As Boris Johnson’s “partygate” problems worsen and members of his own Conservative Party call for him to go as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, one name is emerging as a favorite to take over: his Indian-origin Chancellor and Downing Street neighbor Rishi Sunak.
The Oxford University and Stanford University graduate is the son of a pharmacist mother and a National Health Service (NHS) general practitioner (GP). He is married to Akshata Murty, the daughter of Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy, and they have two children, Krishna and Anoushka.
The MP for Richmond in Yorkshire was first elected to the UK Parliament in 2015 and has swiftly climbed through the Tory party ranks as a fervent Brexiteer who supported Johnson’s agenda to quit the European Union.
Before entering politics, he co-founded a £1 billion worldwide investment corporation that specialized in investing in small British firms.
Sunak made history in February 2020 when he was appointed to the most important UK Cabinet role as the first Chancellor of the Exchequer of Indian origin.
If Tory party murmurs and bookie betting odds are any indication, the 41-year-old may be on track to become Britain’s first Indian-origin Prime Minister.
“No, absolutely not. Given what the Prime Minister is up against, this is a difficult task for me to take on “When asked if he aspired to be Prime Minister in October 2020, Sunak stated that he did not.
But a lot has transpired since then, with Sunak spearheading the country’s economic response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Many of the programs he implemented as finance minister, including as the furlough-based Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and COVID support subsidies for suffering firms over the course of many lockdowns, were well-received.
However, projected tax increases beginning in April, as well as continually rising energy and living costs, have proven unpopular among Conservative Party supporters.
When it comes to a leadership battle, the notoriously low-tax-favoring Conservatives may find his high-tax ideas to recuperate some of the lost economic footing during the epidemic difficult to swallow.
Indeed, inside the party, there is already discussion that he overplayed his hand by not coming out more vehemently in defense of 57-year-old Johnson, following his Parliament apologies earlier this week over a Downing Street garden party that appeared to violate lockdown regulations.
Sunak, who was on a business trip at the time, tweeted much later in the evening that “the PM was right to apologise and I support his request for patience while Sue Gray carries out her enquiry”
This was interpreted as a half-hearted gesture of support, and it was interpreted as a reflection of his own leadership ambitions.
Sunak and his wife Akshata’s riches has also frequently been in the limelight for the wrong reasons, with the Chancellor’s 95-pound pair of slippers discovered in official images issued prior to the Budget in October being the latest luxury item to make headlines. This came after he was photographed carrying a 180-pound so-called “smart mug” which was supposedly a present from his wife.
However, the British Indian community would like to emphasize his image as a family guy who wears bracelets created by his children before significant speeches.
He has also frequently described himself as a “proud Hindu” most recently when he released a new 5-pound commemorative currency honoring Mahatma Gandhi’s life for Diwali last November.
Sunak has been said to be coveting the top position to relocate next door to his present No. 11 Downing Street office ever since he took over as Chancellor.
A Prime Minister and Chancellor at odds has been a historic dynamic in British politics, and much of the conjecture has been linked to that political power play.
However, with Johnson increasingly beleaguered within his own party, the Downing Street neighbourly dynamic may go on to produce new British Indian history.