Timeline: Rishi Sunak’s first year in office

Rishi Sunak was swept into Downing Street this time last year by Tory MPs as the party searched for stability after the chaotic and brief tenure of Liz Truss.

Here’s how his first year in office played out:

– October 25 2022

Liz Truss
Liz Truss was ousted after a disastrous mini-budget (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Mr Sunak returned from Buckingham Palace and set out appointing his Cabinet, having promised to lead a Government with “integrity and accountability” and fix the “mistakes” of the Truss administration after her disastrous mini-budget sent the markets into turmoil.

But his choices immediately caused controversy as they included Suella Braverman, who had resigned days earlier after sending a Tory backbencher a sensitive document from a personal email account.

– November 8 2022

Mr Sunak lost a Cabinet minister early into his tenure.

Ally Sir Gavin Williamson resigned after allegations he sent expletive-laden messages to former chief whip Wendy Morton in which he complained about being refused an invitation to the Queen’s funeral, as well as claims he bullied a former official at the Ministry of Defence and an accusation of “unethical and immoral” behaviour while he was chief whip.

– November 16 2022

Gavin Williamson
Mr Sunak lost a key ally in Sir Gavin Williamson (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

Deputy prime minister Dominic Raab, who returned from a brief stint on the backbenches to take up his old position as justice secretary, found himself facing a bullying inquiry after complaints were made against him.

– November 17 2022

In a crunch day for Mr Sunak and his Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, the pair sought to put into practice their promises to soothe the markets and return financial credibility to the UK.

Accompanied by an Office for Budget Responsibility report, Kwasi Kwarteng’s replacement set out a £55 billion package of tax hikes and spending cuts, which angered Tory MPs but appeared to align with the new PM’s promise of fiscal discipline after the chaos of Ms Truss’s mini-budget.

– November 19 2022

Mr Sunak made his first visit to Ukraine, holding talks with President Volodymyr Zelensky and reiterating the UK’s backing for the war-torn country.

The visit was not just symbolic, coming alongside an announcement of a £50 million package of defence aid for Ukraine.

– December 2 2022

Rishi Sunak and Volodymyr Zelensky
Mr Sunak visited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky early on in his tenure (Juan Medina/PA)

Mr Sunak suffered his first electoral defeat as Prime Minister as Labour won the City of Chester by-election.

– December 6 2022

In early December the Prime Minister bowed to pressure from Tory backbenchers to relent on the construction of new onshore wind farms in a climbdown from his own stated opposition to building new turbines onshore.

During the same period, the Government also watered down local housebuilding targets to avoid a Commons rebellion.

– December 15 2022

Tens of thousands of nurses across England, Wales and Northern Ireland staged their first national walkout, as Mr Sunak and his Government failed to resolve a dispute over pay and working conditions.

– December 16 2022

Mr Sunak suffered another blow at the ballot box after Labour swept to victory in the Stretford and Urmston by-election.

– January 4 2023

In a new year speech, Mr Sunak attempted to set out a fresh vision for his premiership, including his five key pledges: to halve inflation this year, grow the economy, make sure national debt is falling, cut NHS waiting lists and pass new laws to stop small boats.

– January 20 2023

Nurses' strike
Industrial disputes have rocked the country (James Manning/PA)

In a widely mocked incident, Mr Sunak was issued with a fixed penalty notice by Lancashire Police after he was spotted not wearing his seatbelt in an Instagram video he filmed to promote levelling-up funding during a visit to the county.

It was his second fine. He also paid a fixed penalty notice as chancellor during the partygate scandal for attending a lockdown-busting gathering to mark then-prime minister Boris Johnson’s 56th birthday.

– January 29 2023

After days of questioning and controversy about Nadhim Zahawi’s tax affairs, Mr Sunak sacked the Tory chairman after an ethics investigation found he had committed a “serious breach of the Ministerial Code”.

The row had dragged on for days, causing headaches and accusations of dithering for Downing Street, but the PM said he wanted to let “due process” take place.

– February 27 2023

Mr Sunak hailed a “decisive breakthrough” on post-Brexit rules after agreeing on the “Windsor Framework” with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

The deal – a replacement to the Northern Ireland Protocol – would remove trade barriers for Northern Ireland and give the UK a “veto” on EU law, he said.

But Ms von der Leyen said the agreement still includes a role for the European Court of Justice – a major issue for the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), prompting DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson to warn key areas of “concern” remained.

– March 3 2023

Rishi Sunak and Ursula von der Leyen
Mr Sunak and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen hailed the Windsor Framework, though the DUP and others have raised concerns (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Plans to house asylum seekers on the Bibby Stockholm barge to be moored in Portland, Dorset, in a bid to reduce reliance on costly hotel accommodation met opposition from the Tory-run local council.

– March 7 2023

Mr Sunak along with the Home Secretary unveiled controversial plans to curb small boat crossings in the English Channel, with the Prime Minister warning migrants arriving in the UK without permission will be removed “within weeks”.

People would be sent either to their own country if it is safe to do so or to a “safe third country” like Rwanda. The Illegal Migration Bill was criticised by campaigners as impractical and unethical.

