Rishi Sunak rises to prime position in the UK government.
By Hannah Cardozo
Rishi Sunak made history as the first-ever person of colour, British Asian, and Hindu to attain the title of Prime Minister in the UK. He stepped into office on October 25th, 2022, following the resignation of his predecessor Liz Truss, whose tenure was short-lived. The UK has seen five prime ministers within six years, out of which Sunak is the third Prime Minister to step into London’s 10 Downing Street – the official residence of the Prime Minister – in less than two months. He took to Twitter on the 26th of October to commemorate the occasion of his new position and the festival of lights by tweeting: “Brilliant to drop into tonight’s Diwali reception in No.10. I will do everything I can in this job to build a Britain where our children and grandchildren can light their diyas and look to the future with hope. Happy Diwali everyone!” Sunak is a practising Hindu who has sworn oath on the Bhagavad Gita, in the House of Commons, hence the timing of his appointment was rather auspicious.
The journey begins…
Rishi Sunak was born in Southampton on May 12, 1980. His parents are Indians of Punjabi descent, born in Africa. Their respective families moved to the UK in the 1960s. His father, Yashvir Sunak, was born and brought up in Kenya and works as a general practitioner for the ‘National Health Service’. His mother, Usha Sunak, was born in Tanzania and is the director and pharmacist at the Sunak Pharmacy in Southampton.
Sunak got the best of education from a pricey schooling at Winchester College, to graduating at the top of his class at Lincoln College, Oxford studying politics, philosophy and economics. He then went to Stanford University in California, USA, for his MBA with a Fulbright Scholarship. This is where he met his wife, Akshata Murthy – daughter of Indian billionaire and founder of Infosys, Narayana Murthy and engineering teacher and famous author Sudha Murthy.
Akshata is a businesswoman, fashion designer, and venture capitalist. The couple tied the knot in Bengaluru in 2009 in a big ceremony with friends and family. Their garden parties are famed – with an occasional feast of roast venison, canapés and champagne; the couple loves to entertain. The Sunaks presumably own four properties, from a Grade II-listed manor house in the village of Kirby Sigston, a five-bedroom townhouse and a flat in South Kensington, London, to a penthouse apartment that faces the Pacific Ocean in Santa Monica, California. Their combined net worth is around £730m. He is considered to be one of the richest MPs to take office.
During his campaign, his wife’s non-domicile status came to light. What this means is she can avoid UK taxes on her international earnings by paying an annual fee of £30,000. She may have not been in the wrong legally, but this did put a stain on his campaign. Thus, his wife agreed to start paying more taxes to avoid backlash. Without the non-domicile status, it is estimated that she would be liable for over £20m in taxes. The couple has two daughters Krishna, 11 and Anoushka, 9. Sunak has stated that he enjoys spending time with his kids and was glad to have a business at the time of their birth to help his wife out. Despite living private lives, the whole family accompanied him on his campaign against Liz Truss.
The UK has seen five prime ministers within six years. Sunak is the third
Prime Minister to step into London’s 10 Downing Street in less than two
On the political trail
Rishi Sunak began his career in the realm of finance with Goldman Sachs. He then went into hedge fund management in 2004, beginning with ‘The Children’s Investment Fund Management’ and in 2009 began working with ‘Theleme Partners’. In 2013, he became the director of the venture capitalist firm Catamaran Ventures owned by his father-in-law Narayana Murthy.
That’s when things took a political turn. In May 2015, he was elected as the MP for Richmond, North Yorkshire. Having been a Tory since 1906, it is considered to be one of the country’s safest seats. And thus began the climb. In June 2017, he served as Parliamentary Private Secretary at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, until his ministerial service began in 2018. He then served as Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for local government. In 2019, he entered the cabinet as Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Under the leadership of Boris Johnson, in February 2020, he made history by becoming the youngest Chancellor in history, where he oversaw the budget throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Paving the way forward
The UK economy took a massive hit with its decision to leave the EU. Sunak himself campaigned for Brexit and believes that it will benefit the UK. Albeit, every person in his current position has quit due to the massive challenge that Brexit, the pandemic and the Ukrainian war posed to the economy. While debating their leadership of the conservative party on Channel 4, Sunak criticised Liz Truss’ campaign ideas saying, “Borrowing your way out of an inflation isn’t a plan, it is a fairy tale.” His priority lies in restoring the British economy and regulating flagrant inflation. “Integrity, professionalism and accountability” are what he promises to bring to his governance. In the House of Commons on the 26th of October, he stated, “We will restore economic stability in a fair and compassionate way.”
Rishi Sunak’s rise to power may seem methodical, but it has incited mixed reactions. While many Indians are happy to see a person of colour step into office, they overlook the current challenges to be faced. Additionally, his position does not come without criticism. ‘NationalWorld’s’ Suswati Basu is not entirely convinced, “Sunak is not our fellow man – more like a ‘model minority’, in the sense that he is both an Oxford and Stanford University-educated Fulbright scholar and now the leader of the country.” His joint wealth with his wife keeps him out of touch with reality and thus, can he really understand the cost-of-living crisis? However, Sudha Murthy, in her book ‘Legacy: Letters from Eminent Parents to their daughter’, gives her impressions of Rishi Sunak, “… when I met Rishi and found him to be all that you had described him to be — brilliant, handsome, and most importantly, honest — I understood why you let your heart be stolen.” Who better to give a character reference than one’s mother-in-law? The future cannot be accurately predicted, but if Rishi Sunak is a man of his word, the UK may benefit from his ascension after all.