UK grabs its Obama moment, Rishi Sunak installed as PM

Author: Mr Karoli Ssemogerere is an Attorney-at-Law and an Advocate.

What you need to know:

  • The British spectacle is also fodder for “government” junkies and the future of the cabinet system.

It was short and swift. The British Conservative parliamentary majority after Lizz Truss resignation last week conducted a short selection in which only one candidate emerged.

The UK has its first ethnic Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, 42, the country’s 222nd most wealthy citizen and youngest prime minister in more than two centuries. Tony Blair was 43-years-old when Labour defeated John Major’s conservatives. The markets quickly agreed with the selection sending the British Pound to 1.15 to the US dollar itself a remarkable long -term decline from 1.60 in 1990, when the pound crash led first to Britain’s exit from the European Monetary Mechanism and later the ouster of Margaret Thatcher from office her Chancellor Nigel Lawson resigned.

Putin’s Ukraine war has created substantial political instability and uncertainty. While crude oil prices have stabilised, the long term effects on prices of essential commodities remain. Sensitive to every government in power is the price of fuel, food and everything related to the basics of life. Next door, Kenya after scrapping the maize and fuel subsidies which had emptied the treasury ahead of the August general election has quickly approved mass introduction of genetically modified organisms, GMOs.

Uganda is facing similar pressures, the president recently acknowledged that food prices have risen to record highs. Matooke, the domestic staple in Central and Western Uganda is up three fold from 2020 during the first lockdown. So is maize up from Shs 1800 a kg of polished flour to Shs3500.

In the West families are complaining about the skyrocketing prices of milk, eggs, flour even as the pump prices are cooling somewhat off in response to falling prices for crude.

The British spectacle is also fodder for “government” junkies and the future of the cabinet system. Appointing a cabinet remains a key test for every leader where electoral promises melt into the realities of governing. Ms Truss’ spectacular rise and rapid fall from power had three running features. She was accused of appointing her closest friends and allies to key posts, including Kwasi Kwarteng whom she named Chancellor.

Gordon Brown for long heir apparent was known never to be on the best of terms with Tony Blair whom he eventually succeeded. Mr Sunak has maintained a team of fiercely ambitious rivals at the helm. He has returned from Boris Johnson’s cabinet, Michael Gove, Dominic Raab and retained Jeremy Hunt as Chancellor. The multi-ethnic flavor of Lizz Truss cabinet remains, Suella Braverman, James Cleverly as Home and Foreign Secretary.  He has also retained runner up leadership contender Penny Mordaunt.

In Uganda, the cabinet system has operated in a unique way of blending young senior ministers to supervise older junior ministers in some ministries. Then there is a clash of ranks in some ministries, at Internal Affairs a former Chief of Defence Forces a four-star general is a Minister of State below another retired Major General. By many definitions the Vice President and Prime Minister are supervising their superiors and many times, the official hierarchy clashes with seniority in their work methods.

Ms. Truss in her departure was as blunt as she was when she took office. Her legislative agenda on which she was elected could not move forward. Her ideological underpinning as a libertarian in free market economics was crushed by the same markets unhappy with her unfunded tax cuts. 

Everyone is watching Great Britain in its Barack Obama moment, how will Mr. Sunak reconcile the social welfare state, that Truss called unproductive and ambitionless, the administrative regulatory state as Britain rebuilds domestically after the departure from the European Union and the crony capitalist state. 

A Labour MP also of Indian descent from one of the lower income areas in the UK, Coventry South has previewed this clash. Britain is being ruled by a political class with nothing in common with the “common man”- Charles the name of the British King translates to “common-man”.

 Mr Karoli Ssemogerere is an Attorney-At-Law and an Advocate. [email protected]