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The Rise of Rishi


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By Niamh Walsh on 25th October 2022

From hedge-fund manager to Chancellor of the Exchequer and finally, Prime Minister of the UK - Sunak has accumulated quite the career. Today, we take a look at the youngest, richest and first ever Hindu PM's rise to power.

The UK's 3rd Prime Minister in 2022, Sunak is a relatively new figure on the political scene, emerging back in 2020 when he was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer by Boris Johnson. In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, he was popular by the standards of British politics, described by one analyst as having "better ratings than any politician since the heydays of Tony Blair", his recognition accumulating in 2022 when he participated in the Tory Leadership Race against Liz Truss. Although losing out for the role of PM originally, the following terrible 6 weeks of governance by Truss and her cabinet meant that after 49 days, Sunak was finally given the keys to No. 10. Described as the "British Establishment's version of progress", today we're taking a look at Rishi Sunak's rise to power.

Background and Education

Born in Southampton to Hindu parents of Indian Punjabi descent, Sunak attended Winchester College, a boys' independent boarding school where he mingled with the elite and was appointed head boy. From one very privileged background to the next, he continued his academic career at Lincoln College, Oxford, where he read Philosophy, Politics and Economics. Described by his tutor as "a well-organised, clever young man, who was clearly ambitious and wanted to go into politics," he graduated with a first in 2001. He then went on to gain an MBA from Stanford University as a Fulbright scholar, where he also met his future wife Akshata Murty, the daughter of Indian billionaire, N. R. Narayana Murthy.

Lincoln College, Oxford
Lincoln College, Oxford

Business Career

After undertaking his MBA, Sunak seemed to shift away from pursuing a career in politics. Instead, he worked as an analyst for the investment bank Goldman Sachs for 3 years, until he moved on to working for the hedge fund management firm the Children's Investment Fund Management, becoming a partner in September 2006. He left in November 2009, moving to California to work at a new hedge fund firm: Theleme Partners, launching in Oct 2010 with $700 million under management. Furthermore, with nepotism in his favour, he became director of the investment firm Catamaran Ventures, owned by his father-in-law, between 2013 and 2015.

Sunak worked as an analyst for the investment bank Goldman Sachs between 2001 and 2004.
Sunak worked as an analyst for the investment bank Goldman Sachs between 2001 and 2004.

Political Career

Sunak was selected as the Conservative candidate for Richmond (Yorks) in October 2014, defeating Wendy Morton, (the seat being one of the safest Conservative seats in the United Kingdom as it has been held by the party for over 100 years). He was elected to the House of Commons as an MP for the constituency at the 2015 general election with a majority of 36.2%, and was a backbencher MP for 4 years in parliament. A supporter of Brexit, in 2016 he wrote a report for the Centre for Policy Studies (a Thatcherite think tank), supporting the establishment of free ports after Brexit, and the following year wrote a report advocating the creation of a retail bond market for small and medium-sized enterprises.

Sunak began to gain momentum after expressing support for Boris Johnson in the 2019 Conservative Party leadership election and co-writing an article in The Times newspaper with fellow MPs Robert Jenrick and Oliver Dowden to advocate for Johnson. Johnson rewarded Sunak's dedication, appointing him as chief secretary to the Treasury, serving under Chancellor Sajid Javid, becoming a member of the Privy Council the next day. Formally considered a "Johnson loyalist" (and favoured by Johnson's ex-chief adviser Dominic Cummings), on February 13th 2020 Sunak was promoted to Chancellor of the Exchequer as part of a cabinet reshuffle, replacing Javid.

The annual custom of the Chancellor of the Exchequer holding up a red box to the press in Downing Street to symbolise the new budget of the UK government.
The annual custom of the Chancellor of the Exchequer holding up a red box to the press in Downing Street to symbolise the new budget of the UK government.

Becoming Chancellor of the Exchequer at an incredibly difficult moment in history: the COVID-19 pandemic, Sunak's budgets were met with very mixed reviews (although I can certainly say I was a fan of the "Eat Out to Help Out" scheme), however he continued to serve under Boris Johnson for a further two years, until resigning hastily in July, amid a controversy surrounding the sexual harassment allegations against Chris Pincher MP. In his resignation letter Sunak said:

"the public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously. I recognise this may be my last ministerial job, but I believe these standards are worth fighting for and that is why I am resigning... In preparation for our proposed joint speech on the economy next week, it has become clear to me that our approaches are fundamentally too different."

After further resignations, Boris Johnson resigned as Conservative party leader on 7 July, and a day later, Sunak stood in the Conservative party leadership election to replace him. Sunak was criticised by fellow conservative politicians who had supported Johnson, saying he "led the charge in bringing down the prime minister", with Jacob Rees-Mogg calling him a "high tax chancellor". Although Sunak receieved more MP votes than Truss, she received 57.4% of the wider membership vote, making her the new leader over Sunak.

Following the resignation of Liz Truss on 20 October 2022, on the 22nd October it was reported that Sunak had the required number of supporters—100 members of the House of Commons—to run in the ballot on 24 October. After Johnson ruled himself out of the race and Mordaunt withdrew, Sunak was announced as the new Leader of the Conservative Party and subsequently as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

Appointed Prime Minister of the United Kingdom by King Charles III on 25 October 2022, Sunak is one of the youngest Prime Ministers Britain has ever had at 43 years of age. He is also the first British Asian prime minister, and the first Hindu to hold the office. However, is this as progressive as we're being told to believe? During his campaign for leadership against Truss, a video of Sunak speaking to an audience in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, emerged in which he said he changed funding formulas which "shoved" money into "deprived urban areas, to make sure that areas like this are getting the funding they deserve." Will he differ from the myriad of leaders the British public have had in the past couple of years? Or will he uphold the slanted politics of his predecessors? Only time will tell, but, from one sybarite to another, we wish Rishi the best of luck!

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