The Rise Of Rishi Sunak: A Testament To Leadership In Turbulent Times

With a blend of practicality, politeness, and best of all, diligence in doing his homework, UK PM Rishi Sunak has proved himself worthy of admiration at home and abroad.

Being the PM of the UK is among the most coveted positions in the world; it is also about as easy as a walk in a minefield. The man in the hot seat has no respite, neither from the problems facing his nation nor from the barbs of his detractors. How he manages to face it all with nary a hair out of place when many have crumbled, is testament to his mettle (those sharp suits help too!). “When I got this job, I said I was going to do things differently because I wanted to change politics and that is what I am doing,” the man in power had said – and he has gone about his job without undue fuss and with unexpected aptitude. So despite all the dire predictions, it’s time to give it up for PM Rishi Sunak, steering the country through some serious challenges, good intentions firmly in place.

The fruits of his labour are already to be seen. Addressing a business audience in Coventry earlier this month, Sunak emphasised the success of his economic plan. “We really have turned the corner at the start of this year,” he said. “Inflation has been more than halved. Mortgage rates, energy bills falling, wages are rising, consumer confidence, business confidence increasing.” The tide is evidently finally turning for the UK; something even the opposition cannot deny.

How much that will enhance his party’s performance in the general elections, expected to take place later this year, remains to be seen. Amidst speculation that he might choose to hold an earlier ballot, Sunak clarified that there will not be a general election on May 2, 2024, the date when local elections are already taking place. Clarifying, “There won’t be a general election on that day but when there is a general election, what matters is the choice,” he, however, showed zero signs of “running scared” as a Liberal Democrat leader waspishly suggested. For while the media has not always been fair in recording his achievements, the great British public is said to be quietly appreciative of Sunak’s achievements. And it’s the great British public that ultimately casts the vote.

A hit on the world stage

Completing a year in office in October 2023, Sunak is a definite hit on the world stage. As an analysis in ‘The Spectator’ notes, “The British-born son of East African Asian parents, Rishi Sunak combines the awareness of a world outside the UK with the confidence conferred by a privileged English education. He has the practicality and drive of someone who has succeeded in the highly competitive ‘real world’ of fund-management. He is used to collaborating and mixing with high-flyers of many different backgrounds – and it shows. He is serious and he does his homework, which foreign leaders, often of a more technocratic bent than their UK counterparts, respect.”

The article also notes, “Generation, family background, and career may all help to explain why Rishi Sunak, with no foreign policy experience, seems to be doing a better job of diplomacy than his immediate predecessors. To which it might be added that money, in the sense of the security that goes with personal wealth, may also play a part.”

While US President Joe Biden said that the rise of Sunak to the top echelons of British society was “pretty astounding, a groundbreaking milestone and it matters,” ‘The Sunday Guardian’ goes so far as to call him a ‘world statesman’. It is no mean feat that the UK’s youngest prime minister of modern times has been swiftly treated as an equal and pleasant colleague by his counterparts abroad. On his very first foreign trip as PM attending Cop27, the international climate change summit in Egypt, he appeared “comfortable and assured without appearing showy or arrogant.” Several UK prime ministers have floundered in the recent past but with Sunak there were no embarrassing gaffes; instead, he blended in, taking to the world stage like a duck to water.

Even as he strengthened relations with various heads of state including Ukraine’s Zelensky and France’s Macron, Sunak also managed to improve ties with the EU Commission amidst the bad atmosphere created by Brexit.

With good humour, mutual respect and simple good manners, he has been striking the right note on the foreign stage. There is a noticeable difference in the background and experience between Sunak and those who came before him. Abroad, the UK is perceived as largely parochial and insensitive to the outside world, combining a mixture of ignorance and arrogance; an attitude that is replaced by one of subservience when it comes to the US.

Impressive from the start

When Sunak, on October 25, 2022, made history by becoming the first non-white, Hindu Prime Minister of Britain, he came at a time when the British Government was in a state of “farcical mayhem”. As the world looked on incredulous at the shenanigans in the country, the people of the UK watched in trepidation as yet another PM was sworn in. All eyes were on Sunak when his first test came: To answer the Leader of the Opposition Keir Starmer in Parliament. Before a full house Parliament, Sunak responded with aplomb, radiating confidence and composure. Sailing through with flying colours, he quickly rolled up his shirtsleeves and plunged into the tackling of the innumerable challenges ailing the nation, soon proving to be action-oriented in addition to being a gifted speaker.

