Government in 2023: what challenges does Rishi Sunak face?

Think tank: Institute for Government

Author(s): Hannah White

January 12, 2023

This report from UK think tank the Institute for Government looks at the tough choices and difficult trade-offs facing the government in 2023.

As we begin 2023, the tough choices and difficult trade-offs involved in governing a country are more evident than ever. Governments around the world are dealing with geopolitical tensions, the health and economic consequences of the pandemic and the pressures of the climate crisis. But the UK also faces additional home-grown challenges: from the continued reverberations of Brexit to growing tensions within the union. And recent turmoil in the Conservative Party has made the task of governing even harder than it needs to be, diminishing trust in politics and disrupting the business of government. Now, as the fifth iteration of Conservative government since 2010 establishes itself, the drum beat of the impending general election – no later than two years from now – is heightening the pressure on ministers and civil servants to address the most urgent problems facing the country. In contrast to the chaos and controversy that marked out the final days of his two immediate predecessors, Rishi Sunak’s first weeks as prime minister have demonstrated a welcome degree of calmness and pragmatism, and a recognition of the importance of prioritising his core objectives. But the new prime minister’s 4 January speech made clear that he wants to do more than surmount the low bar for effective government set in 2022. And the public will expect him to do so because the problems facing the country in 2023 are great.