Rishi Sunak

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A brief biography

As in 2020


October 16, 2020: The New York Times

While Boris Johnson sinks, Rishi Sunak is on the rise

Stephen Castle, The New York Times


Early life

His grandparents, originally from Punjab, arrived in England from British colonial East Africa in the 1960s. As a teenager, he says he suffered racist abuse. Sunak’s father was a doctor and his mother ran a pharmacy. Together, they earned enough to send him to an elite private school, Winchester College.

Without that expensive education, Sunak might well still have reached Oxford University (he graduated with top grades). Sunak also earned an MBA at Stanford University, where he met his future wife, Akshata Murthy, daughter of Narayana Murthy, co-founder of Infosys. Sunak worked for Goldman Sachs and two hedge funds before being elected to Parliament in 2015. NYT

As in 2020

Breakfast starts at 8am and guests help themselves to croissants and juice before the sleek figure of Rishi Sunak, the British chancellor of the exchequer, works his way around the crowded, oakpanelled dining room of his official London home, No. 11 Downing Street.

For Sunak, meetings with groups of Conservative Party lawmakers help him reach out and forge a network of support in parliament. For the lawmakers, it’s a chance to meet someone many expect to one day move next door — to No. 10, the PM’s home. Sunak was virtually unknown 10 months ago, and his vertiginous rise has surprised almost everyone in British politics — in all likelihood even the man who promoted him, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, whose approval ratings have plummeted during the pandemic.

“Rishi Sunak has the strengths that the prime minister so conspicuously lacks, not only basic competence but a grasp of detail,” said Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London, “and no one has mounted such an obvious, in your face, social media campaign as Rishi Sunak.”

It seems to be working. A recent poll of party members by the ConservativeHome website placed Sunak, 40, easily top of cabinet satisfaction ratings, while Johnson was almost bottom of the list. Contrast that with a survey that Bale conducted in December in which Conservative Party members were asked who should take over were Johnson to step aside. “Just five out of 1,191 named Rishi Sunak,” he said, “and I’m not sure that all of them spelt his name correctly.”

When he was catapulted into his job in February, after two years as a minister — including six months in the No. 2 job at the treasury — Sunak was firmly in the shadow of Johnson, who had just won a landslide election victory.

But while Johnson has floundered during the coronavirus pandemic, Sunak has been a beacon of calm and competence, intervening swiftly to spend billions of pounds supporting jobs as the economy went into lockdown free fall. With new restrictions coming into force in parts of the country, Sunak has announced new state support for affected areas, and on Monday he gave a fluent defence of his latest measures at a news conference alongside Johnson.

Perhaps wisely, given the speculation about his ambitions, Sunak tried to burst his own bubble when the Conservative Party held its recent party conference virtually. In a surprisingly short speech, he lavished praise on Johnson and warned that uncomfortable economic choices lay ahead. The subliminal message seemed to be: “You might like me a little less when all this cash has to be paid back.”

But right now, they like him a lot, and his appeal among nonpartisan Britons has been burnished through slick social media posts on Instagram and Twitter designed around “Brand Rishi.” Allies insist that Sunak is simply using digital media techniques to communicate more effectively rather than to promote his ambitions. His posts stand out from the drab detritus of political advertising, though. Often they feature a stylish photo of the chancellor endorsing a policy with his distinctive signature, rather like a celebrity might promote an expensive fitness accessory.

This was probably not what Johnson expected when he promoted Sunak to take over from Sajid Javid, who resigned as chancellor after refusing to accept curbs on his right to hire his own advisers. Sunak agreed, leading some to speculate that he would be more compliant. In UK, the relationship between PM and chancellor is often one of rivalry and tension. So the idea in February was to ensure that there was one centre of power on economic policy: in No. 10.

But few PM can afford to fire two chancellors, so Johnson was taking a risk in appointing someone as adept and diligent as Sunak. Not only is Sunak a smooth communicator, but, with his Indian heritage, he is a walking success story of modern multiracial Britain.

Appointed as the UK’s Finance Minister:

Rishi Sunak, Narayana Murthy's son-in law, is UK's new finance minister, February 13, 2020: The Times of India

LONDON: Indian-origin politician Rishi Sunak was appointed as the UK's new finance minister by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a Cabinet reshuffle.

Sunak, the son-in-law of Infosys Co-founder Narayana Murthy, will join Home secretary Priti Patel on the top government bench as the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Earlier, Pakistani-origin Sajid Javid resigned as Chancellor in a shock move in one of the biggest shakeups since Johnson won a thumping majority in the December 2019 general election.

