Rishi Sunak takes over as U.K. PM facing enormous economic and political challenges

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LONDON — Rishi Sunak becomes Britain’s third prime in under two months at a time when the U.K. faces what he has termed a “profound economic challenge” and as his Conservative Party struggles to heal divisive wounds from months of infighting.

He now leads the Conservatives with a substantial parliamentary majority inherited since the 2019 general election, when his former boss Boris Johnson helped win seats in areas of Britain that had never traditionally voted for the center right party.

“It is only right to explain why I am standing here as your new prime minister,” Sunak told the crowd of journalists gathered outside No. 10 Downing Street’s famous front door, after formally accepting his new role from King Charles during a meeting at Buckingham Palace.

“Right now our country is facing a profound economic crisis,” he said. “The aftermath of COVID still lingers.”

After Liz Truss’ imploded premiership left the Conservative poll numbers sinking to historic lows, Sunak will have around two years to restore confidence among his legislators that they can retain power at the next national vote after 12 years of leading the government.