Sunak may miss UN summit to focus on Tory conference
Sunak faces criticism for prioritising domestic politics over global issues
Rishi Sunak could become the first prime minister in a decade to skip the UN General Assembly gathering of world leaders next month.
Mr Sunak has yet not confirmed whether he is going, and could skip the summit to instead focus on preparing for the Tory party conference.
The UN General Assembly, which will take place in New York from September 14 to 30, is expected to address some of the most pressing challenges facing the world, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, human rights and security.
A snub to the international community?
Some critics have accused Mr Sunak of snubbing the international community and undermining the UK’s role as a global leader.
“Rishi Sunak is showing a shocking lack of leadership and vision by skipping the UN General Assembly,” said Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesperson.
“This is a crucial moment for the world to come together and tackle the pandemic, the climate crisis and other global threats. The UK should be at the forefront of these efforts, not hiding behind closed doors.”
A strategic move to boost his profile?
Others have suggested that Mr Sunak may have a strategic reason for avoiding the UN summit and focusing on his speech at the Tory conference, which will take place in Manchester from October 3 to 6.
Mr Sunak, who has been widely praised for his handling of the economic fallout from Covid-19, is seen as a potential successor to Boris Johnson as prime minister.
By delivering a strong and confident speech at the conference, he could boost his popularity among Tory members and MPs, and position himself as a future leader.
“Rishi Sunak knows that his speech at the Tory conference will be a make-or-break moment for his leadership ambitions,” said a Conservative insider.
“He wants to use this opportunity to showcase his achievements, his vision and his personality. He doesn’t want to be distracted by the UN summit, which he sees as less relevant and less rewarding.”
A balancing act between domestic and global issues?
However, Mr Sunak may also face a dilemma between balancing his domestic and global responsibilities as chancellor.
As the UK prepares to host the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November, Mr Sunak will have to demonstrate that he is committed to tackling climate change and supporting developing countries.
He will also have to deal with the economic challenges posed by Brexit, inflation, tax rises and public spending cuts.
Mr Sunak has not ruled out attending the UN summit, but has not confirmed his plans either.
A spokesperson for the Treasury said: “The chancellor’s diary for September has not been finalised.”
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