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Chris Patten
Says More…

This week in Say More, PS talks with Chris Patten, Chancellor of the University of Oxford and the last British governor of Hong Kong.

Project Syndicate: In December, you highlighted the difficult challenges facing the United Kingdom’s new prime minister, Rishi Sunak, but saw reason to hope that he would tackle them effectively. One hundred days into his tenure, Sunak has announced his intention to scrap thousands of European Union laws by the end of this year and is reportedly considering withdrawing the UK from the European Convention on Human Rights in order to enable a crackdown on immigration. Meanwhile, the National Health Service (NHS) is facing the biggest strike in its history. Do you still see reason for optimism about Sunak? Where will his current trajectory take the UK and the Conservative Party?

Chris Patten: Rishi Sunak is highly intelligent, hard-working, decent, and no ideologue. He certainly represents a huge improvement over his two predecessors (though that is not a very high bar). Nonetheless, Sunak is not above reproach. In fact, he has been wrong about two of the biggest issues in contemporary British politics: he long supported Brexit, and he strongly favored Boris Johnson becoming Conservative Party leader and UK Prime Minister.

Sunak has inherited some awful problems. The British economy is in a miserable state, not least because the UK faces even worse inflation than other countries, owing not least to the policies of Johnson’s successor and Sunak’s immediate predecessor, Liz Truss. Meanwhile, the NHS, with an often badly paid and sometimes justifiably fractious workforce, is struggling to deal with a backlog of patients.