Rishi Sunak Completes One Year as Britain's First Indian-Origin PM Published 31 minutes ago

Posted By: Preeti Dabar Posted On: Oct 25, 2023

Rishi Sunak on Wednesday completed a year as Britain's first Indian-origin Prime Minister, having taken charge at 10 Downing Street amid the turmoil of predecessor Liz Truss' short-lived premiership and several domestic and global challenges.

The 43-year-old faced off with Opposition Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer in the House of Commons as his office was keen to portray it as just another working day, without any anniversary celebrations planned.

In a video posted on social media, Sunak indicated a similar sentiment. “We've achieved a lot in the year since I became PM. But be in no doubt, there's so much more to do, said Sunak.

“I know this year has been tough. And there is still work to be done to help hardworking families across the country, but I'm proud of the steps we've made,” he added. The governing Conservative Party chairman, Greg Hands, praised the party leader on his one-year milestone.

“When Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister a year ago today, he took immediate action to support families with the cost of living, paying half their energy bills. Since then we have made good progress towards halving inflation, growing the economy, reducing debt, cutting NHS waiting lists, and stopping the boats,” said Hands.

“But for the last 30 years, the Prime Minister recognises that there has been too much short-term political decision making, politicians taking the easy way out, ducking the hard choices, rather than fixing the underlying problems.

The Prime Minister has proven he is the only person who is determined to change that, he said.

Besides external challenges posed by the Israel-Hamas conflict and the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Sunak faces a heavy domestic in-tray of inflation and cost of living pressures as the UK prepares for a general election next year.

There is an anti-incumbency factor playing against the Conservatives, which trail between 15 and 20 points behind Labour in opinion polls a gap that hasn't moved much during Sunak's year in office.

In September 2022, he lost a Conservative leadership contest to Liz Truss, who took over as prime minister from the scandal-hit Boris Johnson.

Then, Truss announced a mini budget that included billions in uncosted tax cuts and spooked the financial markets, leading to her hasty exit.

His party chose Sunak to replace her, and was named Britain's third Prime Minister of the year and the first of Indian heritage on Diwali day in October 2022.

He set five goals for his government, including halving inflation, which peaked at 11.1 per cent in late 2022, getting the economy growing, reducing a healthcare backlog and curbing the number of migrants reaching Britain across the English Channel in small boats.

There has been some progress inflation was 6.7 per cent in September and the economy is growing, albeit only by about 0.5 per cent on the year. But the other areas remain dogged with issues.

Source: News18
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Blinken Dials UK’s New Foreign Minister Cameron

Posted By: Jogendra Kumar Posted On: Nov 14, 2023

US secretary of state Antony Blinken held a telephonic conversation with newly appointed British foreign minister David Cameron on Tuesday. Both discussed the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict and the war in Ukraine and also discussed relations with China.

“Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke with UK Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron today. The Secretary congratulated Lord Cameron on his new appointments to the UK Cabinet and Peerage. Secretary Blinken and Lord Cameron underscored continuity in the US-UK special relationship and its importance to regional and global security,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a readout of the conversation.

“They discussed the Israel-Hamas conflict, including efforts to increase the delivery of humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza. They also discussed relations with the PRC and cooperation to help Ukraine prevail against Russia's war of aggression,” Matthew Miller further added.

The former UK prime minister made a comeback to the UK political scene after right-wing former UK home minister Suella Braverman was ousted and James Cleverly, who was serving as foreign minister, was given her portfolio.

Braverman was ousted because she tried to exert her authority over the Conservative Party, experts told UK-based news media outlets.

Cameron stepped down as UK's prime minister in 2016 after losing the Brexit referendum. He also stood down from his MP role and later got mired in a lobbying scandal that was seen as tarnishing his reputation.

The former leader, whose foreign policy record as prime minister is viewed as chequered at best, said he “gladly accepted” his new role as Britain faced “a daunting set of international challenges”.

“While I have been out of front-line politics for the last seven years, I hope that my experience — as Conservative leader for 11 years and prime minister for six — will assist me in helping the prime minister to meet these vital challenges,” Cameron added, citing the Israel-Hamas war and Russia's conflict in Ukraine.

