‘Ready for Rishi’ is how the situation can be best described after the fifth and final round. The people of the United Kingdom seems to have made up their minds for Rishi Sunak. Once elected, Sunak would be the youngest Prime Minister of UK in 200 years and the first from South Asia. “This leadership contest is about more than just being the leader of our party, it’s about becoming the custodian of our United Kingdom,” said Sunak, since he launched his leadership bid earlier this month. Sunak faces a much tougher electorate of the Tory membership base, which has shown favouritism for his rival Liz Truss in most recent surveys, but his Conservative Party colleagues voted overwhelmingly in his favour with 137 votes in the final round.
Educated at the UK’s best schools, Winchester College, to a coveted Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) from Oxford University and then an MBA from Stanford University as a Fulbright Scholar is seen as ticking all the right boxes for the country’s highest political office.
Though Sunak’s parents emigrated in the 1960’s from East Africa, he’s better known as the son-in-law of the Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy and Sudha Murthy.
“My mum studied hard to get the qualifications to become a pharmacist. She met my dad, an NHS [National Health Service] GP, and they settled in Southampton. Their story didn’t end there, but that is where my story began,” he shared, with reference to his general practitioner father Yashvir and mother Usha.
During a live TV debate, he said: “There is commentary about my wife’s family’s wealth. So, let me just address that head on because I think it’s worth doing, because I’m actually incredibly proud of what my parents-in-law built.
“My father-in-law came from absolutely nothing, just had a dream and a couple of hundred pounds that my mother-in-law’s savings provided him, and with that he went on to build one of the world’s largest, most respected, most successful companies that by the way employs thousands of people here in the United Kingdom. It’s an incredibly Conservative story, actually it’s a story that I’m really proud of and as Prime Minister I want to ensure that we can create more stories like theirs here at home,” Sunak said.
Sunak’s political career began by winning a safe Tory seat of Richmond in Yorkshire in 2015 and from junior roles in the Treasury he was suddenly catapulted to the post of Chancellor of Exchequer when his former boss, Sajid Javid, resigned in February 2020.
He proved the doubters who feared his inexperience of high office would see him overpowered by his new boss, Boris Johnson, wrong as he credibly led the economic response to the COVID pandemic. The furlough scheme to protect jobs and several grants for struggling businesses won him praise from all sides of the political spectrum. Seen as the heir apparent to Johnson, as the next Tory leader and Prime Minister, Sunak took a beating with some of his less popular tax hike policies in the wake of the pandemic and a partygate fine for attending a birthday event for his ex-boss in breach of lockdown rules.
Facing attacks from his opponents over his record as Chancellor until his resignation precipitated the exit of his former boss, caretaker Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Sunak has stood firm on his focus on inflation rather than any vote-winning tax cut promises to woo a traditionally low-tax favouring Conservative Party membership base. “I will get taxes down in this Parliament, but I’m going to do so responsibly. I don’t cut taxes to win elections, I win elections to cut taxes,” he declared.
The former finance minister’s walk to 10, Downing Street however might not be that smooth until the finish, as he has to woo an estimated 160,000 Conservative Party voters to cast their postal ballots in his favour. Furthermore, once elected, Sunak will have an uphill task as Britain faces worst ever economic crisis with inflation of about 11 per cent and pound lowest against the dollar.
For sure, Britain might be ‘Ready for Rishi’, but is Rishi ‘Ready for the UK’!