Updated: Jul 11
Welcome to OH’s first blog post!
We decided to start with a topic that I personally feel has been quite inaccessible to young people - UK politics. It can be difficult to follow, much less to engage in. The chaotic nature of our political system since the late 2010s has only made this worse. The aim of the post is for it to be a brief introduction to our new Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, and a collection of his most important Cabinet members. Sunak, like any other Prime Minister, has a Cabinet which is a team of his most senior ministers appointed by him to lead on specific policy areas. UK politics has been a whirlwind since the resignation of former Prime Minister David Cameron in June 2016. This was after the referendum, which David Cameron called, to decide the fate of Britain’s membership in the European Union (EU) resulting in the ‘leave’ votes winning. It has been quite difficult to keep up with the different Conservative Prime Ministers we have had since then as the position has been nothing short of a revolving door.
Firstly, we have Rishi Sunak, our first Hindu Prime Minister of ethnic descent. Sunak gained his place at Number 10 essentially by default. Over the summer, he competed alongside fellow Conservative MPs Liz Truss and Penny Mordaunt in the Conservative leadership contest to succeed Boris Johnson as Prime Minister. Truss emerged as the victor in that leadership race, but was forced to resign at the end of October after only 45 days in office. Mordaunt and Sunak became rivals in another leadership contest triggered by Truss’ resignation, but Sunak found more joy on this occasion as Mordaunt’s withdrawal from the race made him the victor of the contest and the new Prime Minister by extension.
With all the turbulence the political landscape has experienced as a result of the Conservative Party, the question may be asked if Sunak and his party are actually equipped to continue governing the country. Your judgement of this can be determined by an insight into his political background. Sunak has been MP for Richmond Yorks since 2015, his last notable position in the House of Commons was as Chancellor of the Exchequer, serving from 2020 until 2022 when Johnson resigned. As Chancellor, Sunak was the chief financial minister and was thus responsible for monitoring public spending and the levels of taxation. You might have recognised him as he was frequently on our tv screens with Johnson during the weekly COVID updates, or you probably saw a picture of him holding a red briefcase when announcing the yearly budget as Chancellor. His name even made headlines outside of his political activity when his wife, Akshata Murty, was accused of tax evasion of up to £20 million in newspapers in April. Or perhaps when the New Statesman released a video of him at a Conservative event in Tunbridge Wells where he admitted to changing the formulas the previous Labour governments used to fund “deprived urban areas” so that the money could be funnelled to more affluent areas such as Tunbridge Wells.
Sunak’s Deputy Prime Minister is none other than Dominic Raab, who has been MP for Esher and Walton (in Surrey) since May 2010. He is another established figure in UK politics, recognisable from his tenure as Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union for four months in 2018. As Deputy Prime Minister, he also holds the title of Lord Chancellor. Being Lord Chancellor makes Raab the Secretary of State for Justice, which just means he is the head of the Ministry of Justice. Recently, he has been in the news as an inquiry has been launched against him to investigate three bullying allegations from his time as a Cabinet minister under Johnson.
Another key player in Sunak’s Cabinet is Jeremy Hunt. Hunt now occupies Sunak’s previous position as Chancellor of the Exchequer and has been an MP for southwest Surrey for almost two decades. He is arguably one of Sunak’s most experienced Cabinet ministers, holding different Cabinet positions from 2010, the Cameron era, such as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care or for Culture, the Olympics, Media and Sport.
A slight contrast from the well-established and experienced character of Hunt is James Cleverly. Cleverly is the current Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs and has been the MP for Braintree since 2015. In this role, he is tasked with managing Britain’s foreign policy; which is essentially overseeing how Britain interacts with other countries. Cleverly served as a Cabinet minister before, being appointed by Johnson as Secretary of State for Education.
Our last key player in Cabinet is the current Home Secretary, Suella Braverman. As Home Secretary, Braverman oversees national security, policing and immigration. She has also been the MP of Fareham since 2015. However, Braverman has not always been a politician. She held the impressive title of Attorney General for England as Wales as well as Advocate General for Northern Ireland from 2020 to 2021. As Attorney General, she was the main legal advisor to the Crown and government of England and Wales. By virtue of that title, she also is Advocate General for Northern Ireland which means she is the chief legal adviser to the UK government on Northern Ireland law. Her appointment as a Cabinet minister by Sunak was questioned due to the controversy surrounding her resignation as Home Secretary under Sunak’s predecessor Truss. She was forced to resign after six cases of her using her private email to send confidential government documents were revealed and this was problematic because it was a breach of security.
I hope this post helped to improve your knowledge of the key players in our political system. As mentioned before, it can be difficult to stay engaged with what occurs in UK politics. But, there are some useful resources that break down current affairs and the powerful political people in a way that is digestible and easier to follow. My main ones are the BBC website or app and the GOV.UK website. GOV.UK is really helpful in showing you the people leading our country and in explaining key political terms.