Rishi Sunak, who was sworn in on Gita, offers to be Britain’s first colored PM
Prior to his spectacular falling out with Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak was on a rapid rise that could yet culminate in his installation as Britain’s first prime minister of color.
It would be a historic milestone if the Hindu descendant of immigrants from India and East Africa took command of the world’s fifth-largest economy.
But having made the final round after a series of votes from Tory MPs, Sunak must first convince party members as the ballots come out on Monday – and he is well behind Liz Truss.
Opinion polls show she has so far outpaced him with policies focused on the conservative right, which is also wary of Sunak’s role in a cabinet revolt that toppled Johnson after months of scandal.
Fabulously wealthy from his pre-political career in finance, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer has also been mocked as being out of touch when Britons grapple with runaway inflation.
During the election campaign this month, he wore expensive Prada loafers during a visit to a construction site and was accused of ‘mansplaining’ at Truss during a bad-tempered TV debate when he raped his tax reduction plans.
Instead, Sunak argues, Britain needs a Thatcherite dose of “sound money” to quell inflation and get growth back on track.
Video footage has also emerged of a 21-year-old Sunak describing his mix of friends after studying at Winchester College, one of Britain’s most exclusive private schools, and Oxford University.
“I have friends who are aristocrats, I have friends who are upper class, I have friends who are, you know, working class,” he said, before adding “Well, not working class.”
A detail-oriented politics buff, Sunak, 42, was an early supporter of Brexit and took office as chancellor in February 2020.
It was a baptism of fire for the conservative rising star, as the Covid pandemic erupted.
He was forced to draw up a huge economic support package at breakneck speed, which he says must now be repaid.
In India, Sunak is best known by his wife Akshata Murty. She is the daughter of Narayana Murthy, the co-founder of Infosys.
The Sunaks met while studying in California and have two young daughters, as well as a photogenic dog.
The ex-minister’s Instagram profile earned him the media nickname “Dishy Rishi”.
Until last year, Sunak held a US green card, which critics said suggested a lack of long-term loyalty to Britain.
And he has faced tough questions over Murty’s failure until recently to pay UK tax on his Infosys returns, which opinion polls showed was viewed with deep disfavor by voters.
Sunak has already been scarred by the scandals of Johnson’s tumultuous government.
In November 2020 he marked Diwali by lighting oil lamps on the front steps of the Chancellor’s official residence at 11 Downing Street – while urging others to stick to the Covid lockdown in England.
Johnson was less respectful of the rules, fining police for a lockdown breach as part of an investigation into the ‘Partygate’ case.
But Sunak also ended up fined by the police, after joining a birthday party for Johnson when he arrived early for a meeting in Downing Street.
Alongside the controversy over his family fortune, the Partygate scandal has tarnished the reputation of teetotal Sunak, who admits only a penchant for Coca-Cola and sweet confectionery.
Server to Wealth
Sunak represents the constituency of Richmond in Yorkshire, northern England – a safe Tory seat he succeeded in 2015 from former party leader and Foreign Secretary William Hague, who described him as “exceptional”.
Sunak takes an oath of allegiance as a deputy to the Bhagavad Gita. Theresa May gave him his first government job in January 2018, making him assistant minister for local government, parks and struggling families.
Sunak’s grandparents were from Punjab and emigrated to Britain from East Africa in the 1960s.
They arrived with “very little”, Sunak told MPs in his maiden speech in 2015.
Her father was a family doctor in Southampton, on the south coast of England, and her mother ran a local pharmacy.
Sunak served tables at a local Indian restaurant, before moving on to Oxford and then Stanford University in California.
Sunak insists that his own family’s experience and that of his wife is a “very conservative” story of hard work and aspiration. He will soon know if the party members are in agreement.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)