado Reader (Denver)
The population of Great Britain: 67 million The population of India: 1.4 billion. Both countries have run out of land and resources, but Britain does not have the overpopulation, excessive family size issues that India does. Immigration pressure from India is going to be very intense for a very long time. "Son preference" agendas are still aggressively pursued in India as they are waning in the West (for people other than the Royal Family (who are really German immigrants operating adverse to the 1689 English Bill of Rights with their "son preference"), Charles Spencer (Diana's brother), Donald Trump, and Joe Biden.) See
KW (Somewhere)
@Colorado Reader The birthrate in India is currently 2,16 children per woman. It is expected to reach the replacement rate of 2,1 children per woman in less than three years (mid 2025). After that it will dip below replacement rate. They are doing alright. Most NEW families are now relatively small in India. Not sure what your point is.
@KW Not entirely sure there was a point...
Colorado Reader (Denver)
@KW Please read the Oxford blog post I linked. Please also do not comment, except to ask a question, when you don’t understand the comment, eh? With having overloaded the planet with a massive population (nearly 20% of global population) Indians will be pushing aggressive immigration for a long time. They will also likely to continue to engage in displacement to the US of grievance that belongs in India.
VR (England)
Sunak is at best a caretaker prime minister. The UK indulged in a huge act of self harm with Brexit, which was compounded by the covid pandemic and Putin's war. This cluster of events means its problems now are close to insurmountable until someone comes along with the courage to reverse at least some of the idiocy of Brexit, perhaps through being part of teh single market and customs union. That prson is not Sunak, who is a Brexiteer. The UK faces a long period of hardship and decline.
Martin Doughty (Washingtion DC)
I could not agree more. Watching the post-Brexit disintegration of UK governance, financial probity and potentially the Union itself as a US expat has been painful but all too predictable. Although the Tory party and the Tory press are still acting under the delusion Brexit was a jolly success, I’m still not sure a majority of the UK public has realized the magnitude of their folly. Until they do, the UK is doomed to lag behind the majority of the continent in economic productivity and quality of life, regardless of ruling party (spoken by a Labour supporter). Sad.
See also