He is replaced by Sunak, who was until now Javid's junior as the Chief Secretary to the Treasury and seen as a rising star within the Cabinet.

The 39-year-old is set to move into No. 11 Downing Street, next door to the Prime Minister's Office as he takes charge of the second most important government position as the finance minister.

"The Queen has been graciously pleased to approve the appointment of Rt Hon Rishi Sunak as Chancellor of the Exchequer," Downing Street said in the official announcement.

The MP for Richmond in Yorkshire, married to Murthy's daughter Akshata, first entered the UK Parliament in 2015 and has fast risen up the Conservative Party ranks as a staunch Brexiteer who had back Johnson's strategy to leave the European Union (EU).

The UK-born son of a pharmacist mother and a National Health Service (NHS) general practitioner (GP) father is an Oxford University and Stanford graduate.

"From working in my mum's tiny chemist shop to my experience building large businesses, I have seen how we should support free enterprise and innovation to ensure Britain has a stronger future," Sunak had said during the Brexit referendum.

He co-founded a 1-billion pound global investment firm and specialised in investing in small British businesses before his entry into politics. He strongly believes that small businesses in the UK would flourish as a result of Brexit as the “vast majority of British businesses (94 per cent) don't have anything to do with the EU; but they are still subject to all EU law”.

Indian-origin MPs Alok Sharma and Suella Braverman are some of the other Indian-origin MPs expected to get a promotion in this week's Cabinet reshuffle, dubbed a purge due to some high-profile resignations and sackings expected.


Naomi Canton, Son-in-law of Infy’s Murthy named UK finance minister, February 14, 2019: The Times of India

Replaces Javid; 2 PIOs In ‘Great Offices Of State’

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s promotion of Rishi Sunak, sonin-law of Infosys founder N R Narayana Murthy, to chancellor of the exchequer (finance minister) places PIOs in two of Britain’s great offices of state, the other being Priti Patel who remains home secretary after Johnson’s first post-Brexit cabinet reshuffle.

There are now a total of four PIOs in Johnson’s cabinet. Reading MP Alok Sharma (52) has been promoted to secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy, and ex-barrister Suella Braverman (39) has been appointed attorney general, the government’s most senior law officer.

Sunak was promoted to chancellor following Pakistan-origin Sajid Javid’s dramatic resignation. The chancellor has overall responsibility for the work of the Treasury and is considered to the secondmost powerful role in government. The four great offices of state are that of the prime minister, chancellor of the exchequer, foreign secretary and home secretary.

Sunak has less than a month to present his first budget

Rishi Sunak, who was previously Sajid Javid’s number two as chief secretary to the Treasury, will now move into his former boss’s home at Number 11, Downing Street. He has less than a month to deliver his first budget on March 11. The pound jumped to a two-month high against the euro as financial markets embraced the news, predicting his policies and his cordial relations with No. 10 Downing Street would boost growth.

The 39-year-old ex-banker and self-made millionaire, who voted “leave” in the EU referendum, has been considered a rising star in the Tory party for some time and has frequently been making media appearances to talk up the case for Brexit.

The son of a Pakistani bus driver, Javid resigned after a row with British Pri me Minister Boris Johnson. The PM demanded that Javid fire all five of his most senior aides and replace them with advisers loyal to No. 10 Downing Street. However, the chancellor refused and quit.

A Conservative party source said: “Even when Boris was mayor he put his own people around him. He wants people that are 100% behind him and his vision of Brexit. Sajid Javid’s office has been leaking stuff and going against the government brief. Javid has been giving interviews to the media saying Brexit will be difficult. Boris wants people that will go to the EU and tell them what we are going to do. Rishi has been much more optimistic about Brexit and more methodical about assessing its impact.”

Sunak was born in Southampton and is the son of G P Yashvir and pharmacist mother Usha. He spent his professional career working for Goldman Sachs and a hedge fund. He co-founded an investment fund and used that experience to help small and entrepreneurial British companies grow.

Sunak’s grandparents moved from Punjab to Africa and then to the UK. He has been a Conservative MP for Richmond in Yorkshire since 2015.

Priti Patel, the UK’s first Gujarati woman MP, made history in July when she became the first Indian-origin MP to hold one of the great offices of state as home secretary. Indian diplomatic sources told TOI that Patel was scheduled to visit India next week to get the ball rolling on post-Brexit trade talks. The home office has not confirmed the trip.

Agra-born Alok Sharma, previously secretary of state for international development, replaces former Conservative leadership candidate Andrea Leadsom, who was sacked as business secretary.


Rishi Sunak, PM

Oct: The KIng appointed Rishi Sunak the Prime Minister of the UK

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