Rishi Sunak Defends Record in Last Speech as Prime Minister

Rishi Sunak addressed the nation for the last time on Friday as Britain’s prime minister, apologizing for his failings and accepting responsibility for his Conservative Party’s catastrophic election performance but defending his economic record.

“To the country, I would like to say first and foremost, I am sorry,” said Mr. Sunak in a brief but dignified statement in Downing Street. “I have heard your anger, your disappointment. And I take responsibility for this loss.”

The outgoing leader spoke for about four minutes, with his wife, Akshata Murty, looking on. He then began the short journey to Buckingham Palace to offer his resignation to King Charles III.

The election defeat is a seismic political moment in Britain, ending 14 years of Conservative government. Mr. Sunak said he would step aside as leader of his party — but only once formal arrangements to choose his successor are in place. He remains a lawmaker, having won re-election to his parliamentary seat in Yorkshire.

Criticized by some colleagues for calling the general election earlier than expected, Mr. Sunak acknowledged his failures both to the Conservative Party and to the nation. But he also defended his record, arguing that inflation had fallen, economic growth had returned and Britain had enhanced its standing in the world in the less than two years he was prime minister.

“I’m proud of those achievements,” he said. “I believe this country is safer and more secure than it was 20 months ago.”

He also praised his successor, Keir Starmer, whom he called a “decent, public-spirited man who I respect.”

“In this job, his successes will be all our successes, and I wish him and his family well,” Mr. Sunak said.

The statement marks the end of the political road, at least for now, for the 44-year-old former hedge fund manager who enjoyed a meteoric rise in public life. Mr. Sunak entered Parliament in 2015 and served as chancellor of the Exchequer during the coronavirus pandemic, when he offered generous financial support to keep workers in employment.

“This is a difficult day at the end of a number of difficult days but I leave this job honored to have been your prime minister,” Mr. Sunak said.

He offered a personal note, saying that he was proud to have been Britain’s first prime minister of Hindu faith.

“One of the most remarkable things about Britain is just how unremarkable it is that two generations after my grandparents came here with little, I could become prime minister and that I could watch my two young daughters light Diwali candles on the steps in Downing Street,” he said.

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