Steadying the economy, he prevented it from going into recession. He tackled the Northern Ireland Protocol problem, persuading the European Union to relax its stand on the movement of goods between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Turning his attention to the complicated issue of illegal migrants, he enforced strict measures to reduce illegal migration. He did so despite the protests from the left-wing media, including the BBC. He proved to be tough when it mattered, such as not giving in to industrial strikes by the Nurses Union, and instead reaching a mutually amicable settlement. He also turned down Boris Johnson’s demand that peerages be granted to his friends. Alongside, he helped put into place the framework for Britain’s prosperity. Identifying the lack of excellence in mathematics as an obstacle to the country’s progress, he worked on rectifying the same. 

Bringing the problems on the domestic front under control, it wasn’t long before he started to prove himself on the international stage. Meeting world leaders at the G7 meeting in Japan, he secured around £18 billion ($23 billion) of new investment from Japanese businesses into the UK. In the US, he received the red carpet treatment, receiving a welcome from the US Armed Forces. Besides receiving several friendly gestures from President Biden, Sunak also signed a new Transatlantic travel and defence security agreement, as well as an agreement to collaborate on A1, 5G, and 6G telecoms, quantum computing, semiconductors and engineering biology.

Growing admiration

Admiration for Sunak on the world stage grows as he takes a tough stance on matters of global importance as well as domestic significance. Recently, in the wake of revelations that Chinese hackers were behind two malicious cyber campaigns that targeted UK parliamentarians and Britain’s Electoral Commission, Sunak has not only promised a careful crackdown but pointed out that Britain was already taking action against China that was “undoubtedly more robust than most of our allies.” He also called out China as representing the “greatest state-based threat” to the UK’s economic security.

Recently, he also issued an impassioned plea for Britain to protect its democracy as he warned that extremist forces were out to tear the country apart and undermine its multi-faith identity. Referencing his own Hindu beliefs, Sunak stressed that the enduring values of the UK are about embracing migrants of all faiths and ethnicities, and urged protesters to ensure peaceful demonstrations were not hijacked by extremist forces. “Islamist extremists and the far right feed off and embolden each other,” he declared. “They are equally desperate to pretend that their violence is somehow justified when actually these groups are two sides of the same extremist coin… both loathe the pluralist, modern country we are.”

A voice of sanity in a world going increasingly crazy… The world could do with more leaders like PM Rishi Sunak.

India’s Son-in-law
The bond between India and PM Rishi Sunak runs deep. “I am hugely proud of my Indian roots and my connections to India,” he has said. “As you know, my wife is Indian and being a proud Hindu means I will always have a connection to India and the people of India.” Sunak’s parents, both of Indian origin with roots in Punjab, undivided India, came to the UK from East Africa. His wife Akshata Murty is the daughter of India’s billionaire tech czar Narayana Murthy of Infosys, and philanthropist and educator Sudha Murty, who was recently appointed to the Rajya Sabha.
The response from the Indian people to his appointment as prime minister had been, in his own words, “overwhelming and humbling.” One of the first things Sunak did after becoming PM was to hold a reception for Diwali in Downing Street. “Having the opportunity to welcome many British Indians into Number 10 and seeing the building decorated from top to bottom with lights and flowers was an incredibly proud and emotional moment for me,” he said, adding, “because my story is the story of so many people in Britain with deep and enduring links to India. The strength of our country lies in its diversity, and that’s something I have seen first-hand many times since becoming Prime Minister.”
That said, he does not believe in mixing politics with family, revealing, “It’s very important to keep politics separate from family, but of course my wife and two daughters very much guide my values, as do my parents and parents-in-law. I am, though, incredibly proud of my parents-in-law and what they have achieved – going from nothing to building one of the world’s largest and most respected companies, which employs thousands of people in both India and in the UK.”

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