– March 10 2023

Mr Sunak holds the first meeting of its kind in five years with French President Emmanuel Macron, signalling a thaw in relations between the UK and EU partners. He announced Britain would give France nearly half a billion pounds over the next three years to step up efforts to prevent Channel crossings, with hundreds of extra law enforcement officers to be put on French shores.

But a returns deal – coveted by the PM – was not brokered, as Mr Macron said that would not be “an agreement between the UK and France, but an agreement between the UK and the EU”.

– March 13 2023

Bibby Stockholm
The Government’s plan to accommodate asylum seekers on the Bibby Stockholm barge faced a number of challenges (Ben Birchall/PA)

On his first visit to the US as Prime Minister, Mr Sunak agreed plans for a new generation of nuclear-powered submarines under the so-called Aukus partnership between the UK, US and Australia.

The pact, intended to counter China’s increasing military assertiveness in the Pacific, prompted Beijing to to accuse the partners of fuelling a new arms race.

– March 16 2023

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s Spring Budget focused on getting people who have left the jobs back to work and boosting business investment.

He also hailed a brighter economic outlook for Britain, putting it on course to avoid a recession this year, forecast by the Office for Budget Responsibility.

– March 31 2023

The UK’s accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) – Britain’s biggest trade deal since leaving the EU – was formally confirmed.

The deal cut tariffs for UK exporters to a group of nations which – with Britain’s membership – has a total gross domestic product (GDP) of £11 trillion, accounting for 15% of global GDP, according to UK officials.

Critics said the impact will be limited, with official estimates suggesting it will add just £1.8 billion a year to the economy after 10 years, representing less than 1% of UK GDP.

– April 3 2023

An announced crackdown on child sexual abuse attracted controversy after the Home Secretary singled out British Pakistani men over concerns about grooming gangs.

The NSPCC warned against an excessive focus on race, but Mr Sunak said “political correctness” would no longer hamper actions to protect children from exploitation.

Hopes of breaking the deadlock with striking teachers were dealt a blow after the UK’s largest education union rejected the Government’s pay offer.

National Education Union (NEU) members voted to turn down the deal, leaving open the possibility of further strikes in schools across England strikes into the autumn term.

– April 11 2023

Sunak and Biden
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak met Mr Biden to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement (Paul Ellis/PA)

Mr Sunak commenced a series of engagements for the anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

Visiting Belfast alongside him was US President Joe Biden, who called for power-sharing in Northern Ireland to be restored before departing shortly after he arrived for the Republic of Ireland.

The length of the visit was seen by some as low-key, but Mr Sunak stressed the closeness of the transatlantic relationship, saying it was in “great shape”.

– April 21 2023

Mr Sunak lost close ally Dominic Raab, who resigned after a bullying inquiry made critical findings against him.

The Prime Minister was accused by opposition critics of weak leadership as he spent days mulling whether to sack the former justice secretary and deputy prime minister after receiving the report.

– May 2 2023

Most of the 14 health unions staging industrial action in disputes over pay and working conditions accepted the Government’s offer of a 5% rise, bringing brief respite amid long-running disruption across public services.

– May 6 2023

Sunak and a community group
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks to community group members ahead of the King’s Coronation (Geoff Pugh/Daily Telegraph/PA)

The cut and thrust of politics in Westminster was briefly suspended as events marking the King’s Coronation took over.

But arrests of anti-monarchy activists and other groups demonstrating in London during the period reignited debate about the Government’s controversial new Public Order Act that introduced restrictions on disruptive protests.

– May 16 2023

Mr Sunak commenced another diplomatic blitz, including attendance at a Council of Europe summit and ending in Hiroshima for a G7 gathering.

The PM used the summit to push for closer co-operation on tackling small boat crossings after his plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda were thwarted by an order from the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

His hopes appeared dampened when host country Iceland said the meeting would not have “a big focus on migration”.

In Japan, Mr Sunak secured a new deal with his counterpart Fumio Kishida aimed at building closer defence and security ties with the country.

But his G7 engagements in Hiroshima, which included the announcement of new sanctions against Russia, clashed with emerging claims that the Home Secretary Suella Braverman asked civil servants to help her avoid incurring points on her licence after being caught speeding.

Mr Sunak considered an inquiry but ultimately decided that the conduct did not amount to a breach of the Ministerial Code.

– June 8 2023

Sunak and Biden
The Atlantic Declaration came after hopes of a full-blown trade deal were abandoned (James Manning/PA)

Mr Sunak met the US president in Washington DC where they agreed a new partnership aimed at bolstering economic security in response to China’s growing influence.

The Atlantic Declaration came after hopes of a full-blown free trade deal were abandoned, with UK officials insisting the new, targeted approach was a better response to the economic challenges posed by Beijing and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

– June 9 2023

Former prime minister Boris Johnson dramatically quit as an MP ahead of the publication of the Privileges Committee’s report into lockdown-busting gatherings during his tenure, which found he deliberately misled MPs over the scandal.

The resignation paved the way for a by-election in his seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip and reopened divisions among some in the Tory ranks, with Johnson ally Nigel Adams also announcing he would stand down.

