New British PM Rishi Sunak pledges to clean up mess 

Published - October 25, 2022 08:48 pm IST

New British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak arrives as Larry the cat sits at Downing Street in London on October 25, 2022, after returning from Buckingham Palace where he was formally appointed to the post by Britain’s King Charles III.

New British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak arrives as Larry the cat sits at Downing Street in London on October 25, 2022, after returning from Buckingham Palace where he was formally appointed to the post by Britain’s King Charles III. | Photo Credit: AP

Britain’s new Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak on Tuesday said he would try to fix the mess left by his predecessor, restore faith in politics and tackle a “profound economic crisis” but warned the country there would be difficult decisions.

Standing in front of his Downing Street office, Sunak paid tribute to Liz Truss, whose economic programme roiled the markets, saying the mistakes she made were not “born of ill will or bad intentions”. Sunak spoke for five minutes and 56 seconds—longer than the time taken by nearly all of his predecessors when they made similar remarks at the start of their premiership, The Independent newspaper reported.

The one exception is Boris Johnson, who spoke for 11 minutes and 13 seconds in Downing Street after being appointed prime minister in 2019. He also took aim at Johnson, by saying the mandate the Conservatives were handed at the 2019 election won by the former Prime Minister was not the property of one individual, and he would be guided by its promises.

“I want to pay tribute to my predecessor Liz Truss... Some mistakes were made. Not born of ill will or bad intentions. Quite the opposite in fact. But mistakes nonetheless,” he said.

“And I have been elected as leader of my party and your Prime Minister, in part to fix them. And that work begins immediately. I will place economic stability and confidence at the heart of this government’s agenda. This will mean difficult decisions to come.”

Appealing to a public facing rising energy and food prices, Sunak, one of the wealthiest lawmakers in Parliament, said he fully appreciated how hard things were for many.

When he was Treasury chief, Sunak became popular with the public by handing out billions in support to shuttered businesses and laid-off workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But now he will have to oversee tax hikes and public spending cuts as he tries to bring inflation and government debt under control. Acknowledging “difficult decisions to come,” Sunak tried to draw a line under the chaos that engulfed Truss and her predecessor, Johnson. He said his government “will have integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level.”

“All I can say is that I am not daunted. I know the high office I have accepted and I hope to live up to its demands,” he said.

“So I stand here before you ready to lead our country into the future. To put your needs above politics, to reach out and build a government that represents the very best traditions of my party. Together we can achieve incredible things.”

Sunak’s top priorities will be appointing Cabinet ministers, and preparing for a budget statement that will set out how the government plans to come up with billions of pounds (dollars) to fill a fiscal hole created by soaring inflation and a sluggish economy — and exacerbated by Truss’ destabilising time in office.

That statement, set to feature tax increases and spending cuts, is currently due to be made in Parliament on Monday by Treasury chief Jeremy Hunt — if Sunak keeps him in the job.

Truss departed Tuesday after making a defiant public statement outside 10 Downing Street, seven weeks to the day after she was appointed Prime Minister. She announced her resignation on Thursday, acknowledging she could not deliver on her economic plans.

In her departing words Truss offered a defense of her low-tax vision and her brief term in office — despite the market mayhem triggered by her September 23 budget package.

“I am more convinced than ever that we need to be bold and confront the problems we face,” she said, before wishing Sunak success as “our country continues to battle through a storm.”

Sunak was chosen as Conservative leader after becoming the only candidate to clear the hurdle of 100 nominations from fellow lawmakers to run in the party election. Sunak defeated rival Penny Mordaunt, who may get a job in his government, and the ousted Johnson, who dashed back from a Caribbean vacation to rally support for a comeback bid but failed to get enough backing to run.

BJP, Opposition spar over Rishi Sunak

A war of words broke out between the ruling BJP and Opposition parties as Indian-origin Rishi Sunak was appointed as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. While the Opposition lamented the alleged majoritarian nature of the Modi Government, the BJP cited A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s and Dr. Manmohan Singh’s rise as the country’s president and prime minister.