(with inputs from Reuters and AFP)

Source: News18
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What Elon Musk’s ‘Age of Abundance’ Means for the Future of Capitalism

Posted By: Pawan George Posted On: Nov 11, 2023
Elon Musk. (REUTERS)

When it comes to the future, Elon Musk’s best-case scenario for humanity sounds a lot like Sci-Fi Socialism.

The world's richest man, who for years has warned about the dangers of artificial intelligence, lately has been painting a more utopian vision for what could occur when supersmart robots are able to replace everyday workers.

“We will be in an age of abundance," Musk said this month.

He was speaking publicly with U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who like many world leaders is trying to navigate the fast-developing technology's effect on work and life. Sunak said he believes the act of work gives meaning, and had some concerns about Musk's prediction.

“I think work is a good thing, it gives people purpose in their lives," Sunak told Musk. “And if you then remove a large chunk of that, what does that mean?"

That is the question.

So often when Musk talks about the threats of AI he is describing world-ending scenarios that seem straight from “The Terminator" movie or other science fiction works where robots turn on their creators.

More recently, in talking about the technology positively, Musk likes to point to another work of Sci-Fi to describe how AI could change our world: a series of books by the late-, self-described-socialist author Iain Banks that revolve around a post-scarcity society that includes superintelligent AI.

In a way, Musk is also talking up his own book of business.

Part of the enthusiasm behind the sky-high valuation of Tesla, where he is chief executive, comes from his predictions for the auto company's abilities to develop humanoid robots—dubbed Optimus—that can be deployed for everything from personal assistants to factory workers. He's also founded an AI startup, dubbed xAI, that he said aims to develop its own superhuman intelligence, even as some are skeptical of that possibility.

“Digital super intelligence combined with robotics will essentially make goods and services close to free in the long term," Musk said at a conference in July.

Musk has cast his work to develop humanoid robots as an attempt to solve labor issues, saying there aren't enough workers and cautioning that low birthrates will be even more problematic.

“I wouldn't worry about…putting people out of a job," Musk said last year during a TED talk presentation. “We're actually going to have—and already do have—a massive shortage of labor. So, I think we will have not people out of work but actually still a shortage of labor—even in the future."

Instead, Musk predicts robots will be taking jobs that are uncomfortable, dangerous or tedious.

“It's fun to cook food but it's not that fun to wash the dishes," Musk said this month. “The computer is perfectly happy to wash the dishes."

Musk isn't alone in predicting change is afoot following the surprise success of OpenAI's chatbot, fueling enthusiasm this year that the technology is on the cusp of giant breakthroughs once thought merely the stuff of science fiction.

In the near term, Goldman Sachs in April estimated generative AI could boost the global gross domestic product by 7% during the next decade and that roughly two-thirds of U.S. occupations could be partially automated by AI.

That could be just the beginning. At The Wall Street Journal's Tech Live conference last month, Vinod Khosla, a prominent venture capitalist whose firm has invested in the technology, predicted within a decade AI will be able to do “80% of 80%" of all jobs today.

“I believe the need to work in society will disappear in 25 years for those countries that adapt these technologies," Khosla said. “I do think there's room for universal basic income assuring a minimum standard and people will be able to work on the things they want to work on."

Forget universal basic income. In Musk's world, he foresees something more lush, where most things will be abundant except unique pieces of art and real estate.

“We won't have universal basic income, we'll have universal high income," Musk said this month. “In some sense, it'll be somewhat of a leveler or an equalizer because, really, I think everyone will have access to this magic genie."

All of which kind of sounds a lot like socialism—except it's unclear who controls the resources in this Muskism society. A few years ago, Musk declared himself a socialist of sorts. “Just not the kind that shifts resources from most productive to least productive, pretending to do good, while actually causing harm," he tweeted. “True socialism seeks greatest good for all."

In a world of robotic workers, he has suggested, the very meaning of our economy might lose meaning.

“What is an economy? An economy is GDP per capita times capita." Musk said at a tech conference in France this year. “Now what happens if you don't actually have a limit on capita—if you have an unlimited number of…people or robots? It's not clear what meaning an economy has at that point because you have an unlimited economy effectively."

In theory, humanity would be freed up for other pursuits. But what? Baby making. Bespoke cooking. Competitive human-ing.

“Obviously a machine can go faster than any human but we still have humans race against each other," Musk said. “We still enjoy competing against other humans to, at least, see who was the best human."

Still, even as Musk talks about this future, he seems to be grappling with what it might actually mean in practice and how it is at odds with his own life.

