Rishi Sunak: a profile

‘I told you so’ is the story of the greatest political comeback in modern British politics. A month after he locked horns with Liz Truss and lost, he is all set to replace her as the Prime Minister. Despite the near end of his short stint in politics, his predictions on her economic agenda- as he dubbed it ‘fairy tale economics- came true: Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng jolted the UK economy and the markets with their disastrous mini-budget, which rattled the Tories’ credibility over economics. As the first British-Asian PM moves into Downing Street, who is Rishi Sunak, and where will his premiership take the country?

Originating from British India’s Punjab province, his family fled Africa in the 1960s to move to the UK; the son of an NHS GP and a pharmacist, Rishi Sunak was born in Southhampton in 1980. The academically bright Rishi Sunak went on to Winchester College, an elite school; his peers recall him as a budding cricketer with a flair for economics, literature and maths. As the editor of the school paper, Rishi espoused Conservative views, including leaving the EU; he dubbed the Tories the natural home of families like his- aspirational immigrants. As he wrote his A levels, the political climate of the country had changed: Tony Blair’s New Labour swept to power in a landslide. 

As the Labour Party consolidated its grip, Rishi Sunak moved on to Oxford University to study PPE. Unlike former leaders of the Tories- including his idol Margaret Thatcher- he was never associated with the Conservative society or any political association; he had his eyes set on the City: he was an avid member of the investment society with a stellar academic and internship record. Earning a first in his degree, Rishi Sunak went to the City- working as an analyst at Morgan Stanley. 

He amassed a personal fortune as an investment banker first at Morgan Stanley and then at the Children’s Investment Fund Management in the US. He married the daughter of Narayan Murthy, an Indian billionaire; his association with Infosys- including his wife’s non-domicile status and holding of assets in Russia- has brought him serious criticism. In the late 2000s, Rishi transitioned to politics. 

Under David Cameron’s leadership, the Tories tried to bring more BAME individuals into their fold; under that scheme, Rishi Sunak was allocated the safe seat of Richmond in North Yorkshire, held by former leader William Hague. He went on to win large majorities in 2015 and 2017, serving relatively junior roles in the government. During the bitter referendum, he backed the Leave campaign and Boris Johnson. He was politically right on both accounts: his support for Brexit and Boris fueled his takeoff. 

Rishi Sunak’s first big break came during the depths of the pandemic. When incumbent Sajid Javid was fired, Boris Johnson appointed Rishi Sunak as the new chancellor. His very first task was to formulate a budget in a few weeks. The cult of ‘dishy Rishi’ began as he carefully moulded his image in contrast to Boris Johnson’s clowny image. His PR team was consistent with slick and on-point messages; his youthfulness and charisma led to comparisons with Tony Blair. 

He first came to the attention of the wider public when he announced his flagship furlough scheme: under it, employers would be able to pay 80% of their employees’ wages, and claimants could get 2500 pounds a month. Rishi’s popularity soared, as he was ranked the UK’s most popular politician and touted as a future PM. Another flagship scheme of his was the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme which was doled out to save the collapsing hospitality industry, encouraging citizens to eat out. 

As his political graph grew, his boss Boris Johnson floundered as a flurry of scandals and investigations tarnished the government; after a series of by-election losses and the lies surrounding Chris Pincher, chancellor Rishi Sunak resigned, disassociating himself from Boris Johnson’s scandalous tenure; he paved the way for a flood of resignations that brought about the downfall of Boris Johnson, bringing him the tag of a backstabber. 

As the leadership campaign ensued, Rishi’s popularity dipped. Amid the cost of living crisis, he was building a private pool at his residence, which made him look more ‘out of touch’; his wife’s finances and his inability to defend his resignation earned him the ire of Tory members. In his debates with Liz Truss, he lashed out at her plans, calling them ‘fairy tale economics’: he rightly predicted an increase in mortgage rates and a jolt to the economy. As the Heseltine’s curse goes, Rishi Sunak lost handily to Liz Truss and disappeared from public life. His political career was over.

Liz Truss’ brief 47-day premiership was calamitous, to say the least. As she and Kwasi Kwarteng embarked on a series of economic mishaps, including unfunded tax cuts and abolishing the top rate, she lost the support of her party and the country: the Tories were headed for a landslide defeat to the Labour Party. Recognising the impending doom, the Tories pulled the plug: Liz Truss was sent packing and in the quick leadership campaign that followed, the weary Tories rallied behind Rishi Sunak. As he takes over as the youngest PM in 200 years, he faces a dire situation. 

A political novice, he leads a divided and jaded party in Parliament amid an economic crisis with millions making the choice between heating and eating; his biggest advantage is that his weary party has no choice but to rally behind him, for they do not have the stomach for another change. His immediate task is to restore economic credibility and calm down jittery markets. The ‘polished’ Rishi Sunak has to strike a chord with the masses for him to succeed; at the moment millions look to the government for rightful support. He deals with choppy waters abroad too: a war ensues on Europe’s doorstep and relations with Europe are poor. 

Rishi Sunak has his task cut out, he has to unite a divided country and push them onto a path of growth. Even as his party falls behind in the polls, as recent times have shown us, a week is a long time in politics- let alone two years, until the next general election. So the question lingers on: will Rishi Sunak be the captain of the Tory ship when they lose to Labour or will he pull off an election victory? But most importantly, the country looks to him- both with a sense of bewilderment and fury- to alleviate the massive problems that we face. Ultimately, as Britons, if he succeeds, we succeed. 


Rishi Sunak appointed PM 

Featured image: taken by Aaron Chown for the Telegraph 

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