What can Rishi Sunak do as prime minister?

Rishi Sunak could be announced as prime minister on Monday. Credit: PA

For the Tory Party, Rishi Sunak - not Boris Johnson - is a sort of economic equivalent of Winston Churchill in 1940, because he takes over to correct the disastrous misjudgements of his immediate predecessor.

Churchill warned against appeasing Hitler and he replaced the appeaser Chamberlain.

Sunak’s single most important claim to be PM is that he warned all summer that Truss’s unfunded tax cuts would be disastrous - as they turned out to be. In a way Sunak warned that markets and investors had to be appeased, or else.

So, if as expected Sunak wins the Tory leadership contest today and becomes prime minister, it is to clear up, as far as he can, the desperate self-administered mess that is Truss’s legacy.

And there lies the painful reality for the Conservatives.

Churchill is to this day feted as Britain’s greatest ever PM, and he lost the 1945 election five years after becoming PM.

Even if Sunak manifests Churchillian resolve and stoicism, the Tories will go to the polls in two years at the latest - and when memories of its economic incompetence will still be raw - however successful Sunak turns out to be in limiting Truss’s blow to our prosperity.

For Tories, expectations of what any new leader can do for their electoral prospects now should be founded in the grim reality that there are no precedents for not paying an electoral price for the kind of debacle that was their fault.

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