2022 was tough and the UK’s problems will not go away in 2023, Rishi Sunak has warned in his New Year’s message.
The prime minister said the government was taking “difficult but fair” decisions to “get borrowing and debt under control”.
He promised that his government would put “people’s priorities first”.
He also said the coronation of King Charles III would give the country the chance to “come together with pride”.
Mr Sunak became prime minister towards the end of a turbulent political year which saw his two predecessors – Boris Johnson and Liz Truss – brought down by Conservative backbenchers.
In the coming year, the new prime minister faces the challenge of keeping his own MPs happy, while dealing with the rising cost of living and strikes in several sectors, including nursing and the rail industry.
Mr Sunak acknowledged the past year had not been easy: “Just as we recovered from an unprecedented global pandemic, Russia launched a barbaric and illegal invasion across Ukraine.”
He said the war had created a “profound economic impact” which had affected people in the UK, and he promised to help the “most vulnerable” with their energy costs.
He also said he had taken decisive action to reduce the backlog in the NHS, and was tackling illegal migration.
“I’m not going to pretend that all our problems will go away in the new year,” said Mr Sunak, but added that “the very best of Britain” would be on display as it continues to support Ukraine in its fight against Russia.
Labour leader Keir Starmer used his New Year’s message to promise that his party would set out the “case for change” in 2023.
Over the past year, Labour’s poll ratings have risen, giving the party a consistent lead over the Conservatives.
This means Sir Keir is likely to face greater scrutiny over what he would do if he were to become prime minister.
The next general election has to be held by January 2025, but it could be sooner if Mr Sunak decides to go to the polls early.
Reflecting on the past year, Sir Keir acknowledged that 2022 had been “very tough” for millions across the country.
He also paid tribute to Ukraine for “showing so much bravery fighting for their liberty” and said the UK should “once again stand by” the Ukrainian people.
Turning to the year ahead, the Labour leader said Britain needed to become a “fairer, greener, more dynamic country and that he wanted to “restore faith in politics as a force for good”.
“For that to happen,” he said, “we need a completely new way of doing politics.”
He said his party would use the year ahead to “set out the case for change, the case for a new Britain, the case for hope”.
In her New Year’s message, First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, promised to “keep doing everything we can for those who need it most”.
She also said her government would “work hard to reap the massive economic benefits of our efforts to tackle climate change”.
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey also used his New Year message to reflect on the past year, celebrating the “wonderful jubilee street parties”, the Lionesses winning the Euros and “another fantastic by-election victory for the Liberal Democrats!”.
In June, his party won the previously safe Conservative seat of Tiverton and Honiton in Devon, which became vacant after Tory MP Neil Parish resigned for looking at pornography in Parliament.
Sir Ed also attacked Vladimir Putin’s “appalling war”, and the Conservative government for “inflicting economic chaos on the rest of us”.
“The New Year is an opportunity to turn the page and look ahead, and although things are tough for millions, I sense change is possible – so I look to the New Year with hope and optimism.
“So for 2023, I wish you and your family all the best. Let’s hope it’s a year of fresh starts – in more ways than one.”