No one embodies tech's hustle porn better than Musk, running multiple companies and touting sleeping on factory floors to build his business empire that spans from rockets to tweets.

“If I think about it too hard, it, frankly, can be dispiriting and demotivating, because…I put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into building companies," he said earlier this year. “If I'm sacrificing time with friends and family that I would prefer but then ultimately the AI can do all these things, does that make sense?"

“To some extent," Musk concluded, “I have to have a deliberate suspension of disbelief in order to remain motivated."

Write to Tim Higgins at tim.higgins@wsj.com

Source: Live Mint
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King Charles to Deliver UK’s First King’s Speech in 72 Years Published 2 minutes ago

Posted By: Pawan George Posted On: Nov 07, 2023

Charles III will deliver the first King's Speech in Britain in seven decades on Tuesday.

Here are five key facts about the ceremonial address that opens a new parliamentary year:

Despite its name, the address is not written by the monarch but by the government which uses it to detail the laws it proposes to make over the coming months.

This year's is particularly important because it will outline the policies on which Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak plans to fight next year's expected general election.

Expect plans to toughen sentencing for the most serious offenders, a gradual smoking ban and licences for new oil and gas drilling in the North Sea, among other legislative proposals.

The address usually lasts around 10 minutes depending on the number of laws proposed.

The last King's Speech took place in 1951 during the reign of George VI.

Charles did however give the Queen's Speech on behalf of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, in May 2022 while he was still prince.

He will deliver it in royal regalia from the throne in the House of Lords, parliament's upper chamber.

The speech is part of the state opening of parliament, which starts when royal bodyguards ritually search below the Palace of Westminster for explosives.

This act commemorates the failed attempt by English Catholics to blow up the Protestant King James I and Parliament in 1605.

Another tradition is the ceremonial kidnapping of an MP who is held captive in Buckingham Palace while the monarch attends parliament, to ensure the king's safe return.

Once Charles has arrived in the House of Lords, an official known as Black Rod summons MPs to the Lords.

The door of the lower chamber House of Commons is traditionally slammed in Black Rod's face to symbolise parliament's independence from the monarchy.

About three hours after the speech, MPs gather in the House of Commons to begin six days of debate about what they heard.

They will hear from the prime minister and the leader of the opposition, Keir Starmer.

On the final day of the debate, MPs hold a largely symbolic vote on the motion. The last prime minister to lose the vote was Stanley Baldwin in 1924.

Source: News18
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Challenges Mark Rishi Sunak's First Anniversary as UK Conservative Leader Published 49 minutes ago

Posted By: Vishal Maurya Posted On: Oct 23, 2023

A first anniversary in office is normally a moment for a leader to celebrate, but Britain's Rishi Sunak hits the milestone this week with a mountain to climb to retain power in a general election expected next year.

Two by-election losses to the main opposition Labour Party on Thursday underscored how Sunak, 43, has failed to revive the Conservatives' beleaguered fortunes during his first 12 months in charge.

“The more people see of Sunak, the less they like him in some ways,” Tim Bale, author of a book about the right-wing Conservatives since Brexit, told AFP. “He doesn't really project authority, he doesn't necessarily give the impression that he's in control of events. “He looks, in part, as if he's sort of lurching from one policy initiative to another in a desperate attempt to curry favour with the electorate.”

Sunak entered 10 Downing Street on October 25, 2022, following the chaotic 49-day premiership of Liz Truss, who critics say tanked the UK economy and her party's ratings. Truss had succeeded Boris Johnson, who quit following a revolt by colleagues over numerous scandals, including lockdown-breaking parties at his official residence during the Covid pandemic.

British politics expert Richard Hayton said Sunak had “calmed the factional fighting” among Tories and “helped restore some credibility” to the prime minister's office. But Hayton, an associate professor at the University of Leeds, added that the former finance minister had “struggled to articulate a coherent or compelling vision for his premiership” that could resonate with voters.

With centre-left Labour enjoying double-digit leads in voter surveys for over a year now, politics lecturer David Jeffery agreed that the work done by Sunak had “not been anywhere near enough”. “If you're 15 to 20 points behind in the polls, you don't want to be steadying the ship, you want to be recovering,” said Jeffery, of the University of Liverpool.

Sunak is struggling to meet five flagship year-long policy priorities he made in January that include halving inflation, growing the economy and stopping boatloads of migrants crossing the Channel from France.

