Profile: Sunak set to be Britain’s first non-white PM

Mr Rishi Sunak is set to become Britain’s first prime minister of colour. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON - Mr Rishi Sunak had looked set to be in the political wilderness for at least several years after helping topple former prime minister Boris Johnson but then losing to Ms Liz Truss in the Conservative leadership contest.

But her dramatic political implosion provided an almost immediate opportunity for Mr Sunak, 42, to become Britain’s first prime minister of colour.

It is a historic landmark for the Hindu descendant of immigrants from Britain’s old empire in India and East Africa to take command of the world’s sixth-largest economy – albeit one in severe crisis.

He was born in Southampton in 1980, where his father was a doctor and his mother ran her own pharmacy.

He waited tables in a local Indian restaurant, before progressing to Oxford and then Stanford University in the United States.

Fabulously rich from his pre-politics career in finance – he started his career at Goldman Sachs and also worked at hedge funds – he has been mocked as out of touch with Britons struggling with decades-high inflation.

On a recent campaign trail, he wore expensive Prada loafers on a visit to a building site and faced accusations of “mansplaining” to Ms Truss.

Video footage also emerged of a 21-year-old Mr Sunak describing his mix of friends following his education at Winchester College, one of Britain’s most exclusive private schools, and Oxford University. “I have friends who are aristocrats, friends who are upper class, friends who are, you know, working class,” he said, before adding: “Well, not working class.”

An early backer of Brexit, he took over as chancellor of the exchequer in February 2020 – a baptism of fire for the Tory rising star as the pandemic erupted.

He was forced to craft a huge economic support package at breakneck speed, which he now insists must be paid off with sound fiscal plans.

In India, Mr Sunak has been better known through his wife, Indian heiress Akshata Murthy. She is the daughter of tycoon Narayana Murthy, the billionaire co-founder of information technology group Infosys.

The Sunaks met while studying in California and they have two young daughters, along with a photogenic dog.

The ex-minister’s Instagram-friendly profile earned him the media nickname of “Dishy Rishi”.

Until last year, he held a US Green Card – which critics said suggested a lack of long-term loyalty to Britain. And he has been dogged by difficult questions over Ms Murthy’s failure until recently to pay UK taxes on her Infosys returns, which opinion polls suggest was viewed with deep disfavour by voters. Mr Sunak represents the constituency of Richmond in Yorkshire, northern England – a safe Conservative seat he took over in 2015 from former party leader and foreign secretary William Hague, who described him as “exceptional”. AFP, BLOOMBERG

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.