Former culture secretary Nadine Dorries also announced her resignation following a row about her not receiving a peerage in Mr Johnson’s resignation honours list – leaving Mr Sunak facing three electoral tests.

– June 18 2023

Former Tory MP David Warburton stood down after an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and cocaine use, triggering yet another by-election. Mr Warburton denied accusations he harassed a woman but admitted using cocaine after drinking “tonnes of incredibly potent” Japanese whisky.

– July 13 2023

Mr Sunak challenged unions to call off strikes after offering public sector workers pay rises of up to 7% – accepting the recommendations of the independent pay review bodies.

– July 20 2023

Rishi Sunak in parliament
Mr Sunak faced significant opposition (House of Commons/PA)

Following a prolonged period of parliamentary ping-pong in which peers posed a series of challenges to the Government’s Illegal Migration Bill, the legislation received royal assent.

The controversial Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act also became law, curbing the effect that industrial action can have on some key services amid ongoing disruption to the NHS.

– July 21 2023

Mr Sunak suffered a double by-election defeat in the constituencies of Selby and Ainsty, won by Labour, and Somerton and Frome, won by the Liberal Democrats.

But the Tories managed to hold their majority in Uxbridge and South Ruislip after a campaign focused heavily on Labour London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s expansion of the ultra-low emission zone (Ulez).

– August 11 2023

Just four days after the first asylum seekers were moved onto the Bibby Stockholm barge, they were disembarked following the discovery of Legionella bacteria in the water supply.

The 500-capacity vessel would remain unused as checks were carried out until October, when 39 people were brought back on board.

– August 31 2023

Long-serving defence secretary Ben Wallace resigned, triggering a mini Cabinet reshuffle.

Sunak allies Grant Shapps and Claire Coutinho were promoted – to Defence Secretary and Energy Secretary, respectively.

Opposition critics said the relatively minor changes amounted to “moving the deckchairs” on a sinking ship, but ministers suggested Mr Sunak was focused on limiting upheaval during his premiership.

Days ahead of the return from summer holidays, more than 100 schools, nurseries and colleges in England were told by the Government to close classrooms and other buildings that contain crumbly reinforced autoclaved concrete (Raac).

Unions and opposition parties criticised the Government for failing to take action sooner and urged ministers to name the affected schools, a list of which was published almost a week later.

– September 7 2023

Rishi Sunak
Mr Sunak confronted the Chinese premier at the G20 meeting (Dan Kitwood/PA)

Former Tory deputy chief whip Chris Pincher resigned after losing his appeal against an inquiry that found he had drunkenly groped two men in an “egregious case of sexual misconduct” last year.

That meant yet another by-election, this time in the previously safe Tory seat of Tamworth.

– September 10 2023

On his visit to India for a G20 summit, Mr Sunak confronted China’s premier over an “unacceptable” interference in British democracy after the arrest of a parliamentary researcher on suspicion of spying for Beijing.

The Prime Minister, who has been criticised by some more hawkish Tories for not taking a harder line on Beijing, cited his confrontation with Li Qiang as an example of the benefits of his policy of engagement rather than “shouting from the sidelines”.

– September 20 2023

After Parliament entered conference season recess, Mr Sunak announced a watering down of key climate pledges, attracting fierce criticism from green-minded Tories, environmentalists and industry figures.

The PM slowed down measures including a shift to electric cars, delighting Conservatives who fear the cost of net zero policies could lose them votes at the next election despite angering the environmental wing of the party.

– October 4 2023

Mr Sunak’s first Tory party conference as Prime Minister was overshadowed by his chaotic axing of the northern leg of HS2 – while in Manchester.

Policies to court the right were deployed at every opportunity to distinguish the Tories from Labour, with banning transgender women from female hospital wards, protecting controversial statues and taking on the unions among the proposals.

In his keynote speech, Mr Sunak finally announced the Government was abandoning its high-speed rail plans from Birmingham to Manchester after weeks of speculation that the change was coming – pledging instead to reinvest the money into other transport projects.

– October 12 2023

As Israel reeled from a surprise attack by Hamas, Mr Sunak denounced the incident as “an appalling act of terror”.

Amid warnings from Jewish community leaders in the UK of a large uptick in reports of antisemitic crimes, he announced an additional £3 million in support for the Community Security Trust (CST).

– October 16 2023

HS2 project
Mr Sunak axed the northern section of HS2 while the Tory conference took place in Manchester (Jonathan Brady/PA)

The crisis in Israel and Gaza continued with air strikes by the Israeli military in retaliation for Hamas’ attack.

Mr Sunak announced £10 million in aid for the Palestinian people to go towards responding to the “acute humanitarian crisis”, saying “they are victims of Hamas too”.

– October 19 2023

The PM arrived in Israel on a two-day trip around the Middle East in a diplomatic bid to call for any escalation of violence in the region to be avoided.

– October 20 2023

Mr Sunak was hit by two more by-election blows, with Labour overturning huge Conservative majorities Tamworth and Mid Bedfordshire.

– October 25 2023

Downing Street said Mr Sunak is “more focused on the continual delivery for the public rather than marking an anniversary”. He will face Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer at Prime Minister’s Questions.