Inflation is stuck at 6.7 percent and growth is minimal, while more than 26,000 migrants have landed on England's southeast coast so far this year — a slight decrease on last year's levels. “He made himself a hostage to fortune” with his pledges, Jeffery told AFP. In a change of tack this autumn, Sunak tried to position himself against Labour leader Keir Starmer as the candidate of change — despite the Conservatives having been in power since 2010.

He pitched himself as a champion of motorists, rolling back green energy policies and confirming at the Tory party conference that he was scrapping part of a costly high-speed rail link. But the leadership reset has failed to shift the dial. Sunak's approval ratings hit a record low last month while a More in Common survey this week showed the Tories remain 12 points behind Labour.

After Thursday's ominous losses in two previously safe Tory seats, including the biggest by-election overhaul of a majority since 1945, Sunak appears to be running out of road ahead of an election that must be held by January 2025.

“It seems as if they have fired all their ammunition now,” said Bale, a politics professor at Queen Mary University of London.

Many experts say that Sunak's best chance of securing a fifth consecutive term for his party will come from any uptick in the economy that provides relief from a crippling cost-of-living crisis. Data released Wednesday showed that UK wage growth was outstripping inflation for the first time in almost two years, providing Sunak with a glimmer of optimism. Another hope is that Labour implodes.

Observers also expect Sunak to stoke “culture war” issues — such as pressing ahead with plans to ban conversion therapy for sexual orientation — and step up personal attacks on Starmer, 61. But Bale suspects that voters have already made up their minds about Sunak and the Conservatives. “They're just looking for a change and neither he nor they are it,” he said. Hayton agreed, adding: “It is difficult to see him being able to do enough to prevent Labour becoming the largest party.”

Source: News18
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No, really. Rishi Sunak is a right-winger

Posted By: Tarun Kumar Posted On: Oct 10, 2023
Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. (Photo: AFP)

Followers of Rishi Sunak on social media are treated to high politics and low culture. In one post, the prime minister accused Labour of being on the same side as “criminal gangs" who profit from smuggling people across the Channel into Britain. In another, a beaming Mr Sunak posed with his young family mulling whether to see “Barbie", the pinktastic film about the doll, or “Oppenheimer", a biopic about the godfather of the atom bomb. “Barbie first it is," posted the unapologetically lowbrow politician.

Mr Sunak's perky and nerdy demeanour covers an overlooked fact: he is comfortably the most right-wing Conservative prime minister since Margaret Thatcher. Taking a hard position on asylum-seekers is just the beginning. On everything from social issues, devolution and the environment to Brexit and the economy, Mr Sunak is to the right of the recent Tory occupants of 10 Downing Street. Yet neither voters nor his colleagues seem to have noticed.

Critics dismiss Mr Sunak's hardline position on small boats crossing the Channel as focus group-led posturing. Mr Sunak has made stemming the flow of people across those waters one of the main goals of his government. The prime minister has curtailed the right of asylum for people who arrive in small boats. A barge for 500 asylum-seekers is docked in Dorset waiting for its human cargo. Mr Sunak wants to solve the crisis in the most aggressive and prominent way. If it is all for show, it is a needlessly expensive blockbuster. There is a simpler explanation for Mr Sunak's approach: he believes in it.

Where recent Conservative prime ministers dragged the party towards liberalism, Mr Sunak is resolutely traditionalist. David Cameron, prime minister from 2010 until 2016, backed gay marriage against the wishes of a majority of his MPs. Theresa May's government tried to let trans people “self-ID", so people could change gender without a medical or lengthy bureaucratic process. Those days are gone. When the Scottish National Party introduced similar rules, Mr Sunak's government blocked them, upsetting 25 years of constitutional norms. On trans rights, Mr Sunak has picked a fight. “I know what a woman is," says Mr Sunak. It would be an easy topic to skirt, yet the prime minister runs at it.

Each recent Conservative prime minister has boasted of their environmentalism. David Cameron extolled his green credentials to the point of mockery, even riding a sledge within the Arctic Circle. Mrs May made “net zero" law in one of the most consequential, but least commented upon, achievements of her government. Mr Sunak's government is a reluctant follower, keeping the same goal but grudgingly. The prime minister is “simply uninterested" in the environment, wrote Zac Goldsmith, a former minister, in a resignation letter. He is right. Any environmental obligation that stands between Mr Sunak and re-election will be ditched.

