Rishi Sunak paints himself as Britain's Mr Fixit as he arrives in Downing Street

New prime minister warns of difficult decisions to come as he replaces Liz Truss

Britain's new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak arrives in Downing Street. EPA
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Striding into Downing Street after his meeting with King Charles, Rishi Sunak's message was clear: he was here to get on with the job.

There were no family or friends, acolytes or colleagues to applaud him through the famous black door of No 10. His wife Akshata Murty and their daughters Anoushka and Krishna were not given the chance to see him cross the threshold.

While many families would jump at the chance of having such a moment in the spotlight, it was not for the Sunaks.

There was no time to lose before he set about sorting out the mess of Liz Truss's ill-fated, disastrous seven weeks in charge.

He even did away with the twisty lectern used by Liz Truss only an hour earlier. The unusual design had been likened to a Jenga tower — the game in which the blocks eventually collapse.

For Mr Sunak there was a no-nonsense traditional lectern. This was serious business with no time for frills, he was saying.

After the turmoil of the past few weeks, Mr Sunak was moving swiftly and uncompromisingly to disown Ms Truss’s calamitous agenda of unfunded tax cuts, making clear that it was his job to clear up the chaos she left behind.

He said “some mistakes were made” during Ms Truss’s 49 days in office — without specifically mentioning the mini-budget which tanked the markets — but stressed they were “not born of ill will, or bad intentions”.

“Quite the opposite in fact, but mistakes nonetheless,” he added. “And I have been elected as leader of my party and your prime minister in part to fix them.”

As Mr Fixit, he has set himself a mission to bring about economic stability, unite Britain and put the needs of the people before politics.

The prime minister put the country on notice to expect painful decisions — with tax rises and spending cuts almost certainly on the way as he looks to fill an estimated £40 billion black hole in the public finances — while at the same time reassuring financial markets he will balance the books.

"Remember me?" he seemed to be saying. "I kept the economy running during Covid and everything was smooth."

Meanwhile, just as Mr Sunak stepped up to address the country, outside Downing Street demonstrators delivered an amplified musical message. One of the tunes they chose for the arrival of the prime minister, an apparent Star Wars fan, was The Imperial March, Darth Vader's theme.

The new Conservative leader promised to govern with compassion, professionalism and integrity as he laid out his vision on the steps of No 10.

Words were aimed at addressing the chaos and scandals of the Boris Johnson years and what followed under Ms Truss. To voters weary of the endless political drama, he was promising calm, competent leadership and good government.

He was brushing away the Truss era, insisting he still has a mandate to govern based on the 2019 election manifesto.

Earlier, Ms Truss had delivered her farewell speech on the same spot, watched by her husband Hugh O’Leary and their teenage daughters Frances and Liberty. The girls’ appearance marks the first time they have been seen in public since their mother took office 49 days ago.

Ms Truss’s husband kept his eyes locked on his wife for most of her speech.

When she had finished, she turned to her family and her daughters smiled before following their parents out of Downing Street.

There were no school lessons missed by the girls, as it is half-term. While she leaves office as the UK’s shortest-serving prime minister, Ms Truss will nevertheless be remembered as only the third female to hold the position.

A small band of loyal Truss followers gathered to watch Ms Truss give the address but few MPs were in sight.

Therese Coffey, who served as deputy prime minister and health secretary in Ms Truss’s administration, was at the front of the pack and snapped a selfie before her boss took to the podium.

Ms Coffey appeared moved as Ms Truss walked out of Downing Street for the last time as PM. Colleagues embraced her and patted her back as she headed off to hand in her resignation to the king.

As the UK’s third prime minister in only two turbulent months, the pressure resting on Mr Sunak's shoulders is enormous. But his body language did not hint at him being daunted in the slightest by the magnitude of the task at hand.

During his speech, which lasted five minutes and 56 seconds, he paid tribute to his former boss Mr Johnson’s “incredible achievements as prime minister” but he had much less to say about Ms Truss.

Rishi Sunak through the years - in pictures

He said he was “not daunted” by the task ahead as he stands “ready to lead our country into the future”.

He spoke for longer than all of the equivalent speeches by prime ministers in recent decades except for Mr Johnson in 2019, who spoke for 11 minutes and 13 seconds.

Mr Sunak's entry into No 10 marks a historic moment for the county as he is the first Hindu to serve as prime minister of Britain.

There will be many across the country now hoping a fresh face in Downing Street will usher in a new era of much-needed stability on the back of months of chaos and upheaval.

With a war in Europe, a worsening cost-of-living emergency, inflation at a 40-year high and the National Health Service facing a winter crisis, tackling the challenges at hand will be no small feat.

As opposition parties' calls for a general election grow louder, Mr Sunak pledged to work to earn the trust of voters.

He presented himself to the country as a man who understands the scale of the challenge he faces but is ready to tackle it head on and fix it.

Updated: October 25, 2022, 4:24 PM