The BJP also rejected any parallel drawn between Italian-origin Sonia Gandhi not getting prime ministership in 2004 and Britain’s ruling party choosing Sunak as its leader.

“Can’t differentiate between Italy-born Sonia [who refused to take Indian citizenship for several decades after marriage with Rajiv] and U.K.-born Rishi with Indian ancestry,” BJP’s foreign affairs department head Vijay Chauthaiwale said responding to a Twitter user.

Reactions from BJP leaders came after leaders from various Opposition parties, including the Congress, appeared to take a swipe at the BJP while lauding the rise of Sunak.

PDP president and former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti said it was a proud moment that Indian-origin Sunak was elected as U.K.’s Prime Minister but it should also serve as a reminder that Britain has accepted an ethnic minority member as its premier but “we are still shackled by divisive and discriminatory laws like NRC and CAA”.

Hitting out at Mufti’s remarks, former law minister and BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad, said, “Some leaders have become hyperactive against majoritarianism after the election of Rishi Sunak as PM of U.K. Gently reminding them about the extraordinary Presidency of A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Manmohan Singh as PM for 10 years. A distinguished tribal leader Droupadi Murmu is now our President.”

Meanwhile, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh asserted that India was a shining example of celebrating plurality and diversity but the past eight years of the Modi Government have reversed the philosophy of ‘unity in diversity’ so much that even England has started giving lessons. Ramesh said the BJP under former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee also believed in the Nehruvian philosophy of inclusive leadership.

“It was during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s Prime Ministership that Dr. Kalam became President. There is a world of difference between Vajpayee ji and Narendra Modi. I believe Vajpayee ji was deeply inspired by [Jawaharlal] Nehru and Mr. Modi seems hell bent on wiping out Nehru’s legacy,” Ramesh said.

Interestingly, amid Congress leaders like P. Chidambaram and Shashi Tharoor tweeting that Rishi Sunak’s rise as British Prime Minister can serve as a lesson for India, Ramesh said many minorities have become the President and Chief Minister in the past.

“Those who get a mandate will become prime minister. Democratically, if someone is elected, we don’t have a problem. England’s party has made him the prime minister, we welcome it,” said Ramesh. “In our country, Dr. Zakir Hussain first became the President in 1967, then Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed became the President and Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and if I keep giving you examples, Barkatullah Khan became chief minister and A.R. Antulay also became the chief minister,” he said.

Asked about the remarks by Congress leaders like Tharoor and Chidambaram, Ramesh said, “you should ask them”.

On Monday, Chidambaram tweeted: “First Kamala Harris, now Rishi Sunak. The people of the U.S. and the U.K. have embraced the non-majority citizens of their countries and elected them to high office in government. I think there is a lesson to be learned by India and the parties that practise majoritarianism.”

Play Store policies | CCI slaps ₹936.44 crore penalty on Google for unfair business practices 

In its second ruling against Google in less than a week, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) on Tuesday slapped a penalty of ₹936.44 crore on the internet major for abusing its dominant position with respect to its Play Store policies.

The regulator has also directed the company to cease and desist from unfair business practices as well as carry out various measures to address the anti-competitive issues within a defined timeline.

This is the second major CCI ruling against Google in less than a week. On October 20, the watchdog imposed a penalty of ₹1,337.76 crore on the company for abusing its dominant position in multiple markets in relation to Android mobile devices and ordered the internet major to cease and desist from various unfair business practices.

In a release on Tuesday, the Competition Commission of India (Commission) said it has imposed a penalty of ₹936.44 crore on Google for abusing its dominant position with respect to its Play Store policies. Google’s Play Store constitutes the main distribution channel for app developers in the Android mobile ecosystem, which allows its owners to capitalise on the apps brought to market.

