Britain’s next prime minister is young, filthy rich and a visible minority.
And he takes at least some political inspiration from Canada.
But these are not the only ways Rishi Sunak, the newly appointed leader of the British Conservative Party, differs from those who have gone before him at 10 Downing Street.
More than most politicians — certainly more than the four Tory leaders who have held and lost top office since 2016 — he is a product of the boardroom rather than the political backroom.
Rising fast and well-polished if not a little stiff, Sunak, 42, will be sworn in as the youngest Prime Minister in British history.
Sunak, the son of the family doctor father and a pharmacist mother who emigrated from Kenya and Tanzania in the 1960s, respectively, grew up balancing the books at his mother’s pharmacy. He joined the Oxford University investment club, worked as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs and finally drafted UK budgets as Chancellor of the Exchequer under former Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
A multimillionaire himself, he is also married to Akshata Murthy, daughter of Narayana Murthy, who founded the IT company Infosys and is one of the wealthiest individuals in India.
Together, the couple are believed to have a fortune greater than that of King Charles, who will formalize Sunak’s new job title on Tuesday.
The point is, Sunak has mastered the delicate science of economics and the effects of government policies on financial markets better than his immediate predecessor, Liz Truss, whose mini-budget tax cuts sparked a market revolt, a political downturn and her death in less than seven weeks. in function.
Sunak has spoken of the sleepless nights he went through as a hedge fund manager, haunted by concerns about the impact of his decisions on his clients’ investments. He can no longer rest in his new job.
His dual duties are to lead Britain out of economic turmoil while also leading his Tory party out of its own political crisis — one fueled by the scandals that led to Johnson’s resignation last summer, Truss’s brief, chaotic reign. and a perceived division in his party between the free-market hardliners and the moderate Tories.
All this while facing the specter of a general election to be held before January 2025.
Sunak, in brief public comments after he was named party leader Monday, gave little indication of how he intended to overcome those challenges.
The incoming British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledges to serve the country with integrity and humility; says economic challenges are looming. (Oct 24 / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
“There is no doubt that we face a major economic challenge. We need stability and unity now, and I will make it my top priority to bring our party and our country together, because that is the only way we can face the challenges we face and create a better, more build a prosperous future for our children and our grandchildren,” he said.
Sunak himself has benefited from that intergenerational investment of hope.
In 2019, a few months after being appointed to the Cabinet as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, he told BBC presenter Nick Robinson, host of the Political Thinking podcast, that he had guided his grandfather through the House of Commons after becoming an MP.
Halfway through the tour, his grandfather pulled out his cell phone and called an old friend and fellow immigrant.
“He had tears in his eyes,” Sunak said, revealing to his friend where he stood.
Sanjay Chandarana, president of the Hindu temple founded by Sunak’s grandfather in 1971, told the United Kingdom’s Press Association news agency that Sunak’s ascension to Britain’s highest political office was as important to British Asians as the The 2008 election of Barack Obama to the White House was for Africans. Americans.
“It’s Barack Obama’s moment when a non-white becomes prime minister for the first time, also a person of Indian descent and Hindu, which is another dimension and everyone is proud,” he said.
The comparison doesn’t quite hold, as Obama was elected by American voters, while Sunak was appointed by Tory MPs before his candidacy could even be run for party membership.
But it is a historic moment for Britons of Indian descent.
Rishi Sunak became the only candidate to gain the support of more than 100 lawmakers in the Conservative leadership contest so that he will lead the party and become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. (Oct 10 / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
In the BBC podcast, Sunak recalled splitting his weekends as a young man between the local Hindu temple and the weekly football matches of his local team, the Southampton Saints.
And he recalled a particularly annoying incident at a fast food restaurant with his two younger siblings when people at the table next to them referred to them with a derogatory racial term.
“I still remember. It’s etched in my memory,” Sunak recalled in 2019. “That sticks in ways that are hard to explain.”
But he said he was sure that such a brazen display of ignorant prejudice would be unacceptable in modern Britain.
Shortly before entering electoral politics in 2015, Sunak wanted to make sure the Conservative party was doing everything it could to make room for “minority voters.”
His inspiration was… Canada’s Conservative Party.
Sunak was head of Black and Minority Ethnic Research at Policy Exchange, a leading British Conservative think tank and co-author of a research report entitled “A Portrait of Modern Britain”.
The report made the point that while Britain’s white population has stagnated, the country’s visible minority populations have soared and they mostly sided with the British Labor Party.
That year, Policy Exchange presented the first-ever Disraeli Prize to Jason Kenney, the future Prime Minister of Alberta who was then Federal Minister under Prime Minister Stephen Harper and was responsible for the Conservative Party’s assistance to ethnic communities.
Sunak wrote that the Canadian Tories were once considered out-of-touch, anti-immigrant and hostile to minorities, who historically sided with the Liberal party.
“Today, Canada’s conservatives have not only been proved right, but even outnumbered the liberals among immigrants and ethnic minorities, winning three elections,” he said, crediting Kenney as “the architect of this success.”
“The UK has already imported another Canadian, Mark Carney, to head the Bank of England,” Sunak wrote in an article for the Conservative Home website. “What can it learn from Jason Kenney?”
A source close to Kenney said he and Sunak had regular consultations on the issue of political contact with ethnic communities, an issue the Canadian politician was seen as a leader in. The two men have kept in touch ever since.
While Sunak is credited with leading Britain through the economic challenges of the COVID-19 lockdown, including providing financial support to laid-off workers and companies, he did not take on a high-profile, Kenney-esque role in achieving this. British minority communities ever elected.
His challenge when he entered politics was, in fact, regarded as the opposite.
An article looking at the likelihood that an Anglo-Asian politician will gain support in Richmond’s rural North Yorkshire — a country populated primarily by white voters and considered one of the safest Tory seats in the country — cited Sunak the “Maharajah of the Yorkshire Dales.”
But Sunak won that first run in 2015 with an impressive 19,550-seat majority, then extended his lead in the next two elections.
This has enabled him to joke about being the non-beef-eating Hindu MP who represents the many pastoralists of his horsemanship.
From Tuesday, he will be the Hindu Prime Minister representing the entire United Kingdom – at least for a short time.
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