By Florence Mafomemeh
10 Downing Street has its 3rd occupant in two months. This time, it is Rishi Sunak, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer who was appointed by King Charles 111 Tuesday to serve as Britain’s Prime Minister. Sunak makes History as he becomes the first person of color and first Hindu to lead Britain.
New British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak
After months of political upheavals with the resignations of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, Britain now looks up to Sunak to solve the country’s urgent problems. He took over just seven weeks after placing second to Truss, who stepped down Thursday, bringing to a swift close her 44 days in office, the shortest tenure of any U.K. prime minister.
The new PM, a Euroskeptic who was firmly in the “leave” camp on the issue of “Brexit” which he said would make the UK ‘freer, fairer and more prosperous,” was up against Liz Truss for the PM position in September but fell short with 42. 6 % against Truss’ 57.4%.
The 42-year-old whiz kid who is estimated to be richer than the royals, was born into a family with immigrant roots in Africa and India. His grandparents emigrated from Punjab, in northwestern India, to British colonial East Africa, where his mother and father were born in Tanzania and Kenya, respectively. They met and married after their families migrated in the 1960s to Southampton in southern England where Sunak was born.
His father became a general practitioner for the National Health Service while his mother became a pharmacist, owned and operated a small pharmacy for which Sunak, the eldest of their three children, would eventually be the bookkeeper. Later, during his political career, Sunak would draw parallels between his experiences working in the family business and the values he gained from them and those of Conservative party icon Margaret Thatcher, the daughter of a grocer.
On his website, Sunak says he watched his parents growing up and would like to serve his community just like they did. “I grew up watching my parents serve our local community with dedication. My dad was an NHS family GP and my mum ran her own local chemist shop. I wanted to make that same positive difference to people as their Member of Parliament.
The married father of two who began working for the conservative party in 2010, chosen as the Conservative Party candidate for the House of Commons in 2014, and elected by a commanding majority in 2015 representing Richmond in North Yorkshire, is a practicing Hindu of Indian descent.
Mr. Sunak, who was reelected into Parliament in 2017 and 2019 and voted 3 times in favor of PM Theresa May’s Brexit plans, rose quickly from newbie member of Parliament to become Chief Secretary to the Treasury in 2019 to chancellor of the Exchequer in 2020 at age 39. The former finance minister and hedge-fund manager, became the fourth youngest person to hold that position.
In October, 2022, he became leader of the Conservative Party, and on October 25, 2022, he was appointed UK’s Prime Minister. At 42, he also becomes the youngest prime minister in at least 200 years, but not by a large margin as David Cameron and Tony Blair both took office at 43.
Sunak’s popularity surged during the Covid pandemic when the Treasury dispensed billions to save jobs and support struggling Britons. The portrait of him that arose during the pandemic was that of a superslick , social media savvy, immaculately-dressed, handsome but down-to-earth politician. Dubbed “Dishy Rishi”, he was named “Britain’s sexiest politician in 2020.
Sunak’s historic rise to Britain’s highest office, and his Conservative Party leadership win on Monday coincided with the festival of Diwali, marking a moment of jubilation among many in Britain with South Asian heritage.
The former Treasury chief won the role of Conservative Party leader after his sole competitor, Penny Mordaunt, dropped out of the race moments before votes from members of Parliament (MPs) were due to be announced Monday afternoon. It followed the withdrawal of former Prime Minister Boris Johnson from the leadership race Sunday.
Sunak graduated with a top degree from Oxford University and then attended Stanford University, and went on to make a fortune in finance, including a spell at Goldman Sachs, before winning a seat in Parliament in 2015, representing a constituency in Yorkshire.
This year, The Times of London estimated that Mr. Sunak and his wife, Akshata Murty, were worth more than $800 million, placing them among the 250 wealthiest British people or families. Source of their wealth? “Technology and hedge fund,” the report said.