The regulator noted that making access to the Play Store for app developers dependent on mandatory usage of GPBS (Google Play’s Billing System) for paid apps and in-app purchases constitutes an imposition of an unfair condition on app developers. Apart from the penalty, CCI said Google should not restrict app developers from using any third-party billing/ payment processing services for purchasing apps.

There was no immediate comment from Google on the latest CCI order. On October 21, Google said it will review the order with respect to the Android devices matter. Similar to the observations made in its ruling against Google in the Android matter, CCI on Tuesday said the penalty amount is provisional as there were glaring inconsistencies and wide disclaimers in presenting various revenue data points by Google.

The penalty amount translates to 7% of the company’s average relevant turnover.

Google has been given a time of 30 days to provide the requisite financial details and supporting documents, the release said. The regulator has been probing Google in other cases as well, including those pertaining to alleged anti-competitive practices by the internet major with respect to news content and smart TV.

In February 2018, the regulator imposed a fine of ₹136 crore on Google for unfair business practices in the Indian market for the online search. According to the release on Tuesday, Google has been asked to implement various measures, including allowing and not restricting app developers from using any third-party billing/ payment processing services, either for in-app purchases or for purchasing apps.

“Google shall also not discriminate or otherwise take any adverse measures against such apps using third-party billing/ payment processing services, in any manner,” the release said.

Further, the internet major has been asked not to impose any anti-steering provisions on app developers as well as not restrict them from communicating with their users to promote their apps and offerings, in any manner.

Google should not restrict end users, in any manner, to access and use within apps, the features and services offered by app developers, the release said.

According to CCI, the company should set out a clear and transparent policy on data that is collected on its platform, the use of such data by the platform and also the potential and actual sharing of such data with app developers or other entities, including related entities.

Among other directions, the regulator has told Google that the competitively relevant transaction/ consumer data of apps generated and acquired through GPBS should not be leveraged by the company to further its competitive advantage.

“Google shall also provide access to the app developer of the data that has been generated through the concerned app, subject to adequate safeguards, as highlighted in this order,” the release said.

Also, CCI has asked the internet major not to impose any condition on app developers, which is unfair, unreasonable, discriminatory or disproportionate to the services provided to them.

WhatsApp resumes service after facing outage for over an hour 

WhatsApp faced problems on Tuesday with thousands of users complaining of outages on Twitter. Meta, which owns the popular messaging app, said it has fixed the glitch, and that the service was back.

The resumption of service was confirmed by users. WhatsApp Web, the app’s web version, used by many on their desktops and laptops, was also hit by the outage. When the outage was reported, Meta said it was trying to fix the problem. “We’re aware that some people are currently having trouble sending messages and we’re working to restore WhatsApp for everyone as quickly as possible.” Meta did not say what led to the outage.

A woman in Bengaluru checks WhatsApp settings on October 25, 2022, after the application was hit by a global outage.

A woman in Bengaluru checks WhatsApp settings on October 25, 2022, after the application was hit by a global outage. | Photo Credit: AFP

The outage had also been reported by Downdetector, a website that tracks real-time technology-related outages. Some twenty-eight thousand outage reports had been filed on the tracker.

This was WhatsApp’s first major outage since the October 5 snag that took down WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook, affecting millions of users for several hours before services were restored.

The instant messaging platform is relied upon by individuals as well as businesses to share information. #Whatsappdown was trending on Twitter, and many users took to the microblogging platform to share funny memes on the issue.

WhatsApp currently has over 350 million monthly active users in India. The platform had earlier this year rolled out features to help businesses connect with users in the country.

In brief

There was 30% less pollution on Deepavali in Delhi as compared to last year and the city recorded its best air quality for the day after the festival in five years, Environment Minister Gopal Rai said on Tuesday. The air quality index [AQI] stood at 323 on Tuesday [the day after Deepavali] as compared to 462 last year, which means the “air pollution declined by over 30%”, he said. The minister said the AQI on the day after Deepavali stood at 390 in 2018, 368 in 2019 and 435 in 2020.

Evening Wrap will return tomorrow.  

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