Critics within the party moan that Mr Sunak is a closet leftie: a man who was too quick to spend money when he was chancellor during the pandemic and is too slow to cut taxes now that he is prime minister. Such largesse was out of necessity, rather than choice. By instinct, Mr Sunak is the most fiscally conservative leader since Mr Cameron. Mrs May was comfortable with a larger state as was Boris Johnson, Mr Sunak's predecessor from 2019 to 2022. By contrast, Mr Sunak winces at the idea. Mr Sunak's idol is Nigel Lawson, Thatcher's chancellor, who cut taxes only once it could be afforded. Mr Sunak is attempting the same path. Yet economic thinking in the Tory party has become so confused that fiscal hawkishness is painted as proto-socialist.

When it comes to Brexit, now a religious question for the Conservatives rather than a policy one, Mr Sunak was always a believer. The prime minister churned out articles for his school newspaper about the perils of a European superstate. This marks him out among former prime ministers. Mr Cameron opposed Brexit. Mrs May grinned and bore it. Mr Johnson supported it out of cynicism rather than conviction. Ms Truss learned to love it for similar reasons. Mr Sunak is alone among his peers in thinking that it was always and remains a fundamentally good idea.

Mr Sunak's credentials as a right-winger are close to immaculate. Yet few see him this way. Partly this is a matter of age. Other prime ministers who came to power in their early 40s, such as Sir Tony Blair and Mr Cameron, tried to drag the country in a liberal direction. Mr Sunak has no such plans. Race plays a role, too. Bizarrely, given that the Conservative cabinet is filled with ethnic minorities, there is still an assumption that non-white Britons are left-leaning liberals. It is an increasingly wrong one.

Right on

Ultimately, Mr Sunak's strange reputation is due to the scrambling of British politics after 2016, which mangled the old left-right axis. Mr Sunak's most decisive act was to bring down Mr Johnson. If Mr Johnson was Brexit incarnate, then his assassin must be a Remainer stooge. Right-wing Brexiters flocked to the Remain-supporting Ms Truss, who was loyal to Mr Johnson, in the leadership contest last summer; Mr Sunak relied on a rump of more liberal Tory MPs. Nor was this delusion isolated to Conservatives. After the unprofessionalism of Mr Johnson and the chaos of Ms Truss, centrists welcomed the rise of the diligent Mr Sunak, mistaking competence for liberalism. They assumed he was one of their own based on his age, manner and background rather than his views. Many of them still do.

It is this ideological dissonance that creates the danger for Mr Sunak. He is left channelling another former prime minister who had to persuade his party his views were genuine. In 2001, after New Labour had secured re-election, one party wallah asked Sir Tony if he would ditch his rightward drift. Sir Tony replied: “It's worse than you think. I really do believe in it." Mr Sunak is right-wing out of conviction, rather than convenience—even if few others believe it.

© 2023, The Economist Newspaper Limited. All rights reserved.

From The Economist, published under licence. The original content can be found on www.economist.com

Source: Live Mint
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13 Tories Prepare Silent Bids to Take over UK PM Rishi Sunak’s Role if He Loses Next Elections Updated 4 hours ago

Posted By: Aditya Gogoi Posted On: Sep 30, 2023

Rishi Sunak, the UK Prime Minister, will have one major objective as he head to the Conservative Party's conference this weekend and that will be to convince Tory supporters and party members that he can win the UK's next general election.

However, according to a report by Bloomberg, Tory lawmakers are preparing for a scenario where they are expecting their party leader to lose. Sunak in order to win back voters have rolled back measures to tackle carbon emissions and said he would once again assess the HS2 high-speed rail link, the UK's flagship infrastructure project.

But polls suggest that he will not win the next elections which must be called by January 2025 even though he clawed back ground against the Labour Party, who now lead by a 21-point advantage in the polls.

Over two dozen lawmakers speaking to the news outlet said several Tories are working to mount a successful leadership run should Sunak fail despite the Tory chief staving off the threat of an internal rebellion.

The Bloomberg report said at least 13 top Tories are lining up to take Sunak's place.

Sunak's supporters say that they are not distracted and such events are beyond their control. Some believe he could still win and continue as UK Prime Minister if Labour fails to secure a majority.

Source: News18
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